Along The Byway
Roane County was established in 1801.
Roane County Chamber of Commerce
Kingston, TN 37763
Phone: 1-800-FUN-IN-TN or 865-376-4201
Less than four miles from here, the Byway takes visitors to Midtown on US 70/TN 1/J Lon Foust Highway/Roane State Highway. Crossing the bridge at Watts Barr Lake into Kingston, the Byway follows US 70/TN 1/Roane State Highway/Race Street to a right turn onto TN 58/Kentucky Street.
Valley View of Rockwood from Mount Roosevelt
The river was an important means of transportation through the nineteenth century, and Kingston was an important port city. Steamboats ran regularly between Knoxville and Chattanooga, then on to Decatur, Alabama. Following the Civil War, railroad transportation began to replace river transport for all goods except coal. The post-war of economic development in Roane County was Oliver Springs and Rockwood, rather than Kingston. Northern investors quickly revived the poor state of economy, capitalizing on natural resources of iron ore and coal. Former Union General John Wilder and W.O. Rockwood founded the Roane Iron Company in 1867. Coal was used to convert iron ore into pig iron. The year after the furnace began operation, the company town of Rockwood was established and its population was largely dependent on the iron industry. The Roane Iron Company paid equal wages to its white and black employees, either in cash or in scrip, a form of credit which could be used for goods at the company store. The population of Rockwood grew from 696 in 1870 to 1,011 in 1880; by 1890, the population increased to 2,305.
One of the most significant events to bolster the local economy was the 1879 completion of the Cincinnati-Southern Railroad, which passed through Roane County on its route to Chattanooga. Entering the county through the Emory River Gap, the railroad enhanced regional transportation for agricultural products coming by steamboat up the Emory River from Knoxville, Kingston, and Chattanooga. The intersection of the rail line and the Emory River became a major distribution center for corn, hay, and other products. The railroad also broadened the market for Rockwood’s pig iron.
Roane County continued to attract northern developers, and the railroad at Emory River Gap created an ideal site for a town. In 1889, the East Tennesee Land Company, created by New York minister Frederick Gates, first purchased 10,000 acres here for the purpose of establishing a “utopia of temperance and industry.” The land was formerly the plantation of Colonel Robert King Byrd. Ultimately, the company acquired hundreds of thousands of acres, selling 573 lots in the town to be named Harriman. Some three thousand prohibitionists from eighteen states flocked to this town on the Emory River. River-front lots sold for $500 for industrial development and workers’ dwellings. Lots on Roane Street, at the center of town, were considerably more expensive, as were the lots on Clinton and Cumberland Streets, where more affluent residents would develop the neighborhood that would come to be known as Cornstalk Heights.
In addition to providing raw materials necessary for industrial development, the natural minerals found in the area also spawned the growth of mineral springs resorts. The nationally known 200-room Oliver Springs Resort was in operation between 1894 and 1905, promoting the healing powers of the springs. Nearby Windrock Mountain was replete with coal and was mined beginning in 1903, the same year the city of Oliver Springs (formerly known as Winter’s Gap) was chartered. There were several coal mines in operation there, including the Piedmont Coal Mine and the Windrock Coal and Coke Company, a subsidiary of Bessemer Coal, Iron, and Land Company.
Even with the loss of the East Tennessee Land Company, Harriman continued to florish into the twentieth century. However, the affects of the 1929 stock market crash were exacerbated by severe flooding of the Emory River. Three years later, blight collapsed the local peach industry, killing off all the peach trees. The Depression also brought about the demise of the Roane Iron Company in 1930. Later a paper mill and a hosiery created jobs and stabilized the local economy. During the 1940s and 1950s, Harriman’s economy was bolstered by through traffic on U.S. Highway 127, which was a north-south corridor for mobile Americans between the Great Lakes region and Florida.
In 1940, the population of Roane County was under 28,000. The county’s urban population was 34.5%, based on the cities of Harriman (5,620), Rockwood (3,981), and Kingston (880). In 1942, the Corp of Engineers began taking possession of 56,000 acres of farm land for the establishment of the Manhattan Project, the highly secretive research and development program that would produce the atomic bombs used in World War II. Later named Oak Ridge, the strictly closed government town was located in Anderson and Roane Counties. The war effort brought new industrial activity to Roane County, as Tennessee Products Corporation re-opened the Roane Iron Furnace for the production of ferromanganese, used in the production of steel.
Kingston Avenue Historic District
Molyneux Chevrolet Company – Rockwood Fire Department Building
Rockwood Post Office
Tennessee Highway Patrol Building
Fort Southwest Point
Fort Southwest Point was constructed in 1797 and served as a significant military outpost as settlers migrated to the nation’s frontier. It operated as a fort through 1811. It is the only fort in Tennessee to have been rebuilt on its original foundation and the site features barracks, a blockhouse, and over 200 feet of palisade walls. It was listed on the National Register in 1972.
Colonel Gideon Morgan House
Roane County Courthouse
Visitor Sites & Attractions
Fort Southwest Point
Harriman Heritage Museum