Thursday, August 4, 2011

Sweetwater Tennessee – A Closer Look

Laurie and I love to explore…small towns and back roads ‘r’ us!  From time to time I’ll pass on a few facts and observations about the towns that we visit in East Tennessee and around the country.  To date, I’ve reported on Loudon, Tennessee, (, and explored McCormick, South Carolina (

Sweetwater Tennessee is an attractive small town located about 50 minutes south of Knoxville.  Take I-75 South to Exit 60, which is TN Highway 68.  Just take Hwy. 68 east for a mile or so and you’ll come across this welcome sign.

Although Sweetwater was incorporated in 1875, the town actually developed in the early 1850’s.  The lands that are now part of Sweetwater were noted in a ‘grant of reservation’ to Isaac Vann in “Sweet Water”, dated on 7/10/1817.  The grant was from the Cherokee Agency of the Federal Bureau of Indian Affairs.  From what I could find out on the Internet, Isaac had married a Cherokee woman but I’ll need to do more research on this…

This is a former Carriage House for a larger home in Sweetwater.  It was donated to the town in 1908 and it served as the town’s library until a new one was built in 1981. 

With a population of just under 6,000 residents, Sweetwater is the largest city in Monroe County Tennessee.  Development of the town was spurred on by the coming of the East Tennessee, Virginia and Georgia Railroad.  By 1852, lots were being sold by I. T. Lenoir for the town of Sweetwater and development centered along the creek itself.  Of interest is the fact the I.T. Lenoir was the son of the founder of Lenoir City, the county seat for Loudon County Tennessee. 

This is a view of some of the older structures in downtown Sweetwater, dating from 1906.  One of these buildings, (I haven’t found out which one yet), houses a still working hand cranked elevator which allegedly still works!

The Sweetwater Valley Antique Store is a better than average ‘booth rental’ co-op place to explore for antiques and collectables.  Bobby Todd, the next building down, is a wife grabbing, attention getting, classy gift and antique shop.  We are always taking out of town visitors to Bobby Todd’s!  For more information, go to

This is the old Mascot Hosiery Mill.  It was chartered in 1896.  Patton Brothers operated the mill until 1967 when it was purchased by Crescent Mill.  It’s closed down but the fact that someone has invested in new windows, seems to indicate that there are plans to ‘repurpose’ the building...or perhaps it's just serving as a warehouse.  At the moment, the only remnant of the hosiery milling days in Sweetwater is the Sock Outlet Shop located right on US Highway 11 on the south side of the old plant. 

Sorry for all the wires in this picture, but my wife and photographer has to work with what she’s given.  This is a Tennessee Heritage Tree that’s located in Sweetwater.  It is reputed to be the largest Magnolia Tree in the state.

I find this photo to be much more compelling than the overall shot.  It shows the ‘age’ of the tree and documents some of its travails along the road to survival.

Two very significant tourist attractions are located in close proximity to Sweetwater.  One is the "Great Craigshead Cave", now know as "The Lost Sea".  For more information, check it out at  The other place of interest is the Sweetwater Flea Market, which claims to be the world's longest indoor flea market with roughly 500+ booths.  For more information, go to

This whole block consists of the Scripp’s Building.  It was built in 1914 and it’s still referred to as the ‘new block’.   The restaurant on the Corner is Hunter’s Bakery and Café.  It’s a pleasant place to dine.  For more information, go to

During the Civil War, Sweetwater was a very important transportation center.  Military control swung back and forth between the North and the South.  Confederate General James Longstreet used the town and the railroad as a staging area for his campaign against Knoxville.   Much of the town was destroyed during the war.  However, by the mid-1880’s, the town had recovered and it was the largest shipping point between Knoxville and Chattanooga. 

This is all that remains of the historic 1893 Mid-Lab building, a 60,000 sq. ft. warehouse that’s just across the tracks from the “new block”.  Right after the big Sweetwater Fourth of July fireworks display in 2010, residents observed that this building was ablaze!  The city is denying responsibility but the owner of the building has sued both the city and the fireworks display company for $20 million.  Sweetwater was lucky that the wind wasn’t swirling around much or the fire would have been much worse.  As it was, the “new block” did suffer a bit of roof damage.

There is more for us to research and explore in Sweetwater.  We need to locate the Crabtree House, an early stagecoach stop and the Bigg’s house, which was built in the 1820’s.  There is a historical museum in town that should be able to fill in the details and resolve or correct what I’ve missed so far. 

Being a bit of a train and railroad depot buff, I was interested to note that on 6/15/2011, a Tennessee Senate resolution was passed which supported Sweetwater’s grant application for a Tennessee Department of Transportation grant to build a replica Civil War railway station in the downtown area as a Civil War Discovery Trail Site.  It would be a great center piece for the downtown area if it's actually built!

For more information regarding Sweetwater Tennessee, go to or  


  1. Dear Dave, Wouldn't that be nice if they did actually build the railroad. It would teach so many young kids and peak their interest into the history of our nation. Blessings, Catherine

  2. Alexis and I enjoy traveling the back roads and visiting the small towns and cities too. There is so much character and history to be seen as well as great mom and pop shops and eateries. And all my favorite towns of course have access to train tracks. I like getting photos of old trestles. My dad's whole career was with Seaboard Airline/Coastline/CSX.

    Enjoyable write up, Dave. It makes me want to get out and drive this morning.

  3. Of Course! wonderful post about the imaginary photo booth rentals services. Our objective is to provide the highest quality experience for your special event!. Thanks for sharing this useful information

  4. Just some added information on the Hosiery Mill. When hubby and I worked there in the 70's and 80's it was called the Sweetwater Hosiery Mill and owned by the Jones brothers. Jack, and I cannot think of the other one's name. We left before it was closed.

    1. The Jones brothers were jackson and Newton B. Jones. I had the honor of knowing both gentlemen.

  5. Big Daddy....
    There are several information errors on your site regarding Sweetwater.
    The second photo on the site is the (Alexander) Biggs house, not the Carriage House/former Sweetwater Library. The Carriage House is located at the corner of Miller and Church Streets to the southwest.
    You also mention that the Crescent Hosiery Mill was closed in 1967 (photo provided). I worked at the Mill pictured in 1990 and it was actually the Sweetwater Hosiery Mill and was operated by the Jones brothers.
    You mention that much of the town was destroyed during the Civil War. This is incorrect as the town was left intact during the War. The Sweetwater Train depot was the northernmost depot held continuously during the war by the Confederacy. However during the 1890s much of the business district on Main St was destroyed by fire (as the many of the buildings were frame built, rather than brick at this time).
    You should consider correcting these and any other mistakes so as to avoid any further confusion...
    Ray Ezell...

    1. Ray, Thanks for the input... I'll do a bit of research re: your feedback. Much of the info came from the internet or the National Register of Historic Places... Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

  6. Ray, The following re: Sweetwater was taken from Goodspeed's History of Monroe County, published in 1887. "During the war the town and surrounding country suffered severely. The depot was burned, and much other property destroyed and carried away by both armies. At the close of hostilities, however, the unexcelled resources of this section soon restored it to its former prosperity..."

    1. Ray, I figured out where I got confused re: The Carriage House. It is listed in a brochure from Sweetwater right next to a photo of the Biggs House...which is the house I mistook for the Carriage House. Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

    2. Ray, Regarding the should reread what I wrote. I didn't say that the mill closed in 1967. I said that Crescent bought the mill in 1967 and its now closed. Again, I took the following information from the Sweetwater brochure. "The Mascot Hosiery Mill was
      chartered in 1896 by the Patton brothers
      (see sign on north wall). In 1916 the mill
      was sold to John M. Jones. It operated
      as the Sweetwater Hosiery Mill until
      1967, when it was purchased by Crescent
      Hosiery Mills of Niota. The Sock Shop
      is still operated by Crescent Hosiery
      Mills and is a popular stop for visitors." Take Care, Big Daddy Dave