Welcome to Chattanooga, Tennessee – a city with a storied past, a thriving social cultural, and economic landscape, and a promising future.
Situated along the Tennessee River at the crossroads of Interstates 24, 59 and 75, about 20 minutes from the Georgia border, and a two-hour drive from both Atlanta and Nashville, Chattanooga is often referred to as the “Gateway to the Deep South.”
Well before Chattanooga was a gateway city, it was inhabited by the Cherokee Indian tribe. About 1540, while traveling along the Tennessee River in search of gold, Spanish conquistadorHernando DeSoto is said to have stopped in Chattanooga, followed by the French in the 1600swhen they began using the river is a major part of their trade route between Charleston, South Carolina and the Mississippi Valley. Enter the English about 1760, who desired control of the area, which led to one of the first battles in the region–the French and Indian War.
Although the English won that war, the Native Americans, now consisting of both the Cherokee Indians and the closely related Chickamauga Indians, maintained strongholds in many parts of the region, resulting in several infamous battles for control, each faction enjoying some victories. However, in many ways the Native Americans and the white settlers needed each other for survival, so different “partnerships” were formed over the decades.
One such partnership resulted in the establishment of Ross’s Landing in 1816 by Chief John Ross of the Cherokee Indians. Ross’s Landing is significant, in that it was a major trading post and hub. It also eventually became a military post (although not until the early 1800s.)
Many battles of the American Revolution and the Civil War (which we will explore in another feature) occurred here, the English still fighting for ultimate control. The Cherokee Indians eventually lost control of the area and from about 1837 to 1838, one of the most disgraceful events in American history took place—the “Trail of Tears.” It was during this time that an estimated 16,000 Cherokees were ousted in droves west into Oklahoma, more than half perishing due to the harsh weather, wilderness, disease and other factors along the way or once they arrived in Oklahoma.
In 1838,Chattanooga—the Cherokee word meaning “rock rising to a point”—became the official name of the city. In the 1850s, the city’s lifeline was literally along the rail lines, as rail transportation came to the forefront. Because of Chattanooga’s location, the city became a major railroad juncture for the lines of the day, including the East Tennessee & Georgia, Western & Atlantic, Memphis & Charleston, and Nashville & Chattanooga Railroads.
Not only did the railroad bring jobs, but in the decades to follow it also greatly increased the population, attracted other industries like manufacturing, mineral and timber resources, and tourism, and one of its most famous triumphs, becoming home to the first franchised Coca-Cola bottling plant. The railroad also played a major player in the Civil War, as both the Union and Confederate armies fought for its control.
Chattanooga’s popularity really amped up in 1908 when the now world-famous Chattanooga Choo Choo Terminal Station was built, etched in American lore forever in 1941 in the movieSun Valley Serenade with the big band hit, “Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” by the Glenn Miller Orchestra.
There’s much more to come in our adventure in Chattanooga!