History of Sequatchie County

On December 9, 1857, the Tennessee General Assembly created Sequatchie County from a section of Hamilton County and named Dunlap as the county seat.

Few opportunities existed to expand to a larger agricultural market until a road, Anderson Pike, was built in 1852 connecting the Sequatchie Valley to the newly constructed Western and Atlantic Railroad in Georgia. Anderson Pike was used mainly by farmers to transport their livestock out of the valley and to larger markets throughout the South.

During the Civil War, in October 1863, Confederate Major General Joseph Wheeler led a cavalry raid against a Union supply train on Anderson Pike that was attempting to relieve besieged Federal troops at Chattanooga. Wheeler burned an estimated eight hundred to one thousand wagons and captured livestock.

The construction of railroads in the post-Reconstruction era expanded Sequatchie County’s agricultural and industrial opportunities. The Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway constructed a line through the Sequatchie Valley in the 1880s. This line reached Sequatchie County in 1888, thus enabling coal companies to conduct large-scale mining activities by the turn of the century. The Chattanooga Iron and Coal Corporation owned and operated sixteen thousand acres of coal land near Dunlap and employed 350 men. They also operated two sawmills, which supplied the railroads with ties and the coal mines with shoring. In addition to mining, the company constructed and operated 268 beehive coke ovens near Dunlap, many of which can still be viewed at the Dunlap Coke Ovens historic site. Coke ovens carbonize bituminous coal by removing the majority of volatile materials in the coal by heating it in a closed oven thus preventing its burning. The coke then is used in blast furnaces to melt iron. As the southern steel industry continued to expand, the demand for coke continued to increase.

The Chattanooga Iron and Coal Corporation sold their mining and coke operations to the Southern States Iron and Coal Company in 1919. The Southern States Company closed the operations in 1922 due to the overproduction of coal. The closing of the mines also brought about the closing of many associated industries. Railroad traffic declined in the county, and many people left the area in pursuit of work. Those who remained returned to subsistence farming as a living.

Sequatchie County is in the heart of the beautiful Sequatchie Valley, with Walden’s Ridge on the east, and Cumberland Plateau on the west. It has an area of 273 square miles, and is bounded by Bledsoe, Grundy, Hamilton, Marion, Van Buren, and Warren Counties. In 1990 the population was 8,863.

The Sequatchie River, referred to in early deeds as Crow Creek, flows through the lush valley land. Some of the streams that empty into the river are Brush Creek, Coops Creek, Hicks Creek, and Woodcock Creek.

Many artifacts have been found to substantiate the fact that the earliest inhabitants of the area were Indians. Historians have stated that Hernando DeSoto and his party were in the area around 1540. Their studies show that the expedition rested for about a month at the town of Chiaha, thought to be Burns Island, in the Tennessee River, just beyond the mouth of the Sequatchie River. In 1809, Joel Wheeler was on the list of white settlers who were below the treaty line, in what was to become Sequatchie County. ¬†—¬†Tennessee¬†Historical Society, Nashville TN

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