According to early history records, by the 18th century, the Cherokee Indian tribe were the only native people living permanently in Tennessee. The Cherokee had claimed all the eastern, as well as central portions of the state as their hunting grounds in the 16th and 17th centuries. They were also said to refer to themselves the “Principal People.” Many still believe that they were a detached Iroquoian tribe. Included in this tribe were some of the Native Americans John Sevier fought in order to protect European settlers in and around Sevierville.
A well known Tennessean, Sequoyah (Sequoia) was born in 1776 to a Cherokee mother and a father who was a Virginia fur trader. Sequoyah went on to develop the Cherokee alphabet in 1821 and by the early 19th century the Cherokee had become the first and only literate Native American tribe in existence. Today, the Cherokee language is the second most widely used Native American language.
Sevierville (Severe ville) is named after John Sevier, one of the most famous figures in the history of Tennessee. Sevier was a frontiersman, soldier, war hero and politician who served under George Washington in the American Revolution and became renowned for his role in the battle of King’s Mountain.
In 1785, he became the first governor of the State of Franklin – a new state that had been carved out of the land around Watauga. Later, Franklin became part of North Carolina and John Sevier was accused of treason for resisting the annexation.
When the State of Tennessee was formed in 1796, Sevier became its first governor, serving from 1796 until 1801 and again from 1803 until 1809. Later, he served as a state senator from 1809 until 1811 and was a member of the US House of Representatives in 1811.
Nicknamed “Nolichucky Jack” for his exploits along the Nolichucky River, Sevier died in Georgia during a boundary negotiation with Creek Indians in 1815.
Sevierville is located in an area that known by many as the true birthplace of country music. But now, many authorities consider the songs of the southern mountaineers to be the only true folk music ever produced by the European immigrants to America and they hearken back to the British ballads of the 18th century pioneers.
English Musicologist, Cecil Sharp, said in Smoky Mountain Country by North Callahan that he was tremendously taken with the [Southern Mountaineers] themselves, their strong character, their individuality, the isolation and its affects upon them and their music. The mountain people were sheltered by rugged mountains from the rest of the world and by this very condition, he concluded, they had retained in all its purity the most lyrical folk music in the world.
Even today, music inspired by the Smoky Mountains is recognized the world over. The most prolific and well known musician to come from Sevierville is country music legend and philanthropist Dolly Parton. One of 12 children born in Locust Ridge, Tennessee, Dolly has remained faithful to her mountain roots, even as her international fame continued to grow. After opening her Dollywood theme park, which helps preserve mountain music and crafts while creating jobs for area residents, she also began the Dollywood Foundation, which funds many charities in the region including the Books from Birth program.