Gatlinburg names bridge for pioneering citizen

Reagan owned city’s first furniture shop
Oct. 29, 2013 @ 03:50 PM
Years after his death, the city of Gatlinburg honored E.L. Reagan Monday afternoon, naming the Poplar Lane bridge over Roaring Fork Creek for the local businessman.
 
“We’re just tickled to death ... that we were able to be here today to do this,” Gatlinburg City Manager Cindy Cameron Ogle said. “It’s those kind of people that made this town, made this area. They didn’t want any acclaim. They didn’t want any notoriety or anything ... but these are the people that built this town, and we’ve got a lot we owe them for.”
 
Five of six generations of Reagan’s decedents were on site to see the dedication of the bridge, Monday, including his only remaining offspring, 93-year-old Harlan Reagan and his wife Gertie, 90.
 
Elijah Lawson Reagan opened the first woodworking and furniture shop in Gatlinburg in 1910, near the bank of the Roaring Fork Creek.
 
“Best man that ever was,” Gertie Reagan said of her father-in-law.
 
The E.L. Reagan Furniture Shop continued to build and sell custom-made furniture for nearly 100 years.
 
“Papaw had the first furniture shop. It was all custom-made,” Gertie said. “Everything in my house was made in the furniture shop. We delivered all over the United States. We (even) had a truck load stolen in California,” she added with a laugh.
 
What made Reagan’s shop even more historical was the way the furniture was built.
 
“In the early years of the furniture business, E.L. Reagan used water power, through a system of belts and shafts he had created and connected to the adjoining Roaring Fork Creek, to power the equipment used to create fine furniture,” the city said in a proclamation.
 
“E.L. Reagan was one of the first men in Gatlinburg to generate and use electricity through a mill race he had developed ... which he used to power his lights and tools as well as supply some of his neighbors with their first electric lighting.”
 
The city had unanimously adopted the measure to name the bridge in its August meeting.
 
“I like it,” Harlan Reagan said of the bridge’s naming for his father. “He’d have been surprised.”