LENOIR'S: A post village of Roane county in the eastern part of the State south east from Kingston the capital of the county about 150 miles east south east from Nashville.
(Source: Tennessee State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1860-61, Issue 1, John L. Mitchell, pp 109)
Lenoir City is rooted in a plantation established by William Ballard Lenoir in 1810, which by the 1850s included a railroad stop known as Lenoir Station. The Lenoir City Company, established by Knoxville financiers Charles McClung McGhee and Edward J. Sanford, platted modern Lenoir City in the 1890s.
An essay on Lenoir City written by Samuel Marfield in the 1890's.
To essay to write the history of Lenoir City thoroughly would be undertaking a task akin to writing a history of East Tennessee. We will attempt but a brief sketch. It dates its first settlement in the dawn of the present century. Its prosperous, intelligent and successful pioneers, and their successors, were always in touch with the world about them, and moved in the procession of progress keeping step with the best intelligence of their day and generation. The Lenoirs, who founded it, were of the patriotic blood which did battle for their country in the war of the Revolution, the father of the first settlers of the present city, being one of the gallant band who sent the British red coats flying down the steeps of Kings mountain. The site of the present city was the first pick of all this section of the State and its selection was directed by the unerring intuition of the sagacious and far seeing men, who lived to see their well directed energies yield abounding wealth, and their manor the center of business activity which knew few rivals in the eastern half of the State. When they located their grants and broke the glebe they had no vision of a future city. But the planting and reaping and gathering, created wealth and as riches increased in the full measure of time, they gave opportunity for exercise of energy in varying directions and the plantation melodies from the fields were mingled with the whirr of factory wheels. In short the home of the Lenoirs became the center of large commercial activity and its business exchanges grew into metropolitan proportions. Their immense flour mills outgrew their rivals and for long years controlled the market for higher grades of flour. Their cotton yarns were shipped far and near, their wharves were alive with activity, and their railroad shipments were enormous, their stores were the trade centers for miles on the north and east and west, and supplied almost exclusively the trade of the mountain districts of North Carolina penetrated by the Little Tennessee river. Yes, Lenoir as it was called, without the intent or purpose of its founders and their successors, grew to be a trade center of great importance, but not a city.
The estate consisting of many thousands of acres was preserved intact, the policy of the owners was to keep it so. They were kings in the little domain and they intended that no intruders should secure a foothold and dispute their power all supremacy. Hence they never disposed of a foot of their territory, buyers always to extend their boundaries but sellers never. But time and the laws against entailment, bring such estates to but one conclusion in this country, and multiplying inheritors brought division of interests in the Lenoir family, and in due course of time the splendid estate found new owners.
In 1890 it was purchased entire, with its mills and factories by a syndicate of gentlemen who saw in its geographical location in the vast mineral and timber resources, it controlled by the strategy of its position, the site of a future great city. The Lenoirs had concentrated abundant returns of nearly a century of energy and thrift in developing, nurturing and strengthening the germs, but the era of a new South had now arrived, a period spreading activities and far reaching plans, and the sagacious men of affairs who secured the splendid property, at once loosed the iron bands of individual interest which had so long confined its destiny, and threw the gates open to new people new blood fresh energy and expanding hopes. The site of the city is as fair a picture as may be found in all this Southland. It is located on the north bank of the Tennessee river at the junction of the Little Tennessee, which takes its rise in North Carolina and breaks through the Great Smoky mountains at a point nearly forty miles south of Lenoir.
The city has a charmingly picturesque environment, embracing rare scenery by river, and shore of wooded hills, and fertile plains of majestic rivers, and distant mountains. To the spectator standing upon any one of the many points of vantage overlooking the Tennessee river beneath, the spreading branches of monarch oak and chestnut there, is presented a combination of river and mountain views of surpassing loveliness. Stretching southwestward across the valley are the fertile lowlands covered with growing grass and clover. Through the center runs the silvery thread of Town creek, far beyond the Chilhowee mountains in tinted beauty, and still further on the Great Smoky range stands out clearly defined against the sky in all its magnificence and grandeur. At the foot of the grassy slope that overlooks the river the majestic waters of the Tennessee flow by in stately silence to their ocean home, while to the southeast the crystal stream of the Little Tennessee comes rushing from its source in the old Smokies impatient to join heights overhanging the Tennessee, its larger sister in its homeward journey. Across the river rise precipitous river overshadowing the fertile islands of the Little Tennessee that lie beneath them.
To anyone taking in this beautiful picture and studying the geographical and strategic position and examining the contour of the site with its gentle slopes affording natural drain age to the rapid stream which courses through the center of the town sweeping all filth and impurity into nature's grand sewerage, the question is never suggested, "Why build a town here?" but invariably, "Why was there not a city here generations ago?" The location was certainly created for that purpose. The answer to this has been given above and the solution of the manifest destiny of the spot is now in rapid progress. The foundations of a future city are being speedily laid, and already substantial superstructures are seen on every hand creations of skilled architects in brick and mortar not the fanciful mansions of imaginative land speculators. This characteristic of sustainability and conservatism is one of the features which distinguish the place. It is in the atmosphere of the entire community and is the governing principle in all the activities of the city, "Let us build slow but wisely," seems to be the motto which is strictly followed. There is are immediately tributary to the tributaries drain an area of more 5 1 enough in the vast resources which place to excite the ordinary _ mind and quicken the imagination of every cool head but the community seems to have cast its anchor in the safe counsels of that sage old Tennessean David Crockett and is following his plan by wisely saying First be sure you are right and then go ahead The consequence is that what is done is carefully considered first no wild cat schemes are countenanced and no delusive speculations are fostered.
First and foremost in the line of new industries which are springing up comes the manufacture of wood. The city lies on the north bank of the Tennessee river directly opposite the mouth of the Little Tennessee river and fourteen miles below the mouth of Little river. These two streams take their rise in the Great Smoky mountains and with their than 3,350,000 acres consisting largely of virgin forests of poplar, white and yellow pine, hemlock, chestnut, ash, oak, cherry, walnut, hickory, beech, maple, linn or basswood, red birch, mountain mahogany, balsam, sycamore, gum, satinwood etc. Some of the timber in this region reaches its highest form of development. The quality is of the best.
Logs can be driven down both these, already supplied with a system of booms for the storage of logs which are unsurpassed in the South, with capacity now far beyond the requirements of the saw mills located at Lenoir City, and capable of indefinite expansion to meet all future demands from milling points below. The Lenoir City and Cincinnati Railroad, which has been surveyed and will no doubt be built, runs northwest from Lenoir City and crosses the Clinch river five miles out, thus making when it is built all the timber on that river, above that point extending West Virginia tributary to Lenoir City. After crossing the Clinch the road enters a heavily timbered country containing large supplies of all kinds of timber before mentioned. The region thus brought into communication with, and made tributary to Lenoir City, on the north comprises over 1,000,000 acres. Such enormous resources in timber naturally have attracted the workers in wood and already several mills and factories are subduing the giants constantly stored with millions of feet of the mountain wilds, bringing their proud brows beneath the axe and converting their massive trunks into articles for the use and comfort of man.
One mill owned by the Lenoir City Company is now and has been for months sawing 25,000 feet daily. The Crosby Lumber Company Michigan has purchased over sixty thousand acres of timber lands and has erected here one of the largest and probably the best equipped mills in the South. It is a marvel in its arrangement and the adaptation of its machinery to the most economical and speedy manipulation of work in all the departments from the drag which conveys the log from the river and delivers it to the head blocks in front of the whirring band saws, to the last finishing touch of the matcher and planer, or the busy little machines which toss the slabs and usual waste off in the plasterer's lath, or well made shingles. This establishment is immense in all its plans equipment and accomplishments. Its lumber yard and millsite cover a tract of fifty acres which is laid off into streets and intersected throughout with tramroads, and the several side tracks of the East Tennessee, Virginia, and Georgia Railroad. The saw mill has a capacity for cutting forty million feet of lumber a year. The yard is constantly with millions of feet of lumber of all kinds, grades, and sizes, and is so thoroughly arranged and classified that on a few minutes notice, an order for anything in the lumber line can be in process of filling. The contractor, builder, or dealer in Knoxville, Chattanooga, or any other point along the line, may wire his order one day and be confident of receiving the material the next, so extensive is the stock always carried, and so complete the arrangements for handling it.
At no other point in the State can this be done. It is rendered possible by the magnificent booms which have been constructed within such a short distance of the city, and which are capable of storing a year's supply of logs, and keeping the mill stocked from January to December. Other parties have purchased a site for another mill, and yet these are but forerunners of what are to come for the millions of acres of timber, which we have mentioned before in this article, is all destined to be manufactured at this point.
There is located here the large table factory of JT Bon & Sons. They manufacture extension dining tables on a patent taken out by the senior member of the firm, and which is the most complete thing in its line in the market. It is ingeniously contrived for economical shipment and may be knocked down and packed in a remarkably small space. The chief superiority of the patent is in the solidity, firmness and steadiness of the table when put together.
One of the busiest and most extensive manufacturing industries located here is the foundry and machine shop of FJ Hill who brought his plant from Greenville Mich last spring. It is an extensive and thoroughly equipped establishment as may be judged by the fact that at present they are just completing the magnificent one hundred and fifty horse power engine which is to be placed in the mill of the Crosby Lumber Company. Mr Hill himself is a thorough mechanic, capable of large undertakings and his shops take rank among the best in this part of the State. Extensive brickworks have been erected here and their product takes a high place in the market. Such establishments, as those named, show that there is a real basis established on which to build safe expectations for the development of a large manufacturing growth. In mercantile lines there is a like good showing. Hough & Beidler who occupy the handsome brick block erected by Sanford Chamberlain & Albers, of Knoxville, corner Broadway and A streets, carry a large line of general merchandise and do a large business. They moved here from Upper Sandusky Ohio. The Crosby Lumber Company conducts a large general store also with a trade running away up into the big figures. WF Simpson, who moved from Maryville this State, is proprietor of a drug store which is a credit to the city and has a large trade. One of the most prosperous institutions of the city however is the Lenoir City Bank. It has ample capital, a good deposit account, and among other resources, boasts of one of the handsomest and most substantially built bank buildings in East Tennessee. It was erected by the bank itself and is modern in every particular, with strong brick and cement vault, fire and burglar proof safe, and as pretty an outfit of furniture as can be found anywhere. The officers are Geo M Burdett, president; Jas B Hall, vice president; and Chas B Hall, cashier. The class of residences which have been erected here since the city developed into its new life are worthy of special notice for there are many of them very much in advance of what are usually found in towns in the earlier stages of their development. There are a number of houses here which would attract notice in large cities. The public school building is a commodious modern structure of which the city is justly proud. Assured by the promise of large business returns, the East Tennessee Virginia and Georgia Railroad has caught the spirit of improvement and has erected here one of the handsomest depots on their line of road. They have also constructed about two miles of additional side tracks, with spurs extending to the several manufacturing sites. The steamboat service is improving, and the presence of two steamers loading and unloading at the wharf is a common occurrence. The two ferry lines which cross the river are well supported. Health and climate are among the city's greatest attractions. It is situated in the central South, one thousand feet above the sea level, with a climate singularly equable and exhilarating midway between the severity of the New England climate and the heat of the extreme South, lying north of epidemics and south of blizzards. No hurricanes, cyclones, or dangerous storms, have ever been known in this section of the country. Their forces are shattered on the outer wall of mountains that engirdle the East Tennessee Valley. All the conditions of the sanatorium are found here: elevation, pure air, healthful waters, and an atmosphere dry and bracing acting as a tonic on debilitated persons. The elevated location of the city exempts it from the dangers of overflow and malarial diseases. Its topography assures the advantages of perfect drainage. Three small creeks or drainways flow through the city, passing through the eastern, central, and western portions respectively, and emptying into the Tennessee river. There are on the city site seventeen bold springs, waters of three of which possess great medical virtue, one being an excellent chalybeate spring. The waters from all these springs are now being forced into a common reservoir from which the citizens are receiving their water supply.
Such is, as briefly stated as possible, the history of Lenoir City from its first civilized settlement nearly a hundred years ago up to and including the present. Surrounded as it is by a country of exceptionally fine agricultural value and development, fringed on all sides with rich mineral deposits, and the finest timber districts, peopled by an intelligent conservative citizenship, a temperance city in sentiment (which is strongly guarded contract with every purchaser of property within the city limits under for which is strongly guarded by feiture), it is not an unreasonable hope that all who reside here hold of seeing it, in the near future, one of the most prosperous cities in the new South. The gentlemen who are at the head of the corporation and to whose energy sagacity and financial backing the present impulse of new life and rapid development is due are among the great financiers and successful men of affairs in the land.
The organization of the Lenoir City Company is as follows: E Sanford, president, Knoxville, Tennessee; ER Chapman, vicepresident, New York City; CM McClung, secretary and treasurer, Knoxville, Tennessee; Samuel Marfield, manager.
Lenoir City Directors: Hon Calvin S Brice, (United States Senator) Lima, Ohio; Col M McGhee, (president Memphis and Charleston Railroad) New York, City; ER Chapman, Esq (Moore & Schley brokers) New York City; WP Chamberlain, Esq (Sanford Chamberlain & Albers) Knoxville, Tennessee; Col EJ Sanford (president Knoxville and Ohio Railroad) Knoxville, Tennessee; CM McClung, Esq (wholesale hardware Tennessee) ET Sanford, Esq (Lucky & Sandford attorneys) Knoxville, Tennessee. General Counsel Lucky & Sanford Knoxville Tennessee
(Source: East Tennessee: Historical and Biographical, Samuel Marfield, Brookhaven Press, 1893)