One of the most compelling stories in the Tennessee Overhill is how the Industrial Revolution played out in this part of the Southern Appalachians. In the 1700s the Cherokee fur & hide trade opened this part of the southern mountains to the world market. European traders arrived, and were soon followed by settlers.
By the mid-1800s the abundant water, timber, and minerals were drawing industrialists from around the world to the Overhill. Company towns sprang up overnight around copper mines, textile mills, railroad centers, and logging operations. Trade centers grew up to serve farmers, merchants, residents, and local government. Many of the old towns and villages survived. And remnants of the old industries are sprinkled across the Overhill.
Today, museums spin tales of the copper miners, railroaders, textile workers, Cherokee Indians, British soldiers, gold prospectors, and farmers who all had a hand in shaping the land and culture of the Tennessee Overhill. In fact, the Tennessee Overhill has been described as a “museum without walls.” The purpose of the Furs to Factories Heritage Trail is to guide people through the Overhill, with each community serving as an exhibit, or chapter in the unfolding story. This was accomplished over several years. The project began with research and an interpretive plan for the region. A guidebook was published, along with a trail brochure, and interpretive signs were installed at selected points along the trail. TOHA worked with several communities to develop new interpretation, create new exhibits, and produce new public programs. The “Furs to Factories Heritage Trail” was featured in the April 2008 issue of National Geographic Traveler on its Driving Tours of Appalachia Map. The trail was also highlighted in a case study on successful cultural tourism by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. TOHA took an ambitious step in 2002 when it acquired the Old Line Railroad, a significant historic corridor that played a major role in the Furs to Factories story.
Humanities Tennessee, National Trust for Historic Preservation, Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, National Endowment for the Arts, Tennessee Arts Commission, Tennessee Department of Transportation, Tennessee 200, East Tennessee Foundation, Appalachian Regional Commission, USDA Forest Service, McMinn County, Monroe County, Polk County, Cherokee National Forest, City of Etowah, Daily Post Athenian, Polk County News, Ducktown Basin Museum, Englewood Textile Museum, Monroe County Advocate-Democrat, Sequoyah Birthplace Museum, Sweetwater Heritage Museum, Fort Loudoun State Historic Area, Etowah Depot Museum, McMinn County Living Heritage Museum, Tennessee Historical Commission, Southeast Tennessee Development District.