Today (Wednesday, November 6, 2019), Roane County celebrates its 218th birthday. Roane County was officially founded on November 6, 1801. In 2007, Roane County began celebrating Roane County’s birthday with the Founder’s Day Celebration by naming a Class of Roane Treasures each year. Roane County will be honoring the following treasures at this year’s Founders Day Celebration: Millard Fillmore Hendrickson, Sr., Clyde Jones, Edward Tuell, Melvin Page, Ann Hiegel, and Geraldine Wallick. This years Golden Treasure is Francis “Berlin” Hood.
Roane County was named for Archibald Roane, the second Governor of Tennessee. Upon the creation of the Southwest Territory in 1790, the territory’s governor, William Blount, initially wanted to locate the territorial capital at the mouth of the Clinch River, but was unable to obtain title to the land from the Cherokee. Kingston, Roane’s county seat, is rooted in Fort Southwest Point, a frontier fort constructed in the early 1790’s.
During the Civil War, Roane County was largely pro-Union. When Tennessee voted on the Ordinance of Secession on June 8, 1861, Roane Countians voted 1,568 to 454 in favor of remaining in the Union. In October 1861, Union guerrilla William B. Carter organized the East Tennessee bridge-burning conspiracy from a command post in Kingston. During the Knoxville Campaign in December 1863, a Union force led by General James G. Spears scattered a small Confederate force led by John R. Hart near Kingston.
In the years following the Civil War, Rockwood grew into a major iron and coal mining center with the establishment of the Roane Iron Company by General John T. Wilder. Iron ore and coal were mined on Walden Ridge and shipped to Rockwood, where the ore was converted into pig iron. The pig iron was then shipped to rolling mills in Knoxville or Chattanooga.
During the late 19th century, northern investors established two planned cities in Roane County— Cardiff and Harriman. Cardiff, located northeast of Rockwood, was planned as a company town to support several proposed mining industries in the area. Harriman was planned as a Temperance Town. Both ventures suffered critical setbacks as a result of the Panic of 1893. Harriman survived, but never grew in the manner its planners had envisioned, while Cardiff failed altogether. During World War II, the federal government created the city of Oak Ridge as a planned community as part of the Manhattan Project to develop the atomic bomb. As a result of the Project, both the K-25 gaseous diffusion plant and the Oak Ridge National Laboratory are located in the county.