Tag Archives: Watts Bar Dam

Thomas N. Clark, One of the First Seven Commissioners

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

Thomas N. Clark, Sr. – Thomas N. Clark, Sr. was born 1763 May 5, probably in Scotland and died 1847 Oct 21 in Roane County. He married Susannah Randolph Payne (1768-1842). Clark was one of the first seven commissioners of Kingston of 1799. He was a charter member of Bethel Presbyterian Church in Kingston and a Trustee of the Rittenhouse Academy. He rented the ferry across the Clinch River at Kingston from an Indian named Doublehead for $600 per year. At that time only Indians could own ferries and toll gates into the Indian Territory which was West of the Clinch River at that time. It later became known as Clark’s Ferry. Clark’s “Big Spring” supplied the water of Kingston until the building of Watts Bar Dam. In many ways, he is considered the father of Kingston. He and his wife are buried in the Bethel-Kingston Cemetery.

Thomas N. Clark Sr.


Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, November 2018.

Watts Bar TVA Grave Removal

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

In preparation for the building of Watts Bar Dam, some single graves and entire cemeteries were removed because those areas would be flooded by the backwaters created by Watts Bar Dam. To move the graves, TVA required a family member to approve the grave to be moved. If no relative was found or the family did not wish for the graves to be removed, TVA left the graves there, and they were covered by the backwaters. Two cemeteries, the Jackson Cemetery, and the Perry Cemetery, both located in the Tennessee River, are now located on islands. In the Jackson Cemetery (located across from Boyd Woody’s house) there are 35 graves, and in the Perry Cemetery (which is located on Thief Neck Island) there are six graves. In all, about 100 graves were moved. The most graves that were removed from a single cemetery were forty-seven graves which were located in the Kendrick Cemetery near the New Hope Community. The graves that were removed from the various cemeteries were relocated to several different cemeteries. Some were removed to the Oak Grove Cemetery in Rockwood, Luminary Cemetery (South of the River), Eagle Furnace Cemetery, and Cedar Grove Church Cemetery near Paint Rock among others. Some graves were removed to cemeteries in Rhea and Meigs County. New roads were also created to provide access to other cemeteries in which the old roads were covered.

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

The Beginnings of Roane County Park

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

On April 23, 1949, the Harriman Lions Club, took over sponsorship to develop the Roane County Park to have a place for camping, picnics, swimming, and boating among other outdoor activities. Several attempts had been made to develop the park previously but they had failed. The area that was utilized for immediate development by the Lions Club was 60 acres while there were another 120 acres for possible future expansion. Roane County Court Judge Elmer Eblen created a County Park Commission and appointed the same men who were leading the project for the Lions Club. Those were Frank Faris, John R. Evans, R.T. Hamilton, E.T. Primm, and Roy Carmack. The land for the park had been taken by TVA as part of the Watts Bar Dam project and was then turned over to Roane County for the sole purpose of creating a park. The Lions Club first started drilling a well on the property and talked about digging another well for the central part of the park that would handle three picnic areas and the trailer camp area. Various members of the Lions Club were appointed for the following projects:

Wells – Clyde Suttles
Boat Dock – C.W. Bohanan
Tables and Ovens – Albert Ahler
Swimming Area – E.R. Allen
Garbage disposal – R.C. Williams
Recreation Area (slides, swings, sandboxes) – Wallace Smith
Roads – Ed Browder Clearing Wood and Underbrush – H.L. Kindred
Signs – Walter H. Scarbrough
Rest Rooms – Herbert Rawlings

It was the vision of the Harriman Lions Club to start development of the park that led to the Roane County Park becoming what it is today.

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, September 2016.

Owen’s Airport

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

Located in the Swan Pond community near the present day site of the Kingston Steam Plant, Owen’s Airport was one of the first airports in Roane County. It was started in 1928 by Edgar Owen. He had purchased an old jenny which had been sold as war surplus by the government and began flying out of a field which became known as Owen’s Airport. Among the “adventures” that were provided were flights for passengers, parachute jumping, air shows among other things. When Watts Bar Dam was built in the 1940s, part of the field was flooded which ended flying at this location.

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, July 2016.

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.