History of Campbell County, Tennessee
 

Time Line

TENNESSEE RIVER VALLEY RESOURCES

By Dallas Bogan

Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. 

     The importance of river navigation to the early settlers in the Tennessee River Valley cannot be fully realized without an understanding of the resources of that area. The pioneers who traveled over the Appalachians to fashion their lives in this rich region envisioned some of the major opportunities that challenged them if they could establish and keep up an inexpensive and reliable means of commercial enterprise with the trading centers of the world.

     It was to the Tennessee River and its tributaries that these original settlers naturally sought that crucial connection with the world of commerce and trade. They looked, hoped and planned as they gradually explored their agricultural, commercial, and industrial possibilities and counted their resources.

     Without proper transportation facilities resources were considered useless. If transportation costs were too excessive, the producer is forced to pay more than a consumer does for what he buys or uses.

     The most determined need for transportation in the early days was for carrying cotton to market. This highly marketable product was mostly marketed for cash. In the early period of river development, Tennessee supplied much of the crop produced in the Valley. As time passed it was found that the soil and climate of the eastern section were not so suited as the country farther south in northern Alabama and south central and western Tennessee. Northern Alabama, particularly along the Big Bend of the River, enjoyed a rich soil fit for cotton raising.

     The producers were always faced with difficulties in getting their cotton to market. An estimate shows that from the 75,000-bale crop of 1838 a loss of $1,500,000 was experienced because the producers were unable to choose the time at which the crop could be offered to the market. When the river was too low for navigation, cotton was often piled up in warehouses rather than being sent on to New Orleans to be sold at advantageous prices. Generally, six months elapsed before the cotton reached New Orleans because of the many obstacles the industry faced.

     Wheat raising was also important in early days in the Tennessee River Valley, especially in East Tennessee where five to ten million bushels were grown annually around 1870. Flour from Tennessee was greatly in demand and was listed regularly among the cargo lists of early flatboats and steamboats.

     Oats was an important crop; the harvest for Tennessee was running five million bushels per year. This cereal, like corn is one that is rarely raised with any expectation of moving a great distance from the place of production.

     As time passed, the soil of the Tennessee Valley was found suitable for growing tobacco. Its production was confined primarily to Tennessee, which in 1874 ranked next to Kentucky and Virginia in the production of this commodity.
Other products, such as barley, rye, buckwheat, flax, peanuts, sorghum, and hemp were raised in the Valley. Hemp furnished the raw material for a cord and rope-making business that flourished for a while in the region.

     Many kinds of fruits and vegetables were produced, but almost entirely for local consumption. Sweet potatoes and white potatoes were easily raised; the latter being much relied upon by the settlers.

     Along with the cultivation of crops, livestock raising held an important place in the agriculture of the Tennessee Valley. The Valley was well suited for this purpose, since it is a grassy region.

     The early settlers brought with them their native stock cattle from the Atlantic seaboard. These animals were hardy and flourished in the new region. As time passed the type of cattle was greatly improved by the introduction of finer blooded breeding animals cargoes of flatboats using the Tennessee, and later the steamboats.

Time Line



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