Monday, October 04, 2010
Wiley Oakley: A Pioneer of the Smokies
He was a man whose name became an icon in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Many described him as a simple, hard-working, and good-natured individual who was quick to help anyone who found themselves in need and at his doorway.
It was this simple man, however, whose intimate knowledge of the forbidding and dangerously isolated region of the Smokies would open up what many Americans thought was a place better left to the few hardy natives who called it home. His efforts as a guide in the region would set new standards for those who followed in his footsteps and there were many, but, as long as he lived, there was none better than he and such reputations don’t come easy.
When the nation finally exerted its efforts to harness the power and resources of the mountain range, he began a second career of sorts that would not only make his name a household word in the small city of Gatlinburg, but become one that would echo throughout the nation as the unofficial ambassador of the Great Smoky Mountains. Wiley Oakley was born on Sept. 12, 1885 to Henry Coleman and Elmina Conner Oakley at the base of Mount LeConte. He was one of nine children born to the mountain family and they made their home in a simple cabin farm.