See Rock City

See Rock City

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ducktown, TN

Ducktown Historic District

Ducktown is a city in Polk County, Tennessee, United States. The population was 427 at the 2000 census. It is included in the Cleveland Metropolitan Statistical Area.


The city is situated at the center of the Copper Basin (sometimes called the Ducktown Basin), a broad valley located in the southern Appalachian Mountains near the intersection of Tennessee, Georgia, and North Carolina. The Ducktown area is part of the Ocoee River watershed, which passes through the Copper Basin a few miles southwest of Ducktown before entering its gorge. Ducktown is centered just north of the junction of Tennessee State Route 68, which connects the city to Madisonville to the north and Copperhill to the south, and U.S. Route 64, which connects the city to Cleveland (via the Ocoee River Gorge) to the west and Murphy, North Carolina to the east.


Ducktown was the center of a major copper-mining district from 1847 until 1987. The district also produced iron, sulfur and zinc as byproducts. Ducktown was the birthplace of Rockabilly Hall of Famer, Stan Beaver.

Literary historian Ben Harris McClary suggests that a Ducktown-area farmer named William "Sut" Miller (d. 1858) was the inspiration for the George Washington Harris character, Sut Lovingood. Ducktown and several Ducktown-area features, such as Big Frog Mountain and the Ocoee River ("Oconee"), are mentioned in the Sut Lovingood tales.

The Pre-mining Period

The Cherokee inhabited the Copper Basin as early as the late 18th century, well before the arrival of the first Euro-American settlers. The Cherokee village of Kawana— which means "duck town" in English— is believed to have been located at the confluence of the Ocoee River and Tumbling Creek. The village's name first appears on Cherokee annuity distribution rolls as "Ducktown" in 1799. According to tradition, Ducktown was named after a Cherokee leader named Chief Duck.

In 1836, the Cherokee relinquished control of the Copper Basin to the U.S. government as part of the Treaty of New Echota. Although the U.S. removed many of the basin's Cherokee inhabitants, several managed to avoid detection by hiding out in the surrounding mountains. They would later help build the Old Copper Road (now part of US-64). In the 1840's and 1850's, Ducktown was called "Hiwassee" or "Hiawassee," which was subsequently the name applied to the city's first major mining operation.

Early Mining Years

The copper was discovered in 1843 by a prospector, presumably panning for gold, who found nuggets of native copper. The first shipment of copper ore was taken out on muleback in 1847. More than 30 mining companies were incorporated between 1852 and 1855 to mine copper at Ducktown. Development was accelerated by a road built in 1853 connecting the area with Cleveland, Tennessee. The first smelter was built in the Ducktown district in 1854.

Burra Burra Mine collapse site

Mining ceased when Union troops destroyed the copper refinery and mill at Cleveland, Tennessee in 1863. Mining resumed in 1866, and continued until 1878, when the mines had exhausted the shallow high-grade copper ores.

Open Roasting of Copper Ore

A train bringing copper ore out of the Ducktown mines, 1939. Smelter fumes have destroyed all vegetation and eroded the land.

In 1889, the Ducktown Sulphur, Copper, and Iron Company bought the properties, and began producing copper and iron from the deeper high-sulfide ores, which previous companies were unable to work successfully. The ores was treated by open roasting in which the ore was piled in large stacks with alternating layers of wood, and burned. The method released large quantities of sulfur dioxide, which killed much of the vegetation in the immediate area by creating acidified rain - weak sulfuric acid. The hills around these mining operations are still devoid of vegetation.

Later Years

Open roasting was replaced by pyritic smelting in 1904, and the smelters began recovering most of the sulfur in the form of sulfuric acid rather than releasing it to the atmosphere. Froth flotation was added in the 1920's.

Ducktown, viewed from the old Burra Burra Mine.


Burra Burra Mine (Ducktown, Tennessee)

Kimsey Junior College

Histories of the Duck Town Cherokees

Source: Internet