The Growth of a Small Town
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Pigeon Forge was a busy farming community. Merchants, millers, blacksmiths, and other businesses clustered around the Pigeon Forge Mills to support local agriculture. J.A. Householder and Son advertised in the May 6, 1905 Montgomery Vindicator for residents to bring their spring wool clip and have it converted into rolls by their carding machine. Pigeon Forge had a telephone exchange in 1902, and by1906 Arthur Roberts was operating the exchange in his home. He and his brother Leander had a blacksmith shop about 250 feet east of the Old Mill. By1930 industrious citizens had added a bottling plant, a cannery, a wood planing mill, and a coffin making business. From 1921 to 1930, electric power was generated at the Pigeon Forge Mills (currently The Old Mill).
Mr. Perman Franklin mailed this photograph to his fiancée Leona Southard, circa 1914, to show her the community that soon would be her new home. In this photograph are: 1. The Pigeon Forge Mills, 2. Ashley Butler's barn, 3. Stott Brothers Store owned by Arthur F. and A.G. Stott, 4. Farmer's Supply Store Number Two owned by Andrew T. and J. Householder, and Hiram Franklin, and 5. Dr. John Ogle's small medical office building.
The two Stott brothers opened their store in 1903; it also served as an Independent Order of Odd
Fellows Hall. The store expanded, and in 1918 A.G. Stott sold his interest to J.T. Wynn and A.T. Householder. Owners moved the business in 1924, and the building remains at the corner of Old Mill Avenue and South River Road across the river from The Old Mill. The Farmer's Supply Company Number One, operated by John Robertson, J.M. Elliot, and A.T. Householder, and a feed store had occupied this site earlier.
Farmer's Supply Store Number Two opened in 1914, and through the years it not only housed Haggard's coffin making business, Fred Chance's weave shop, and the Pigeon Forge Craft Center, but also served as a residence. The building still stands at 170 Old Mill Avenue.
In 1830 when Andrew Jackson was president of the United States, William K. Love, and perhaps his brothers, constructed the Pigeon Forge Mills on land once owned by his father-in-law Mordecai Lewis. John Sevier Trotter owned the mill and the adjoining iron works in the 1850s. Swinging Dutch doors at the mill kept scavenging ducks and geese from the grain inside, and farmers often stopped by to read local messages posted on those doors. During the Civil War, uniforms for Union soldiers were made on the second floor. A water-powered sawmill took the place of the iron forge. The sawmill was operated until 1900. In 1901 Andy Householder replaced it with a two-story grain storage room which is now The Old
Mill General Store. Subsequent owners of the mill included Mary Trotter, G.W. Trotter, John Marshall McMahan, J.A. Householder, E.M. Wynn, A.D. Martin, the Bank of Sevierville (in the early 1930s), Fred Stout, and Bob and Kathy Simmons.
This steel truss bridge by the Pigeon Forge Mills washed away in a 1920 flood. It was built after a wooden covered bridge was destroyed in the great flood of 1875. It is believed that the building at the east end of the bridge was Ashley Butler's store, and that his two sons, Shirley W. and David D. Butler, worked there. Jim Trotter (left) and Stanley Householder are pictured here.
Douglas Ferguson discovered clay suitable for making fine grade pottery by collecting local dirt daubers' nests and firing them in his kiln. After firing other local clays, two colors dominated the pottery produced here: a soft gray and a reddish-brown which Mr. Ferguson called "pigeon red." The Pigeon Forge Pottery was founded by Douglas and Ruth Ferguson in 1946 and continued until 1999. The pottery was housed in the old Ashley Butler barn which was once owned by John Sevier Trotter in the 1800s. The Ferguson's horse, Cyclone Jim, turned the clay grinding mill outside. Douglas Ferguson was a master potter and a promoter of area tourism in the days before Pigeon Forge became a city. This 1947 photograph is courtesy of Tennessee State Library and Archives.
For more than seven decades, Butler's Store was an unchanging anchor at the corner of present-day Old Mill Avenue and South River Road, where the building remains. The business began as Butler Brothers Company, owned and operated by Shirley W. and David D. Butler. Customers came with their lists, requesting everything from two-dollar shoes and fifty-cent overalls to mule collars, fertilizer, and food. Local fishermen found fishing tackle and bologna sliced from a big roll at the store. A heavy piece of pig iron from the forge that gave the town its name was used as a door stop. Harold Butler, Shirley's son, operated the store for many years. He recalled that his father, who became the sole owner, carried credit for some farmers throughout the year until their tobacco sold. According to the store sign out front, Butler's Store was in business since 1919. The end of an era came as modern supermarkets began to emerge, and Mr. Butler closed his doors in 1994, leaving behind only the memories of a real country store in Pigeon Forge.
Rural areas were served by rolling stores like the one pictured above, operated by Shirley W. Butler and a member of the Householder family. A peddler conveniently delivered groceries, household goods, hardware, and even medicines, and families could barter fat hens and fresh eggs for the groceries and merchandise. (Note the chicken coop on the truck's cab.)
In the 1920s, Victor E. Marshall and Walter W. Enloe were proprietors of the Pigeon Forge Bottling Plant located in this general vicinity. Owners thanked customers in a January 1925 advertisement and wished "the small town with a big welcome" a full measure of peace and prosperity. The plant was equipped with up-to-date machinery and about 1,000 cases of bottles in early 1927. Also in the 1920s, Stanley Householder operated the bottling company which sold Orange Blossom, Cherry Blossom, Lemon Sour, Strawberry, and Parkay soft drinks for five cents. This is a 6 ½ fluid ounce bottle manufactured by the bottling company. Photograph is courtesy of Roy Myers.