Wears Valley, Tennessee
Roundtop Mountain overlooking Wears Valley
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Wears Valley (sometimes spelled Wear Valley) is an Unincorporated community in Sevier County, Tennessee, treated by the U.S. Census Bureau as a census county division. As of the 2000 Census, the population of Wears Valley was 6,486.
Wears Valley is situated in a valley known as Wear Cove, which runs parallel to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Like other park border communities, the history and economy of the valley are intertwined with that of the Smokies.
As of the census of 2000, there were 6,486 people, 2,585 households, and 1,955 families residing in Wears Valley. The racial makeup of this area was 97.7% White, 0.4% Native American, 0.5% Asian, and 0.5% African American. Hispanics and Latinos comprise 1.8% of the population.
Of the 2,585 households, 30.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 66.6% were married couples living together, 7.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 24.4% were non-families. 20.3% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.51 and the average family size was 2.89.
77.8% of the population was 18 years of age or older with 12.3% being 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40.2 years. The population was 49.9% male and 50.1% female.
The median income for a household in the area was $34,479, and the median income for a family was $39,901. The per capita income was $17,422. About 9.1% of families and 15.0% of the population were below the poverty line.
Wears Valley is centered at  The community covers most of Wear Cove, with the national park boundary comprising the town's entire southern border and the Blount/Sevier county line providing its western border.(35.7139, -83.6531).
U.S. Route 321 / Tennessee State Route 73 is the community's main road, connecting Townsend in the west with Pigeon Forge in east, where it merges with U.S. 441. This section of 321/73 is known as "Wears Valley Road". Lyon Springs Road connects Wears Valley Road with Little River Road inside the national park, crossing the gap between Cove Mountain and Roundtop and emerging at the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area.
When completed, a section of the Foothills Parkway will connect Wears Valley to Walland to the west-northwest. Most of this is finished or nearly so, but the "missing link" section northeast of Townsend must be completed with a series of bridges before this section can open. The section east of Wears Valley (at 321/73) is completely unconstructed, and will not occur in the foreseeable future.
Wears Valley is named after Samuel Wear (1753–1817), a Revolutionary War veteran who erected a fort near the entrance to the valley in what is now Pigeon Forge. The original name of the valley was "Crowson Cove," after its first settler, Aaron Crowson (1774–1849). While no one is sure why its name changed, the valley was using its current name by 1900.
Crowson arrived in Wears Valley from North Carolina in 1792 along with his friend, Peter Percefield. This was during a period of elevated strife between the Cherokee and the fast-encroaching Euro-American settlers. Wear's Fort was attacked in 1793, with Wear leading a punitive march against the Cherokee village of Tallassee shortly thereafter. In May 1794, Percefield was killed in a Cherokee attack. Crowson rode to Wear's Fort to get help, but the Cherokee had fled by the time he returned. Several settlers marched onward to Great Tellico to the west, where they killed four Cherokee while they slept. Percefield was buried on a hill in the eastern half of Wear Cove, in what is now Crowson Cemetery. Later that year, Crowson received a land grant for this plot of land.
Along with Crowson, other early settlers in Wears Valley included a Revolutionary War veteran named William Headrick (1744–1839), who arrived in 1821, and John Ogle (1788–1841), a War of 1812 veteran and son of the first settlers in Gatlinburg. Another War of 1812 veteran, Peter Brickey (1769–1856), arrived in 1808. Brickey operated a large farm and distillery in the valley until his death in 1856. The log house he built shortly after his arrival still stands in Smith Hollow (between Wears Valley and Townsend) and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Like many other farms in Wears Valley, the Brickey farm was ravaged by the U.S. Civil War. Isaac Trotter, who operated the iron forge at Pigeon Forge reported a Cherokee raid in Wear Cove in 1864. Earlier in the war, a Union army passed through the valley en route to dislodge the troops of Will Thomas who were entrenched in Gatlinburg. William C. Pickens, a resident of Wears Valley, was one of the so-called bridge-burners, a band of pro-Union guerillas who attempted to destroy several railroad bridges across East Tennessee in November 1861. Pickens led the failed attack on the Strawberry Plains bridge, and was badly wounded in the attack. Pro-Union newspaper editor William "Parson" Brownlow, wanted by Confederate authorities for complicity in the bridge burnings, hid out in Wears Valley at the home of Valentine Mattox in November 1861.
Sometime after the war, Alfred Line (1831–1897) established a farm at the base of Roundtop Mountain, near the southern half of Wear Cove. Line Spring, a clear mountain spring which flows down from the slopes of Roundtop, gave its name to a small recreational area that developed in this part of the cove. In the 1880s and 1890s, mineral-rich mountain springs were thought to have health-restoring qualities, and provided an early form of tourism for the mountain regions. In 1910, D.B. Lawson, the son of a circuit rider who had purchased the Line farm, constructed the Line Spring Hotel. The hotel boosted the valley's economy by providing a market for local farmers.
Around 1800, Crowson and several other settlers erected a crude log church known as the Bethlehem Church. The church was used by both Methodists and Baptists throughout the 19th century, with Baptist services being conducted by an elected pastor and Methodist services being conducted by circuit riders. On occasion, both congregations would meet in a mini-revival known as a "union meeting." In 1886, both Baptists and Methodists constructed separate structures, although union meetings were still fairly common.
For most of the 19th century, funerals in Wears Valley were held at Headrick Cemetery, near the valley's western entrance. A large oak tree provided shelter for funeral-goers, although cold weather and rain often made apparent the need for a building in which to conduct indoor services. In 1902, according to local lore, the oak tree was destroyed by lightning, and in response, the residents erected Headrick Chapel on the cemetery's grounds. The chapel was shared by four Baptist and Methodist congregations, with funeral services having priority. The chapel's bell would ring once for every year of the deceased's life, a tradition still observed by the inhabitants of Wears Valley. In 2001, Headrick Chapel was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The national park
In 1934, the Great Smoky Mountains National Park was established. The park's border paralleled Wears Valley to the south, following the crest of Roundtop and Cove Mountain. With improvements to US-321 in the 1950s, tourist outlets began to trickle into Wears Valley. Cabin rentals and outdoor supply stores are among the more common tourism-oriented venues in the valley today.
In 2005, a group of developers led by Ron Ogle and Jerry Miller sought to build 400 houses on the slopes of Cove Mountain. This raised concern among many Wears Valley residents over the impact such development might have on Cove Mountain's scenic value. In 2007, Friends of Wears Valley— a group opposed to the development— unsuccessfully petitioned the Sevier County Regional Planning Commission to block the housing expansion on Cove Mountain. The group has posted "Save Our Mountains" signs throughout the valley, although the developers insist their plans will not harm the mountain's natural qualities.
Wears Valley is the site of Wearwood Elementary School.
- "Wears Valley, Tennessee". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey.
- U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, "Wear Valley CCD, Sevier County, Tennessee Data Set (sample)." Retrieved: 2 December 2007.
- Inez Burns, History of Blount County, Tennessee (Nashville: Benson Printing, 1957).
- Ida Headrick Myers, "Recollections of Wears Valley," The Sevier County News-Record, 1953. (http://www.headrickchapel.org/wears_valley.shtml) Retrieved: 16 July 2007.
- The Center for Historic Preservation, "Tennessee Century Farms — Blount County" (http://histpres.mtsu.edu/centfarms/blount_county/#Brickey_Farm) Retrieved: 16 July 2007.
- D.M.G. Emert, Beulah Linn (editor), "The Isaac Trotter Papers," Smoky Mountain Historical Society Newsletter 12, no. 2 (Summer of 1986): 31.
- Beulah Linn, Reunion At the River: Official History of Pigeon Forge, Tennessee 1783-1930 (Pigeon Forge Homecoming '86 Committee, 1986), 10-20.
- Oliver Perry Temple, East Tennessee and the Civil War (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke Company, 1899), pp. 381-382.
- William Rule, The Loyalists of Tennessee in the Late War (Cincinnati: H.C. Sherick and Company, 1887), p. 12.
- David Frye, "Headrick Chapel: Symbol of a Rural East Tennessee Community," Smoky Mountain Historical Society Journal 18, no. 4 (Winter of 2004): 2. (http://www.headrickchapel.org/davids_article.shtml) Retrieved: 16 July 2007.
- Craig Mintz, "Wears Valley Friends To Meet," The Mountain Press, 27 September 2005.
- Greg Johnson, "Doomsday Development On Cove Mountain," The Knoxville News-Sentinel, 4 May 2007. (NOTE: the Johnson article is an op-ed, and bias should be taken into account).
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