Small in area but large in
beauty, natural resources, history, tradition and opportunity – that’s
Union County! Many historians believe that Union County was so named
because it is a union of five segments of adjoining counties. Others
believe it was given the name because of the predominant sentiment in the
area for the preservation of the Union in the pre-Civil War period.
Whatever the reason, the name is symbolic of a unity and “down home”
feeling among the residents that may be difficult to find elsewhere today.
The early settlers of East Tennessee were Anglo-Saxon from England,
Ireland, France, and Germany. Upon coming to America some of these people
had settled in Pennsylvania in the early 1700’s, Many began migrating to
the south, particularly to Virginia and North Carolina; and then some
intrepid groups came across mountains and valleys to carve out a homeland
in what is now called the Tennessee Valley. Because this area has had no
significant inflow of other nationalities, the Anglo-Saxon strain is
probably the purest in the nation today. Union Countians still retain the
characteristics of those hearty ancestors: love of freedom, determination
to succeed, loyalty to family and friends, and a capacity for hard work.
Probably the most traumatic event in Union County history occurred in the
early 1930’s when the building of Norris Dam caused residents of two
communities, Loyston and Lost Creek, to be relocated when they were
covered by water. One fifth of the land area of the county was inundated
and that the richest land in the county, an estimated forty–five percent
of the county’s assets. On the positive side the creation of the Tennessee
Valley Authority and the subsequent initiation of the Norris Dam Project
facilitated navigation and flood control and provided electricity.
Conservation of natural resources was also one of the goals of TVA. The
resulting parks and resort areas, camping and water sport facilities, and
the nature haven on the Chuck Swan Management Area all make Union County
an attractive place to live or vacation.
Present day Union County is made up of several commonly recognized areas:
Braden is a small rural community cut off from the rest of the county by
water and reachable only by ferry or by a lengthy drive through
neighboring Claiborne County.
Sharps Chapel is the site of Chuck Swan Management Area, a wildlife
preserve. It is rapidly becoming a resort and retirement community due in
part to the secluded nature of the area and its proximity to Norris Lake
waters as well as the efforts of Norris Shores Development Corporation.
Norris Shores has developed a large area for upscale residences and
vacation or second homes.
Big Ridge is the home of Big Ridge State Park and Hickory Star Resort,
popular places to visit for tourists as well as county residents. Big
Ridge is a full service state park; Hickory Star features camping, caters
to fisherman and water sports enthusiasts, and has many upscale permanent
homes as well as vacation homes.
Maynardville, the county seat, became a chartered city in 1958. Formerly
the village of Liberty, it was renamed for Horace Maynard, noted
statesman, politician, educator, and lawyer, who led a two-year legal
battle to establish Union County as a legal entity. When the county’s
first high school was completed in 1922, it also was named for Horace
Maynard. Maynardville refers not to the town but also the surrounding
rural area. It is the site of the main industrial area of the county.
Luttrell was chartered as a city in 1925. Earlier known as Cedar Ford, the
town name was changed to Luttrell in 1890. In the 1870 census the
population of Cedar Ford was 808. The large number of residents was due to
the opening of a marble quarry and a lime kiln, and later, in 1887, to the
building of the Powell Valley Railroad, which ran through the town and
served as a shipping point for the surrounding area. Luttrell marble was
noted for its great beauty and, of course, durability. Both the Tennessee
State Capitol and some buildings in the nation’s capitol have this marble
in their structure. The rail line is now a part of Southern Railroad and
Luttrell is once again the site of major industry.
Plainview incorporated in 1992, is a rural residential community. In the
short period since the city was incorporated, streetlights have been
installed, a walking trail developed, and many streets have been paved.
Also, zoning specifications have been put in place.
Union County is the home of several people prominent in the world of
country music. Among these are Roy Acuff, Carl Smith, Lois Johnson, Bill
Lynch, Chet Atkins and Kenny Chesney.
Excerpted from 1996-97 UCB & PPA
Union County, Tennessee, By Kathleen G. Graves