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Local History

Anderson County, TN

Formed in 1801 from Knox and Grainger Counties, Anderson County was named for Joseph Anderson, a US Senator from Tennessee. Anderson County includes the cities of Clinton and Oak Ridge and the towns of Briceville, Rocky Top, Norris and Oliver Springs.

The county seat of Clinton was also established in 1801 and originally called Burrville in honor of Aaron Burr. In 1809, following Burr‘s disgrace after the death of Alexander Hamilton as a result of their duel, the city was renamed by the Tennessee State legislature as Clinton, in honor of George Clinton, Vice-President under Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. In 1956 Clinton High School was the site of the first desegregation of a state-supported public high school in the southeast. The Green McAdoo Cultural Center was established in Clinton to commemorate the event. Clinton is home to the nationally-recognized Southern Gospel group The McKameys.

The largest city in the county is Oak Ridge, established by the federal government during the Manhattan Project of World War II. Beginning in October 1942, the federal government began taking land from local landowners and by March 1943 all of the unincorporated communities in the area had been “removed” and the city fenced in and manned with armed checkpoints. Because of its history, Oak Ridge is referred to as the “Secret City”. Oak Ridge remains a center for scientific research by Department of Defense and Department of Energy subcontractors.

The Town of Rocky Top was originally named Coal Creek, but was renamed in 1936 to Lake City in honor of Norris Lake. It’s current name, Rocky Top, was officially established in 2014. In 1891 the town was occupied by the Tennessee State militia during the Coal Creek War, a struggle between coal miners and mine owners over the use of unpaid convict labor in the mines. The explosion of the Fraterville Mine on May 19, 1902, occurred near Lake City and resulted in the death of 216 miners. Eighty-nine miners who died in the Fraterville Mine disaster are buried at Circle Cemetery in the Briceville community, scene of the Cross Mountain Mine disaster which killed 84 miners on December 9, 1911. Twenty-two of the miners killed at Cross Mountain are also buried in Circle Cemetery, which is officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1984 the movie Burning Rage, starring Tom Wopat and Barbara Mandrell, was filmed in Lake City and it is also the hometown of country singer/songwriter Dean Dillon.

The Town of Norris was built by the Tennessee Valley Authority in 1933 to house workers building Norris Dam. Built to harness the power of the Clinch River, the dam was completed in 1936 and created Norris Lake. The Town of Norris is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Town of Oliver Springs was founded in 1830 and known as Winters’ Gap, named for the first permanent white settler, Major Moses Winters. It was renamed briefly as Poplar Springs and then as Oliver Springs after the first postmaster, Richard Oliver, who also owned the first hotel built to capitalize on the area’s mineral springs, used for centuries by Native Americans. In 1999 the movie October Sky, starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Laura Dern, was filmed in Oliver Springs.