May 09, 2017
Located along the Middle Fork of the Little Pigeon River, Greenbrier is a scenic valley in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Before the establishment of the park, Greenbrier was home to a community that once numbered 500 people. To help you prepare for your next vacation, we have put together four fun facts about Greenbrier in the Smoky Mountains.
The Greenbrier area takes its name from a green-stemmed vine that is common in Southern Appalachia. Greenbrier vines are part of the lily family and are usually prickly with blue-black berries. The upper Middle Fork valley in the Smoky Mountains has been called “Greenbrier” since at least the 1830s.
Beloved country singer Dolly Parton traces her roots back to Greenbrier. Sometime in the 1850s, Dolly’s great-great-grandfather Benjamin Christenberry Parton and his wife Margaret settled in Greenbrier. Benjamin was the son of a migrant farm worker, and during the Civil War, he survived a gunshot wound to the head. The Parton Cemetery overlooks Little Bird Branch in Greenbrier.
When the national park was established, many members of the Parton family relocated to Locust Ridge, a hilly area in between Pittman Center and Richardson Cove. Dolly Parton was born and raised in Locust Ridge, living in a one-room cabin with her large family. Today, Dolly owns the Dollywood theme park and two popular dinner theaters in Pigeon Forge.
(See Also: The History of Greenbrier)
One of the most popular stories from Greenbrier in the Smoky Mountains is the legend of Perry Shults’ lost gold mine. Around the time of the Civil War, a blacksmith named Perry Shults allegedly discovered gold in Greenbrier. Shults chartered a mine in the valley and used his blacksmith tools to counterfeit coins from nuggets of gold. When federal agents caught onto the counterfeiting scheme, Shults abandoned his mine and his vast fortune, both of which have never been found. For the full story, read our blog about Greenbrier’s gold mine.
Before the establishment of the national park, Greenbrier’s economy was based on subsistence farming. If farmers in the valley had extra corn, they could either travel to Knoxville to sell it or they could turn the corn into a more valuable product: moonshine. Also known as “white lightnin’”, moonshine is unaged whiskey that is traditionally made by the light of the moon. Although making moonshine was illegal, in many cases, it was unofficially tolerated by the police. In the early 1900s, the Sheriff of Sevier County is said to have regularly purchased whiskey from a moonshiner in Greenbrier!
When you stay at Greenbrier Campground, you will be steps away from all of the history and natural beauty in this incredible area of the national park. Whether you choose to pitch a tent, park your RV, or rent our cabin on the river, you will love getting away in this breathtaking valley. To start planning your vacation in Greenbrier in the Smoky Mountains, learn more about our wonderful amenities.