Wednesday, September 12, 2012

A Bit of History – Lenoir City Tennessee

As we explore the Tennessee River Valley in East Tennessee, I like to research the history of the towns and the countryside in order to better appreciate our ‘new’ home turf…

Lenoir City is the largest city in Loudon County Tennessee with a population of a bit more than 8,600.  Interstate highway I-75 passes north and south just west of town, with US 11 and US 321 intersecting in the city.  Lenoir City sits on the bank of the Tennessee River, very close to the Fort Loudoun Dam as well as the Fort Loudoun and Tellico Lakes, part of the Tennessee Valley Authority System.  Statistically, Lenoir City is included in the Knoxville Metropolitan Area.
The Lenoir City area was inhabited for thousands of years before the arrival of settlers from the ‘Old World’.  Bussell Island, just across the river from the city, has yielded evidence of settlement dating to as early as 8,000 to 1,000 B.C.  The island is also believed to be the location of ‘Coste’, a village visited by Hernando De Soto in 1540.
This is the former Lenoir Cotton Mill Warehouse at 150 Bussell's Ferry Road.  It was built ca. 1830 to serve as a warehouse for raw cotton for the nearby Lenoir Cotton Mill.  This building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and it’s now been converted into a residence.

In the early 1800’s, 5,000 acres of former Overhill Cherokee tribal land was deeded to General William Lenoir of North Carolina…for his services to the nation during the Revolutionary War.  After winning a protracted court battle with other claimants, William deeded the tract to his son, William Ballard Lenoir.  In 1810, the son moved to the area and established a large plantation.  In addition to his agricultural efforts, Lenoir operated a number of small industries, including a sawmill, a hotel, a brick factory, a general store, a dam and a flour mill.  The entire conglomeration of businesses and homes became known as Lenoir’s Station. 
This is what remains of another of Lenoir’s businesses, the Cotton Mill on Town Creek, built ca. 1821.  This structure, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, operated as a flour mill until the early 1950’s.  An arsonist set fire to the mill in 1991 as plans were being made to preserve the structure.

During the Civil War, the Lenoir Family was sympathetic to the Confederate cause in an area of Tennessee that tended to be pro-Union.  Colonel William Sanders led 1,500 Union troops through the area and on June 19th, 1863, they overwhelmed a nearby small Confederate Garrison.  They then destroyed the railroad depot, the store and some other buildings.
Laurie took this photo of the interior of what remains of the Lenoir Cotton Mill on Town Creek.   These ruins are located near the corner of Depot and South Hill Streets in Lenoir City.

Colonel Sanders allegedly spared the Cotton Mill to protect the only source for clothing for local Unionists.  However, according to local lore or tradition, Dr. Benjamin Lenoir entered the Union camp and exchanged secret Masonic signs with Union officers and they spared the mill.  It’s too bad that an arsonist completed the job about 128 years later…
Believe it or not, this building is the William Ballard Lenoir House, ca. 1821.  It’s located directly across the street from the remains of the Cotton Mill.  Unfortunately, it’s been greatly altered and it’s now serving as an apartment building…the Ledbetter Apartments.
This is the Lenoir City Company Office Building…also in the National Register of Historic Places.  It now serves as the Lenoir City Museum.  In 1889, Charles McClung McGhee and Edward J. Sanford founded the Lenoir City Company, believing that Lenoir City would be the ideal location for a company town.  This stemmed from the popularity of social theories regarding planned cities and a thriving coal mining industry on the Cumberland Plateau.  The partners purchased the Lenoir estate for $300 an acre. 

The city’s northwest quadrant was to be for middle class and affluent residents and the northeast quadrant would be for the city’s wage earners.  Other areas were set aside for blast furnaces, steel works, woodworking, furniture and canning factories and even parks and gardens. 
Unfortunately, a recession in the early 1890’s froze the financial markets.  By 1892, the company had only sold 144 of its 3,448 lots!  Still, the partners and the city survived, if not according to their original grand plan.  A rail car company and a knitting mill opened, helping to keep the dream alive…
For more on the Lenoir City Museum, just go to 
Another building of interest near Lenoir City is this magnificent home…the John Winton Home. (ca. 1815) John Winton was a Methodist minister who first built an arbor and campground at Muddy Creek…now the Martel Community, a portion of Lenoir City.  This was near the center of John’s land holdings in the area. 

He and his wife, Arabella chose the form of a cross for the foundation of their new home.  The front porch formed the top of the cross.  The dining room, kitchen and nursery wing formed the lower part of the cross, the bedrooms and parlor formed the cross arms and the front hall, the transept.  The form was Greek Revival… Due to the War of 1812, the house wasn’t completed until 1818.  Their slaves made or 'burned' the bricks used in the construction. 
The home is now called The Magnolia Manor.  It’s located at 18350 Martel Road near Lenoir City.  The current owners rent it out for special occasions such as weddings, family gatherings, etc.  Phone: 865-988-4510.  Website:
This is the last of the historic structures in the Lenoir City area that’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  This is the Hackney Chapel AME Zion Church at the corner of Hackney Chapel and Antioch Roads.  It was built in 1899.  I couldn’t locate any other information on this church.  It appeared to be boarded up and closed.

As for Lenoir City, another key event in the city’s history was the coming of the Tennessee Valley Authority with the construction of the Dams and reservoirs.  That started in 1940 and led to many jobs as well as significant growth of the city and the local economy.  Then in February of 1993, an F-3 tornado destroyed parts of the downtown area as well as other section of the city.  Fortunately only one person was killed.  Then in March of 1998, another historic landmark, the William B. Lenoir Hotel was destroyed by a massive fire.  The structure had occupied an entire city block.
Just click on any photo to enlarge it…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. Great post David as I knew none of this.

  2. Dave, you are my favorite tour guide and I especially liked this post since it is so close to home.

  3. Thank you for the birthday wishes for Sayaka Dave!
    Whenever I see pictures of the South I think of Gone With The Wind, I must have read that book 3 times and seen the movie at least 10 times. I agree with Katherine, you are a great tour guide!

  4. I love, love your posts like this. You make it so interesting!! Your writing style is clear and direct and friendly. If you haven't written a book, you should! It's amazing that the town was inhabited way back when, before "old world" settlers were on the scene. Great photos too. Thanks for the tour of Lenoir City!

  5. Some of these small towns are amazing rich in history. Fascinating post today! Thanks for the tour. Have a great day.Blessings...Mary

  6. Dave who? I checked his blogger thing and it has no last name? If we wanted to ask questions on Facebook how do we get a hold of him? I'd like to add him.

  7. Great post. I was born in Lenoir City in a house my father and his dad and brothers abs brother in law built. Great history. Do you have post on Kingston, TN where I grew up. Lots history there. Oh my Dad was a core driller deep in the LC Dam after he returned from WwII. He was in first wave on Utah Beach landing on D Day.

  8. Janie, I did cover a bit of history re: Kingston last year. There were 2 posts, one on the fort and the other on a couple of historic sites in town. For the latter, go to Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

  9. I learned something new today. Thank you!

  10. David, Thank you for your blog on Lenoir city. I am a descendant of the William Ballard Lenoir (4th great grandfather) and I grown up with the lore of the Lenoir clan. As I dive into their history I have discovered the importance of the location of this area for the success of their business and what later became Lenoir City. What is true today in real estate about location was even more vital back then to the expansion of the West and industrialization. William's father, Gen. William Lenoir was awarded this tract of land for his service in the Revolution and spent some years in the courts afterwards against two others who laid claims against the same land. But in the end he won and the fight was worth it. He let his sons manage the land while he resided at his home called Fort Defiance in NC. It was the success of these sons that created the mill, the store, the farm and the history that we see today in that region.
    Thank you so very much for sharing your travels with others and your passion for history as well. Please continue doing what you do so well.