In the late 1700’s, hunter Peter Avery was commissioned by the mother state of North Carolina to blaze a trail through the wilderness. The trail became known as the Avery Trace. Early settlers found rich pasture land surrounded by mountains and rivers in the area that is today Roane County.
After Peter Avery established the Avery Trace, connecting the cities of Knoxville and Nashville, the early settlers constructed Fort Southwest Point on a high bluff overlooking the Clinch and Tennessee Rivers. The Avery Trace was replaced by Interstate 40 and makes the towns of Harriman, Kingston, Rockwood, and parts of Oak Ridge and Oliver Springs easily accessible to many major metropolitan areas and within a day’s drive to many major United States markets.
Roane County was founded on November 6, 1801. Roane County is 361 square miles and the total population as of the 2000 Census was 51,900. The City of Kingston is the county seat. Kingston was incorporated in 1799 and its population as of the 2000 Census was 5,264. Kingston served as the state capital for one day – September 21, 1807 – and the Tennessee House of Representatives convened here.
The City of Harriman was incorporated in 1891 and its population as of the 2000 Census was 6,744, making it the largest city in Roane County. It was known as “The Town that Temperance Built” because no manufacture, storage, or sales of intoxicating liquor or beverages would take place.
The Town of Oliver Springs was incorporated in 1903 and its population as of the 2000 Census was 3,303. Oliver Springs is actually located in three counties: Anderson, Morgan and Roane. Some scenes of “October Sky” were filmed in Oliver Springs.
The City of Rockwood was incorporated in 1903 and its population as of the 2000 Census was 5,774. John Wilder, a Union officer, discovered an abundance of iron on Walden Ridge and later returned to Rockwood to form the Roane Iron Company. The town was named after William O. Rockwood, the first president of the Roane Iron Company.
The City of Oak Ridge was incorporated in 1962 and its population as of the 2000 Census was 27,387. The largest portion of the City of Oak Ridge is located in Anderson County, with a smaller portion located in Roane County. Oak Ridge was established by the Federal Government. First known as the Manhattan Project, it was secretly developed for the purpose of making nuclear weapons which were used to end World War II.
The beauty of Roane County is highlighted by the Appalachian Mountains and Watts Bar Lake, made up of the Tennessee, Clinch and Emory Rivers. Each year, water recreation draws many visitors to Roane County. Today, visitors can walk through a partial reconstruction of Fort Southwest Point, rebuilt on its original site. The Visitors Center houses a museum containing artifacts excavated under the supervision of the Tennessee Department of Archeology. The history of the Fort comes alive during the Living History Days as staff members dress in period costumes and recreate activities from the past.