Tellico Plains is a town in Monroe County, Tennessee, United States. The population was 859 at the 2000 census.
Tellico Plains in 1938
The area was inhabited for thousands of years by indigenous peoples. The historic Muscogee settled here, before moving further south. They were followed by Cherokee displaced from the east and north by European colonial encroachment.
Tellico Plains occupies the former site of the Cherokee town of Great Tellico, which was one of the more important towns of the Overhill Cherokee during the late 18th century. Two traditional Native American paths met at Great Tellico, the Trading Path and the Warrior Path.
During the 1840's Elisha Johnson, a former mayor of Rochester, New York, built the Tellico River Mansion on his plantation in Tellico Plains. With his brother Ebenezer, the former mayor of Buffalo, New York, he purchased the Tellico Iron and Manufacturing Company. During the Civil War, the Confederacy commandeered the iron works for production of munitions. General William Sherman's Union Army soldiers destroyed the Tellico Iron Works. Sherman pardoned Elisha Johnson for his part in supplying the Confederate Army because of Johnson's northern birth and sympathies. Johnson returned to the North, settling in Ithaca, New York, where he died in 1866.
The nearby Coker Creek was the site of a minor gold rush during the late 1800s. The small crossroads town of Coker Creek has a gold-panning tourist attraction. Visitors can rent pans and receive professional instructions from the proprietor of the souvenir shop. Visitors can also explore the old gold mines in the surrounding hills in the hopes of finding a nugget with some of the famous yellow ore, although the mines are in a state of disrepair.
Gold mining continues on at least one private plot located slightly to the southwest of the tourist attraction.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Tellico Plains became the base of operations for the Babcock Lumber Company, which ran logging operations throughout the Tellico River basin. When it finished clearcutting, it sold its land to the US Forest Service, which has spent decades restoring the woods. Tellico Plains was incorported in 1911. Its first mayor was Columbus Jenkins, father of prominent attorney Ray Jenkins.