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Exploring the Industrial Revolution in the Tennessee River Valley

March 25, 2019 Destination North America No Comments Email Email

The Tennessee River Valley Geotourism Mapguide invites visitors to explore the land once known as the Overhill Cherokee country for a look into how the Industrial Revolution played out in the Southern Appalachians. The Furs to Factories Heritage Trail features seven museums, numerous historic sites and an 1854 railroad depot. The trail tells the stories of Cherokee settlements, European explorers, fur traders, British soldiers, railroaders, farmers and miners and how these people shaped the land and culture of the Tennessee Overhill.

Textile mills first appeared in the Tennessee Overhill in the 1830s and was the one Appalachian industry that employed mostly women. Learn more about the history at the Englewood Textile Museum.

During the early 1700s, Cherokee Indians in the southern mountains provided millions of deerskins for the European market. This deerskin trade soon made the Cherokees economically dependent on foreigners and profits from that trade later came back into the Overhill through investments in early industries like mining, timber and textiles. This part of the southern Appalachians saw drastic changes as towns created by copper mining companies, railroads and textile mills sprang up practically overnight.

The Furs to Factories Heritage Trail explores this historic movement with the story beginning with the Overhill Cherokee fur trade and unfolds with the coming of the railroads, logging, hydroelectric power and tourism. Stops along the trail highlight specific occupations and industries, including fur trading, copper mining, textiles, logging, railroading, dam building and farming.

Furs to Factories Heritage Trail stops include:

1. Sequoyah Birthplace Museum – Museum exhibits interpret the history of the Overhill Cherokee towns that once sat along the Little Tennessee River and the life of Sequoyah, inventor of the Cherokee alphabet.

2. Fort Loudoun State Historic Area – The reconstructed fort sits on a hill overlooking Tellico Lake where living history demonstrations take place throughout the year. The visitor center presents information on the fort’s history and artifacts that were excavated prior to reconstruction.

3. Tellico Blockhouse – The Tellico Blockhouse was a US fort from 1794-1807, serving to control the border between U.S. and Cherokee lands near the Little Tennessee River. Interpretive exhibits situated among the ruins tell the story of the blockhouse. Visitors can walk among the ruins and look across the water at the old Cherokee Nation.

4. Charles Hall Museum – An impressive collection of guns, historic photographs and other artifacts relating to the history of Tellico Plains and surrounding area are
on display.

5. Ducktown Basin Museum – Located on the grounds of the Historic Burra Burra Copper Mine, the museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Exhibits trace the copper mining heritage of Tennessee’s Great Copper Basin. The site includes a number of mining structures and equipment as well as an overlook of the Copper Basin and a mine cave-in.

6. Ocoee Whitewater Center – Built for the 1996 Olympic whitewater slalom races, this center includes the Olympic race channel, native plant gardens, and biking and hiking trails. A restored fire tower is located there and an original section of the Old Copper Road is open for hiking.

7. Nancy Ward Grave – Nancy Ward, Beloved Woman of the Overhill Cherokees, is not only remembered as an important figure to the Cherokee people but is also considered an early pioneer for women in American politics as she advocated for a woman’s voice during a turbulent period in her tribe’s history.

8. Historic District of Reliance – This turn-of-the-century farm and trade community provides a glimpse of life in a rural crossroads farm community in the late 1800s. The historic district, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, includes Webb Brothers Store, the L&N Railroad Watchman’s House, Hiwassee Church and Higdon Hotel.

9. L&N Depot/Railroad Museum – Step back in time with a visit to this Victorian train station, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The town of Etowah was built in 1906 by the L&N Railroad as a rail center and planned community for its workers. There are exhibits about the history of the L&N Railroad and its impact on the area.

10. Englewood Textile Museum – The town of Englewood grew out of three textile mill villages and at one time there were 20 mills operating here. The museum recounts the history of the mills and the women who worked there.

11. McMinn Living Heritage Museum – This museum is a good place to learn about the farming and trade heritage of the area. Thirty exhibit areas depict life in McMinn County from the Cherokee Indians and early settlers through the 1940s.

12. Mayfield Farm and Nursery – The free tour of this dairy plant shows how dairy farming has changed over time. The tour begins with an overview of the history of the farm and how it evolved into a modern dairy production plant.

13. Niota Depot – Built in 1854, the Niota Depot is the oldest train depot still standing in Tennessee.

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