The Sugarlands is a valley in the north-central Great Smoky Mountains, located in the Southeastern United States. Formerly home to a string of small Appalachian communities, the valley is now the location of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park headquarters, lying just south of Gatlinburg, the Sugarlands is one of the parks most popular access points. The Sugarlands area stretches roughly from Grapeyard Ridge and Roaring Fork in the east to the slopes of Sugarland Mountain to the west, Mount Le Conte rises 5,000 feet above the valley to the south and southeast. The West Fork of the Little Pigeon River, its high in the mountains, slices through the Sugarlands. When the first Euro-American settlers arrived in the early 19th century, syrup was made from the sap in these trees and used as a sweetener in the days before the availability of cane sugar. While these trees were cleared by the settlers, the sugar maple is still common throughout the park. The Sugarlands is underlain by a Precambrian sandstone of the Ocoee Supergroup and this rock, like other formations throughout the Appalachian region, was formed from ancient ocean sediments nearly one billion years ago. Early farmers, having to move rocks in order plant crops, stacked them up to make crude stone walls. In Cherokee lore, the Sugarlands was part of the known as Walasiyi. Walasiyi included Mount Le Conte and Bull Head, as well as the ridge extending into Sevier County, Tennessee, the first European settlers arrived in the area around 1800, settling in the vicinity of what would eventually become Gatlinburg. Richard Reagan and William Black Bill Ogle — children of early settlers — farmed land along Mill Creek in the eastern half of the Sugarlands. William Trentham would homestead in the Fighting Creek area, where the Sugarlands Visitor Center now stands, most of the inhabitants still living in the Sugarlands when the park was formed were descended from these early settlers. For much of the 19th Century, Sugarlanders lived in log cabins, the typical mountain cabin consisted of one room,16 ×20, constructed of notched logs and puncheon floors. A chimney — usually made of slate and clay — rose along one wall, a lone window was on the wall opposite the chimney. Around 1900, modern frame houses slowly started replacing the log cabins, a standard farm in the Sugarlands consisted of the cabin or house and a small vegetable garden, all of which was surrounded by a paling fence, and several outbuildings. A smokehouse and woodshed would likely be found near the kitchen, other likely outbuildings included barns, corn cribs, chicken coops, and toolsheds. There were at least five gristmills in the Sugarlands, the largest belonging to Caleb Trentham, the tubwheel-powered mill of Noah Bud Ogle still stands today at Cherokee Orchard. Like much of Southern Appalachia, the U. S. Civil War proved devastating for the Sugarlands, the mountain communities of East Tennessee were especially vulnerable, as they were easy targets for Confederate raiders from North Carolina
The Sugarlands, looking northwest from Bull Head.
The West Fork of the Little Pigeon River in the Sugarlands.
John Ownby Cabin, built in 1860
Cole Cemetery, with a Union supporter buried near a Confederate soldier