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This site provides free resources, data, and assistance to those with local and family history interests in Sevier County.

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Hot-off-the-press! Sevier County Heritage Museum has reopened following re-roofing and a major redesign of the collections.  Come see us!

SCHM drawing

The Sevier County Heritage Museum was established in 1995 by Patsy Galyon Bradford and Janie Hearn.

Supported by the County, grants, and private donations, the Museum contains a wide array of local artifacts. It is visited each year by school children, Scout troops, and numerous historians.

The Museum is located at 167 Bruce Street and is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday afternoons and Saturday mornings. Groups may schedule tours and events by appointment.

TN Heritage Trail

SCHM is on the Tennessee Heritage Trail.



Mission Statement

Sevier County Heritage Museum will preserve and display for public benefit the natural, historical, and artistic heritage of Sevier County, Tennessee.

Historical Background

Sevier County Heritage Museum ("SCHM" or "Museum") opened July 10, 1995, as part of Sevierville's Bicentennial Celebration. SCHM is a federally recognized 501(c)(3) charitable organization; it is also sanctioned by the Sevier County government.

The Museum is located in the former Sevierville Post Office building. The U. S. Postal Service sold the building to Sevier County, which in turn designated the building as the site for a new museum. The Colonial Revival-style building, erected in 1940 by an African-American construction company, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996. The building was one of the last construction projects completed under the federal Works Progress Administration.

SCHM was co-founded by Patsy Galyon Bradford and Janie Hearn, who were recognized by Gov. Don Sundquist for their efforts to preserve Sevier County's heritage. The Museum was sponsored in part by a grant from Tennessee 200, Inc., in honor of Tennessee's Bicentennial. SCHM is also a tribute to the memory of the late Rowena Emert Schmutzer, who devoted much of her life to preservation of Sevier County's unique history.

The Museum offers more than displays of local artifacts and memorabilia. It hosts lectures and classes, transcribes and indexes historic documents, and performs research services for long-distance genealogists and historians. SCHM also participates in local commemorations of historic events and supports a number of other like-minded organizations, such as the Smoky Mountain Historical Society and the Friends of the Great Smoky Mountains.

Purpose for the Sevier County Heritage Museum

Founded in 1785, Sevier County has a rich history. Native Americans, the Revolutionary War, famous Tennessee pioneers, Dolly Parton, and numerous other influences left their marks here. Continued tourism and economic "progress," however, result in the loss of much of the county's topographic, artifactual, and documentary heritage. Additionally, a tragic fire at the Sevier County Courthouse in 1856 destroyed nearly every recorded document. SCHM's mission is to preserve artifacts and documents that represent significant segments of the county's history for the benefit of future generations and provide a location for research and interpretive exhibits of that history.

Facility Description

SCHM is located in the recognized historic district of downtown Sevierville, one block from the county's landmark courthouse. The two-story structure has a brick exterior with walls approximately 15" thick. It has wooden and terrazzo floors on the main level and unfinished concrete flooring in the basement. Tennessee marble wainscoting covers lobby walls, and wooden tongue-in-groove wainscoting covers walls in the exhibit area. The roof is covered in standing-seam copper panels, topped with a wooden cupola.

The building has multiple doors for entry, but only the front door on the main level is open to the public. Handicapped-visitor access is through a truck ramp on the loading dock at the back of the building, making it difficult, but not impossible, for impromptu visits by wheelchair-bound guests.

The main level has one large exhibit hall, a vintage lobby that doubles as a gift shop area and classroom, a small office, one bathroom, a vault, a storage area near the loading dock, and limited storage in the exhibit hall. The vault is inaccessible to SCHM; it is presently used to house the Smoky Mountain Historical Society's book collection under contract with Sevier County.

The basement level has several large rooms that could be finished to provide office space, classrooms, workrooms, and storage. However, the basement has a problem with water seepage that must be repaired before the rooms can be finished.

SCHM has a large yard area and a parking lot with approximately 20 spaces. Two-hour on-street parking is available in front of the building.

The building is protected by a security system that has 24-hour remote monitoring and immediate police and fire department notification. Heat sensors incorporated into the security system automatically notify the fire station two blocks away in the event of an emergency.

Statistics

Following are some representative statistics about SCHM:

Number of visitors in preceding 12 months   3200
Average number of visitors annually   2700
Square footage used for display area   1280
Square footage available for development   2400
Most-recent artifact or document donation   pre-1900 typewriter from the law office of A. M. Paine, first mayor of Sevierville
Most-popular exhibit among adults   World War II memorabilia
Most-popular exhibit among children   Scale replica Pioneer Homestead

Achievements

SCHM's Board of Directors is very proud of the Museum's accomplishments in the past six years. These achievements have been reached without income from endowments, major funding, or admission fees. The Museum

  • was privileged to be the only site in East Tennessee selected by the Smithsonian Institution to host its 1998 travelling exhibition of World War II "Produce for Victory" motivational posters -- a perfect compliment to SCHM's permanent collection relating to the county's World War II veterans and local residents' activities during the War;
  • has undertaken a compilation of all county citizens who served in any military campaign since the county's formation in 1795;
  • has been selected as the repository for unique document collections, such as historical aerial photographs of the county still used by developers;
  • is the repository of personal possessions of the late Wiley Oakley, renowned historian/naturalist of the Great Smoky Mountains;
  • is regarded as a primary research repository by genealogists and local historians researching the Sevier County area;
  • is an exhibit and research partner of the Frank H. McClung Museum, located on the campus of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville;
  • has been a primary resource of information for an upcoming documentary on the White Caps, a local vigilante group active in the 1890's; and,
  • is the designated exhibition location for student artwork entered in the county's annual Music & Arts Festival competition.

Past Events

SCHM has participated in a number of activities to promote itself and support the community:

  • In January, 2001, the Museum unveiled its Web site on KORRnet, a regional server whose charter includes free Internet support for organizations and non-profits.
  • the Museum has hosted the Student Art Show competition for grades K-12 during the Sevierville Music & Arts Festival; over 700 entries were displayed.
  • the Museum has participated in the city of Pigeon Forge's second annual "Celebrate Freedom" salute to veterans. The 2001 celebration featured astronaut Walter Schirra and an exhibition of World War II posters from the National Archives.
  • SCHM hosts local open-houses, including a well-attended fundraiser with a performance by award-winning Scottish singer-songwriter, Bruce Davies.

Museum Strengths

SCHM counts the following points among its strengths:

  • Full support of the county's governing body, the Sevier County Commission;
  • Membership in, and support from, the Sevierville Chamber of Commerce;
  • Internet-based promotion of SCHM's activities and exhibits; and,
  • The combined professional experience of its former and present Board members and committee chairs.

Collections

SCHM is honored to have been selected as the recipient of several important collections of Sevier County artifacts and documents, including the following:

  • Wiley Oakley Collection -- The late Mr. Oakley was renowned as a historian of the Smoky Mountains.  SCHM has numerous personal items and artifacts donated by the Oakley family on permanent display.
  • Library of the Smoky Mountain Historical Society -- Because the organization does not currently have its own library facility, SCHM provides a storage repository for the society's collection of books and documents.  Visitors must make arrangements with SMHS to use these materials.
  • Sevier County in World War II -- Numerous area residents have donated uniforms, artifacts, and personal memorabilia to this permanent display.

Gift Shop

SCHM sells a number of books, collectibles, memorabilia, and other items to its visitors as a fund-raising activity.

First Families of Sevier County

Sevier County Heritage Museum chose to observe the State of Tennessee's Bicentennial in 1996 by launching the First Families of Sevier County project.

If you can prove your ancestor's residence in Sevier County before December 31, 1820, you qualify for First Families membership. A completed application with supporting documentation, accompanied by a $10 non-refundable fee, must be submitted for approval. For an application and complete eligibility requirements, send a self-addressed, stamped, business-size (#10) envelope to the Sevier County Heritage Museum, 167 Bruce Street, Sevierville, TN 37862.

A list of approved applications is also available on this Web site.

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