A Woman Helped Establish The Great Smoky Mountains National Park—and Saved Gatlinburg Along the Way
Anne Davis is our new hero.
It was in 1923, upon returning to home Knoxville, Tennessee, from Yellowstone National Park, when the great Anne Davis famously asked her husband Willis P. Davis, "Why could not our Great Smokies be made a national park—and those magnificent monarchs of the forest preserved for posterity?"
It was a good question, but her husband, the president of Knoxville Iron Company, didn't have an answer.
Inspired to preserve the area, the Davises took matters into their own hands, cofounding the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association that same year. But Anne was just getting started. In 1924 she was elected to the Tennessee legislature. She sponsored legislation that allowed the purchase of 78,000 acres of land from the Little River Lumber Company, which, according to the National Park Service, "ultimately became the first large parcel of land set aside for the creation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park."
At that time, as Bill Carey, founder and executive director of TN History for Kids, recently pointed out in a column for The Daily Herald, Gatlinburg and the beautiful landscape surrounding it were just another place for heavy industry.
That's right y'all, long before North America's longest pedestrian bridge and the Space Needle, "Gatlinburg was to be cleared, cut, and mined."
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According to The Tennessean, logging companies owned about 85% of the roughly 400,000 acres originally proposed for the park. But it was Anne's efforts that got the ball rolling on land acquisition even before Congress authorized a Smokies park in 1926.
Today she is widely credited with the park's eventual establishment in 1934, and playing a vital role in the preservation of hundreds and thousands of beautiful acres .
Now, Great Smoky Mountains National Park occupies 522,419 acres. Gatlinburg, which serves as the Gateway to the Smokies, is one of the most popular tourism destinations in the country.
Thank you, Mrs. Davis!