Tag Archives: Blight

Former Peach Capital of Tennessee

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

For a brief time in Tennessee history, Kingston was the “Peach Capital” of Tennessee and Roane County was the second largest peach growing area in all of the United States. It was second only to Fort Valley, Georgia. The first large peach orchard was started in about 1920 in the Midtown Heights area by Sam Bright and J.S. Parker, father of J.C. (Babe) Parker. They became the largest peach growers in Tennessee. Eventually, the peach orchards dotted the hills and valleys all across Roane County. By 1925 over 20,000 bushels were shipped by rail to Cincinnati alone, and additional thousands were shipped by barge and rail throughout the United States. Overripe peaches were used by “moonshiners” and others to make and sell peach brandy. During the 1920s, Roane County Automobile license plates bore the information: The Peach Capital of Tennessee. The Roane County High School girls’ basketball team was named the “Kingston Peaches” from 1923 to 1927. They were rarely beaten and captured the East Tennessee tournament trophy for three consecutive years entitling them to a permanent display at Roane County High School. Unfortunately, peaches impacted the economy in Roane County for only one decade. The demise of the industry began in 1929 and when the ‘brown rot’ hit the orchards. Following the blight, two successive freezes destroyed crops, and the “great depression” of the 1930’s finished the industry forever when prices fell to almost nothing.

The “Kingston Peaches” basketball team in 1927. Back Row, left to right: Mildred Roberts, Mildred Bowman, Coach D.P. Roberts, Ruby Hedgecock, Nelle Ruth Cates. Front Row, left to right: Mary Frank Bowman, Dixie Lynn Bowman, Lela “Dutch” Marney, Mary Lee Sparks, Margaret Waller.

Peach orchards that dotted the hills and valleys all across Roane County.

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, August 2017.