Tag Archives: Roane County High School

In Memory of Steve Kelley – March 2018

This time of the year we generally start writing about the up and coming County Budget, but we shall pause and write about an outstanding Budget Committee member who passed on February 21, 2018, at the age of 63, Steve Kelley. Steve joined the Roane County Budget Committee in September 2011 and served faithfully representing all of Roane County as a member.
Steve was elected from the Oliver Springs, Orchard View and Oak Hills voter
precincts and was a resident of the city of Oak Ridge, TN. He represented his district and Roane County with the utmost integrity and was always inquisitive and fair in his approach to governance. Steve was a quiet leader who earned respect from his fellow Commissioners. He had a passion for education but was concerned about all County Government services and the employees of the County. He loved his wife Renee and three (3) boys. Steve was raised on Dearmond Road in the South of the River community and graduated from Roane County High School. He served our Country in the U.S. Navy and worked at Third Dimension Technologies as he was a self-taught programmer with a Bachelor of Science degree in business from Tusculum College. Steve served with various volunteer organizations including as an executive member of the Roane County Democratic Party. Steve will be missed by his family, his friends, and his fellow workers and Commission colleagues. Steve we will miss your friendship and government leadership.

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.

The Controversial Dike in Kingston

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

In 1939 – 1940, the Tennessee Valley Authority drew up plans to create a dike on Highway 70 at Kingston which would keep the waters of Watts Bar Dam from flooding the town of Kingston. This plan was supported by TVA and many of the citizens of Kingston and Roane County. The dike allowed traffic to travel directly on Highway 70 West from Knoxville, instead of the route which had for many decades required drivers to turn right onto Kentucky Street coming from Race Street and then turn left on Cumberland Street. The plan was controversial, in that there were people who were for the dike and those who opposed the building of it. Those for the plan pointed out the amount of land that it would take up and the amount of flooding that still would occur if the dike was not built. Plus the costs would have included Roane County having to replace Roane County High School. Still, there were some citizens who were opposed to it. However, many of these opponents would have ended up with lakefront property. But the plans continued as originally designed.

The following article appeared in The Rockwood Times, July 3, 1941, about the completion and the description of the dike.

“Work on Kingston Dike Against Lake Nears Completion. Roadway On Structure To Make Beautiful View Of Lake Area Available.” The much talk of the dike being erected by the TVA to keep the backwaters of Watts Bar dam from inundating the town of Kingston is now receiving the finishing touches. The main construction has been completed and the roadway on top of the dike has been aided with a temporary rock surface which will be later converted to concrete or asphalt. The main dike is tied into the hill just beyond the home of Hugh E. Wyatt and extends out through what was the Wilkey bottom through the Evans, Muecke and Oran lots coming to grade at the intersection of Cumberland Street and Harriman avenue where the dike and Highway 70 or Broadway of America come together. The highway has been raised too, so as to become a part of the dike on out to the old Clinch River Bridge. Most local travel will now go down Cumberland Street and go on the new highway where the dike and highway come together. The main travel through town will come down Race Street which has been raised to go onto the dike near the M.E. Church property. Highway 58 intersects with Race Street at the junction with Kentucky Street and the travel going over this highway will go into Race Street and on over the dike. The dike itself is approximately 35 feet high, 160 feet wide at the base and is 1550 feet long. The top is 40 feet wide with a roadway and sidewalk on the side. The north side of the dike is being sodded (sic) and the south or lakeside is being rip-rapped with a heavy stone. At the west end of the dike, a boat ramp and parking area is being erected. From the top of the dike is one of the best scenic views in all the TVA territory and thousands will stop and gaze upon the beauties of the lake extending down the Pellissippi (sic) to historic Southwest Point and the main lake of the Tennessee River. The boating and fishing of this immediate lake cannot be surpassed in all the country of the Tennessee Valley.— “Roane County Banner.”

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

History of the High Schools of Roane County

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

In Roane County’s history, four high schools were created by Roane County Court (now the Roane County Commission). Those were Roane County High School, Wheat High School, South Harriman High School, and Midway High School. The schools of Harriman, Oliver Springs, and Rockwood were created by the respective cities and were independent of the Roane County School system in their beginnings. Roane County High School had its origins as the Rittenhouse Academy and was the first high school created by the Roane County Court in 1905. Wheat High School started out as the Poplar Creek Seminary and later as Roane College. It came under the Roane County Board of Education in 1908 and closed in 1942 as part of the government acquisition of land for the building of Oak Ridge and the Manhattan Project. South Harriman High School was the third county high school to be created by the Roane County Court. The resolution was passed in 1915 and became effective in 1916. The school closed in 1963. Midway High School was opened in September 1947. It was the last high school to be created by the Roane County Court. It replaced Fairview and Paint Rock High Schools, which were organized as two-year or junior high schools in the 1920s. Harriman High School began in 1891. Beginning in 1922, Harriman High School was reported by the county superintendent as a county high school in order to receive more state recognition for funding, and the graduates of the school received state high school diplomas. As a city high school as opposed as a county high school, it was not recognized by the state until the county listed it as a county high school. It became part of the Roane County School System in 2003. Oliver Springs High School had its beginning about 1895. In 1925 the first four-year high school was organized. In 1935, the Oliver Springs Independent School District was dissolved, and it became part of the Roane County School System. Rockwood High School’s first graduating class was in 1892. In 1922 it was recognized as a state-approved high school. In 1935, both the Rockwood High School and Campbell High School became a part of the county system. Campbell High School was the only high school for blacks in Roane County. It started out as the Rockwood Colored School in 1920 and later became Campbell High School. It closed in 1965.

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

Roane College, later Wheat High School near the K-25 plant

Originally Written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, May 2013.

Roane County’s School History

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

In Roane County’s history, four high schools were created by Roane County Court (now the Roane County Commission). Those were Roane County High School, Wheat High School, South Harriman High School, and Midway High School. The schools of Harriman, Oliver Springs, and Rockwood were created by the respective cities and were independent of the Roane County School system in their beginnings. Roane County High School had its origins as the Rittenhouse Academy and was the first high school created by the Roane County Court in 1905. Wheat High School started out as the Poplar Creek Seminary and later as Roane College. It came under the Roane County Board of Education in 1908 and closed in 1942 as part of the government acquisition of land for the building of Oak Ridge and the Manhattan Project. South Harriman High School was the third county high school to be created by the Roane County Court. The resolution was passed in 1915 and became effective in 1916. The school closed in 1963. Midway High School was opened in September 1947. It was the last high school to be created by the Roane County Court. It replaced Fairview and Paint Rock High Schools, which were organized as two-year or junior high schools in the 1920s. Harriman High School began in 1891. Beginning in 1922, Harriman High School was reported by the county superintendent as a county high school in order to receive more state recognition for funding, and the graduates of the school received state high school diplomas. As a city high school as opposed as a county high school, it was not recognized by the state until the county listed it as a county high school. It became part of the Roane County School System in 2003. Oliver Springs High School had its beginning about 1895. In 1925 the first four-year high school was organized. In 1935, the Oliver Springs Independent School District was dissolved, and it became part of the Roane County School System. Rockwood High School’s first graduating class was in 1892. In 1922 it was recognized as a state-approved high school. In 1935, both the Rockwood High School and Campbell High School became a part of the county system. Campbell High School was the only high school for blacks in Roane County. It started out as the Rockwood Colored School in 1920 and later became Campbell High School. It closed in 1965.

Originally Written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, May 2013.

The Harvey H. Hannah Highway

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

If you drive along the highway from Harriman to Oliver Springs, you’ll notice that Highway 61 is called the “The Harvey H. Hannah Highway.” The highway was named after Harvey H. Hannah of Oliver Springs who for 30 years was the Tennessee Chairman of the State Railroad and Public Utilities Commission. He served in the Spanish American War becoming Colonel of the 4th Tennessee Volunteers. He also became a Military Governor of a Cuban province. Cordell Hull who became United States Secretary of State served as a Captain under Hannah. Besides being a lawyer, military officer, and politician, he was well known as a great orator. He served as Adjutant General under two Tennessee Governors from 1903-1907. This was where he acquired the title “General.” In 1922, General Hannah was a candidate for Governor in the Democratic primary but was defeated by Austin Peay who would become Governor. On Nov. 8, 1936, Harvey H. Hannah died from a throat condition. Governor Hill McAlister visited Hannah before his death and asked, “Harvey, is there anything that I can do for you?” He replied, “Hill, I know that money is hard to get, but I hope that you will find enough state money to finish the Oliver Springs-Harriman highway.” The Governor did find enough money, and the highway was named in Hannah’s honor. Harvey Hannah is buried in the Oliver Springs Cemetery, and his tombstone is said to be the tallest monument in the Oliver Springs area.

Originally Written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, January 2013.