See Rock City

See Rock City

Monday, February 11, 2013

Athens, TN

McMinn County Courthouse in Athens

Nickname: "The Friendly City"

Motto: "Progress Since 1821"

Athens is a city in McMinn County, Tennessee, United States. It is the county seat of McMinn County and the principal city of the Athens Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is part of the larger Chattanooga-Cleveland-Athens Combined Statistical Area. The population was 13,220 at the 2000 census.


Athens is located at 35°26′53″N 84°36′7″W (35.448171, -84.602069). The city is situated amidst a series of narrow, elongate ridges and low hills that are characteristic of the Appalachian Ridge-and-Valley Province. The Unicoi Mountains rise roughly 20 miles (32 km) east of Athens, and the Tennessee River flows nearly 20 miles (32 km) to the west. Starr Mountain, one of the more noticeable ridges in McMinn County, is located roughly 15 miles (24 km) southeast of Athens.

Oostanaula Creek (sometimes spelled "Eastanalle" or a similar variation) rises in the hills north of Athens and traverses the city approximately 30 miles (48 km) upstream from its mouth along Hiwassee River. Other major streams in the area include Mouse Creek, which parallels Oostanaula to the west, and Chestuee Creek, which parallels Oostanaula to the east.

Athens is centered around the junction of U.S. Route 11, which connects the city to Sweetwater to the north and Cleveland to the south, and Tennessee State Route 30, which connects Athens to Etowah and U.S. Route 411 to the southeast and Decatur to the west. Interstate 75 passes west of Athens.

Tennessee Wesleyan College, organized in 1857


Early History and Civil War

The Samuel Cleage House outside of Athens, set on the site of McElhaney and Sons Nursery, built in the 1820's

The Cherokee were living in McMinn County at the time of the arrival of the first Euro-American explorers. The Athens area was situated nearly halfway between the Overhill Cherokee villages of Great Tellico to the north in Monroe County and Great Hiwassee along the Hiwassee River to the south. In 1819, the Cherokee signed the Calhoun Treaty, selling the land north of the Hiwassee (including all of modern McMinn County) to the United States. McMinn County was organized on November 13, 1819 at the home of John Walker in what is now Calhoun. The Native American village, Pumpkintown (a corruption of Potemkin town), was located on a farm about two miles east of present-day Athens. It is sometimes incorrectly identified as a forerunner of Athens. Athens was laid out and chosen as the county seat in 1822. The name "Athens" may have been chosen due to perceived topographical similarities to Athens, Greece.

By 1834, the population of Athens had grown to over 500. Prominent early settlers included William Henry Cooke, who operated an iron forge near modern Etowah, and Samuel Clegg (or Cleage), a construction entrepreneur. Jesse Mayfield, whose descendants founded Mayfield Dairy Farms, arrived in the early 1820's. The Hiwassee Railroad received a charter in the mid-1830's to build a railroad connecting Knoxville, Tennessee and Dalton, Georgia. The railroad began construction in 1837, although financial and legal problems delayed its completion until 1851. In 1836, General John Wool arrived in Athens to help coordinate the Cherokee Removal. Although initially voluntary, the operation became a forced removal in 1838 when many Cherokee refused to leave. The removal culminated in the forced march west that became known as the Trail of Tears. Wool set up his headquarters at the Bridges Hotel, which was located across the street from the McMinn County Courthouse.

McMinn County was divided during the American Civil War. The well-established railroad brought numerous pro-secessionist and anti-secessionist speakers to the county, including Andrew Johnson, Horace Maynard, John Bell, and William "Parson" Brownlow. In 1861, McMinn County voted against secession by a narrow 1,144 - 904 margin. The county sent 12 units to the Union army and 8 units to the Confederate army. General William Tecumseh Sherman was briefly headquartered at the Bridges Hotel while preparing his "March to the Sea."

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 13.5 square miles (35 km2), all land.

Post-Civil War

THC marker at the "Battle of Athens" site

After the Civil War, the railroad lured business opportunists to McMinn County. In 1887, several investors established the Athens Mining and Manufacturing Company with plans to convert the town into a model industrial community and initiate large-scale mining operations in the area. Textile mills, flour mills, and timber mills dominated the county's industry by the late 19th century, complemented by furniture and appliance factories in the 1920's.

In 1946, several McMinn County World War II veterans ran for local office in hopes of removing a county government deemed corrupt. On August 1, local authorities locked themselves in the county jail along with the ballot boxes. Suspecting foul play, the veterans armed themselves and assembled on a hill across the street from the jail. After an exchange of gunfire, the county authorities surrendered. The ballots were counted, and the veterans' ticket was elected, ending the Battle of Athens.



Cleveland State Community College

Tennessee Wesleyan College

Trade Schools:

Tennessee Technology Center of Athens

High Schools:

McMinn County High School

McMinn Central High School

Middle Schools:

Athens City Middle School

Elementary Schools:

City Park

West Side

North City


Notable residents:

Eric Axley- professional golfer who plays on the PGA Tour

J. Lawrence Cook - piano roll artist.

John Tyler Morgan - represented Alabama in the United States Senate as a staunch segregationist. Served in the Confederate Army as a brigadier general.

JaJuan Smith- basketball player for the University of Tennessee, played at McMinn County High School

Athens Media

Athens is served by one daily newspaper publication, The Daily Post Athenian as well as seven radio stations, (four FM, and three AM), and one Comcast TV channel, 95.


Jack FM Country, (which is actually licensed to Decatur, Tennessee)

WJSQ Country

J-103 religious (licensed to Etowah, TN) simulcast with WBDX in Chattanooga

WKPJ-LP 104.5 religious, an affiliate of 3ABN Radio Network


WCPH 1220 Adult Standards, (licensed to Etowah, TN) an affiliate of The Music of Your Life

WYXI 1390 Oldies

WLAR 1450 Oldies (Formerly Simulcast of WJSQ)


City of Athens Tennessee

Tennessee Wesleyan College

Source: Internet