Steeples and Farmsteads Fall Foliage Tour
Autumn blankets the Smoky Mountains with brilliant color, beckoning leaf lookers onto the backroads to seek the views and discover the heritage for which Appalachia is known. This fall, visit Sevierville’s farmsteads and churches that share in a long tradition of nourishing body and soul in these mountains.
To view a printer-friendly map of the Steeples and Farmsteads Fall Foliage Tour, click here.
Historic Downtown Sevierville- 125 Court Avenue
Begin the tour in downtown Sevierville. The historic district is easily walkable and filled with quaint shops, galleries, and eateries. While there, enjoy downtown’s public art – including sculptures and vibrant murals that share Sevierville’s history. The art is part of downtown’s interpretive history initiative, which provides a broad view of the city’s past through visual art, historical markers, and a free, self-guided walking tour with forty points of interest. The iconic 1896 Sevier County Courthouse, located at 125 Court Avenue, is a must-see for visitors – as is the bronze statue of Sevierville’s hometown superstar, Dolly Parton. Created by Jim Gray, the six-and-a-half-foot statue was erected to honor Sevierville native Dolly Parton in 1987 and is one of a handful of art pieces in her honor. Other works include Wings of Wander at 136 Bruce Street, Red’s Café (also on Bruce Street), a mural of notable entertainers who performed at The Pines Theater (230 Court Avenue), and a portrait mural inside The Pines Downtown, a family-friendly entertainment venue with food and drink. Plan for a quick bite downtown and allow time to explore the area’s boutique stores.
Trotter-McMahan Farmstead- 1605 Middle Creek Road
Long a favorite subject of artists seeking to paint a “picture-perfect” Sevier County farm, the Trotter-McMahan property has been identified by architectural scholars and agricultural historians as one of the most important historic agricultural landscapes remaining in the state. Owned by the same family for over 200 years, the farm has several buildings listed on the National Register of Historic Places - including the oldest documented cantilever barn in the county and the handsome, two-story Greek Revival style house built in 1848.
Middle Creek Parsonage- 1826 Middle Creek Road
Travel to Middle Creek United Methodist Church. The old parsonage will come into view on the left. This parsonage was built in 1882 to house the circuit-riding minister assigned to the four churches in the Middle Creek District. A Gothic style building, the home is modeled after a traditional I-house. The front façade features a massive facing gable, which frames the second level entrance that, like the main entrance, is surrounded by a transom and sidelights. The parsonage also exhibits lancet-arched windows and sawn work detailing to embellish the one-story front porch. The house is no longer used as a parsonage.
Middle Creek United Methodist Church- 1828 Middle Creek Road
Soon after the first white settlers arrived (around 1784) and Robert Shields constructed a blockhouse known as Shields’ Fort, circuit-riding Methodist preachers began holding services in the Middle Creek community. In 1901, construction began on a new church to replace the ageing previous building. The church was built by Cisco Williams, a carpenter from Sevierville. Many local families donated hand-cut pine timbers, time, and skills to build the new church. Cisco Williams’ expert craftsmanship is still evident in the attractive altar and interior woodwork. Dominated by the highly ornate corner tower which serves to accentuate the main entrance, the church remains the best example of a rural Gothic Revival style church building in Sevier County.
John Ogle Farmhouse- 1235 Jayell Road
John Ogle and his wife Margaret (Chance) married on February 19, 1874, and had nine children. John, the great-grandson of Sevier County’s first white settlers, Martha Jane Huskey Ogle and William “Billy” Ogle, inherited this property at the base of Shield’s Mountain from his mother in 1895. The family built a two-story white clapboard house on a stacked stone and beam foundation and added exterior woodwork trimmed with good luck diamonds and hearts to represent love and prosperity. Each floor had two rooms, each with its own fireplace constructed of handmade brick. As the family grew, an addition was added to the original house. John and Margaret lived on the farm until their deaths in 1930 and 1936, respectively. In 2012, the home was purchased by Robert Pickney who began work to save as much of the original structure as possible while creating a usable space as true to the home’s time period as possible. Today the home is a popular wedding and event venue called Wildwood Events Center.
Blue Mountain Mist Country Inn- 1811 Pullen Road
Blue Mountain Mist Country Inn is perched atop a hill on Pullen Road. This 50-acre farm was purchased in 1938 by newlyweds Estel and Ruth Ownby. Ruth taught school and Estel worked on the farm while maintaining a fulltime job as a postman. In fact, he managed the farm until he was 92. In the mid-1980s, their daughter Sarah and her husband Norman Ball asked for a few acres on which to build a bed and breakfast. After retiring from teaching school, Sarah and Norman built a Victorian style inn on the farm which opened to guests on July 27, 1987. Today the inn is operated by their children.
Historic Seaton Springs Farm- 2345 Seaton Springs Road
Historic Seaton Springs Farm’s owners and residents Lonnie and Syresa Rowland say most people feel peace and tranquility when they arrive – which they’ve done for nearly 150 years. The area around these mountains were known for cool, fresh air and mineral springs. Sometime in the late 1880s, Rev. James H. Seaton decided to build and operate a resort on his property located at the foot of Shield’s Mountain. His several-hundred-acres farm contained mineral springs which made for an ideal resort location. The minister established Seaton’s Summer City and opened his home as a boarding house. Seaton’s boarding house and some of the surrounding cottages were built by his son-in-law J. Catlett Tipton, a skilled carpenter whose career was cut short when he was hanged from the gallows on the courthouse lawn in 1899. Cottages were built on a flat-topped ridge about a half mile up the mountain from the house near the spring that flowed from the mountain side. About 25 in number, the cottages were set in two rows facing each other. They were owned by individuals who either leased them out or maintained them for their own use. Only one of the original cottages remains on the property.
Please Note: Historic Seaton Springs Farm is an active wedding venue. The owners ask that you not pull into the venue to turn around as it may disturb weddings in progress.
Roberts United Methodist Church- 1819 Jayell Road
Organized in 1857, the white clapboard building once served the community as a school during the week, offered worship services on Sunday, and was a year-round gathering place for community events. On the hill just above the church is a small, tidy cemetery – the final resting place of many former citizens and the infamous outlaw, J. Catlett Tipton, the carpenter who built Seaton Springs for his father-in law. Tipton was a member of the notorious vigilante group, the White Caps. Tipton and Pleas Wynn received death sentences for the murders of William and Laura Whaley. They were executed in the county’s last public hanging in 1899. This stop provides a great opportunity to stretch your legs with a walk to Tipton’s gravestone - which is easy to find. There is also a pavilion behind the church that makes a great place for a picnic.
Robertson House- 1905 Pittman Center Road
The Luther Darius Robertson House sits close to the road and is believed to be the first house constructed by Lewis Buckner, an African American carpenter and furniture maker. Built around 1880, Buckner added lively embellishments to the dwelling such as decorative window crowns; Italianate eave brackets on the house and porch; chamfered porch columns; and sawn work porch brackets. The two-story frame I-house features two exterior end chimneys.
Murphy’s Chapel United Methodist Church- 1740 Pittman Center Road
Built by Elbert Early and his brother William in 1885, the white clapboard church with green shutters is located on the bank of the Middle Prong of the Little Pigeon River and has long been a favorite of artists and photographers. For a stunning view of the church with its colorful backdrop, get out of the car and walk across the street a short distance to the little cemetery.
Battle of Fair Garden Civil War Trail Sign- 1720 Old Newport Highway
The remains of the Rose Glen Plantation house are visible on the right at the intersection of Pittman Center Road and Old Newport Highway. Glance across the road at the campus of Walters State Community College (the campus will be facing you). Turn right and enter the campus on the left to see the interpretive marker explaining the Battle of Fair Garden - the largest Civil War battle fought in Sevier County. The well-marked site is part of the Tennessee Civil War Trail, which invites exploration of both well-known and less-familiar sites associated with America’s greatest drama.
For turn-by-turn directions, please use the listed GPS addresses for each point of interest.
Please remember, some points of interest on the self-guided Fall Driving Tour are private. Please enjoy their history and the view from the comfort of your vehicle.