Oliver Springs, Tennessee

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Oliver Springs is a town in Anderson, Morgan, and Roane counties in the U.S. state of Tennessee. Its population was 3,303 at the 2000 census. It is included in the "Harriman, Tennessee Micropolitan Statistical Area", which consists of Roane County.



Oliver Springs was founded in 1830 as Winter's Gap. It was named for its first permanent settler of European descent, Major Moses Winters, who had settled in the area before 1799.

Before that time, the area around Oliver Springs had been used by Native Americans as a hunting ground and campsite. Natural mineral springs and abundant wildlife on Windrock Mountain encouraged Native Americans to stay. The springs, whose reputation for miraculous medicinal properties lasted until the 20th century, were called as "Tah-hah-lehaha", which meant "healing waters" in the Cherokee language.

The land remained unexplored by European settlers until 1761. At this time, a long hunting expedition led by Elisha Walden explored much of the Clinch and Powell River valleys. However, settlement in the area did not begin in earnest until the 1790s. Growth remained slow.

In 1826, Richard Oliver became the town's first postmaster. The town was re-named Oliver's Springs in his honor. The town's name was briefly changed to Poplar Springs, and then to Oliver Springs. Oliver provided mail service from his 35-room mansion, which also served as an inn. He was the first to develop the commercial potential of the mineral springs. He would transport his guests between the springs and the inn. During the American Civil War, the inn was used as a hospital by both sides. Oliver Springs had a base camp during the Coal Creek War in the 1890s.

Joseph Richards bought Oliver's land in 1873. He built the first resort hotel, and in 1894 replaced this first structure with a palatial 150-room hotel with then-modern amenities. Oliver Springs became a popular resort town. The Oliver Springs Hotel catered to wealthy guests, who came from all over the U.S. and Europe to drink the waters and bathe in the springs. In 1888, the railroad came to Oliver Springs and brought thousands of visitors to the springs. Unfortunately, the hotel burned in 1905. The town decided to cover the springs rather than rebuild the hotel. Evidence of water conduits and reservoirs can still be seen on the site.

In the early part of the twentieth century, the area became dependent on the coal industry. According to historian Keith Glass, the Windrock Coal and Coke Company, a subsidiary of the Bessemer Coal, Iron and Land Company of Birmingham, Alabama began operating a coal mine near Oliver Springs in approximately 1904.

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