Tag Archives: Highway 58

The Lost Churches of Oak Ridge

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

One of the major loses that took place in the creation of Oak Ridge were the closing of churches in that area. There were several active churches when those properties were acquired by the federal government. Three active churches were located in the Wheat Community. Those were the George Jones Baptist Church, the Crawford Cumberland Presbyterian Church, and the Wheat Methodist Church. The George Jones Baptist Church (the original name was Mount Zion Baptist Church) was started about 1852. The current structure, which is still standing, was built in 1901. The Crawford Cumberland Presbyterian Church was established in 1891, and the building that was there had been constructed in 1901. The Wheat Methodist Church was started about 1873. There were three other known churches, located in different parts, which were the New Bethel Baptist Church, the Friendship Baptist Church, and the East Fork Baptist Church. The New Bethel Baptist church, which is still standing, was started in 1852. The Friendship Baptist Church, which was located near the New Bethel Baptist Church, was started by people who were removed by the creating of the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Both churches were located in the X-10 (ORNL) reservation. The East Fork Baptist Church, was established about 1801, was located near the Roane and Anderson County line and a little distance from the location of the original guard houses on Highway 58 (Oak Ridge Turnpike). The church building that was standing in 1942 had been built in 1901. A cemetery is still located there. The George Jones Church and the New Bethel Church structures were kept because they were used for storage during the building of Oak Ridge. All of the other churches were torn down.

George Jones Baptist Church AKA Mount Zion Baptist Church

Crawford Cumberland Presbyterian Church

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

Roane County’s Only Toll Bridge

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

The bridge on Highway 58 crossing the Tennessee River which was torn down in 2004, was Roane County’s only toll bridge in its history. It was built between 1928 and 1931 for a cost of $306,683.96 as part of the Federal funding for toll bridges. A private ferry had operated at that location. The bridge had been named after Calvin John Ward, from Morristown, who was the most decorated WWI veteran with twelve awards (one of which was the Congressional Medal of Honor). Nearby was the toll collector’s house. The bridge was advertised as being open 24 hours a day and the cost to cross the bridge was $0.50. In 1939, the toll was removed, and it became a free bridge. In preparation for Watts Bar Dam, the bridge was raised and lengthened. The toll collector’s house was relocated. It is currently located across from Bethel Presbyterian Church in Kingston and until recently was the home of the late Bobby Allen. According to the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT), it is only one of two known toll collector’s houses still standing in Tennessee.

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, June 2014.

Poplar Creek Seminary

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

A Tennessee Historical Commission marker for the Poplar Creek Seminary was dedicated on October 9th, 2013. The marker is located off Highway 58 in the former Wheat Community which is now in the Oak Ridge part of Roane County. The George Jones Baptist Church is visible behind the marker. The marker reads: “Poplar Creek Seminary” Wheat Community citizens established the Poplar Creek Seminary in 1877 as a center of higher education for area children. The seminary’s name was changed in 1886 to Roane College, chartered by the state of Tennessee as an accredited college. At its peak, the school enrolled 200 K through 12 and college students. In 1908, Roane College closed, replaced by the new Wheat High School near what is today called Highway 58. Wheat High School closed in 1942 when the surrounding community became part of the World War II Manhattan Project. “

The first president of Poplar Creek Seminary was W.H. Crawford who was also a teacher. In 1878, the land was given by J.W. and Martha J. Pyatt to the Trustees of the Poplar Creek Seminary. Those trustees were D.H. Gallaher, James W. Watson, J.F. Browder, W.T. Gallaher, George Jones, J.W. Pyatt and A.J. Burum (secretary). In 1879, George and Lucinda Jones gave 200 acres to the school which was to be “applied solely to the benefit of said institution.” In 1886, Poplar Creek Seminary became Roane College. Six Trustees of Poplar Creek Seminary made an application for a Charter of Incorporation with the State of Tennessee to create a school of higher learning. It had the power to “confer degrees and graduate students after passing satisfactorily through the course of study.” The Board of Trustees was to consist of representatives of the three denominations located in the community (Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist). There was not to be a majority of any of the denominations.

I have a personal connection to Roane College, in that my great-grandfather, Richard A. Ladd, attended there in the mid-1880s. He took the Normal Course of Study which was required to teach in the Tennessee public schools. After completing his studies, he became a teacher in the Roane County school system. In 1908, Roane College became a part of the Roane County education system, and the name was changed to Wheat High School. Until 1916, Wheat High School was still under the control of the Roane College Board of Trustees. Wheat High School closed for the Christmas Holidays in 1942 and never reopened. As a result, the students of families who were still in the area were bussed to Dyllis.

Wheat Community Citizens established the Poplar Creek Seminary in 1877 as a center of higher education for area children. The Seminary’s name was changed in 1886 to Roane College, chartered by the state of Tennessee as an accredited college. At its peak, the school enrolled 200 K through 12 and college students. In 1908 Roane College closed, replaced by the new Wheat High School near what is today Highway 58. Wheat High School closed when the surrounding community became part of the World War II Manhattan Project.

 

Wheat High School started as the Poplar Creek Seminary and later as Roane College.

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, December 2013.