Oliver Springs, Tennessee

Settled in 1821, we have a 190-year tradition based around the famed mineral springs in the area which led to part of our name. Thanks to Richard Oliver, the town's first postmaster from whom the town gets the rest of its name, Oliver Springs began to develop around the tourism attracted by the mineral springs. The land around Oliver Springs had been used for centuries as an Indian hunting ground, but it was the springs that encouraged them to stay. The springs, whose reputation for miraculous medicinal properties, lasted until the 20th century, were known as “Tah-hah-lehaha” to the Cherokee -- a name that means ‘healing waters.

The land remained unexplored until 1761, when Elisha Walden traveled through the Clinch and Powell River Valleys. Settlement in the area did not begin in earnest until the 1790′s. The town of Oliver Springs was originally known as Winter’s Gap in honor on Maj. Moses Winter, the first settler. Growth remained slow, but by 1826, Richard Oliver became the town’s first postmaster. The town was re-named Oliver’s in his honor, then briefly Popular Springs, and then to Oliver Springs. Oliver had built a 35-room inn in the 1830′s and began the first promotion of the mineral springs. The inn was used as a hospital by both sides during the Civil War. Joseph Richards bought Oliver’s land in 1873. He built the first resort hotel, which was replaced in 1895 by a 150 room hotel. From 1895 until it burned in 1905, the Oliver Springs Hotel was a nationally known destination. The railroad, which came to Oliver Springs in 1888, brought thousands of visitors to the springs. Due to being improperly insured, the Hotel was not rebuilt. The town decided to cover the springs in later years. 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.

In 1942, during World War II, the U.S. government bought up the neighboring communities of Robertsville, Edgemoor, East Fork, Elza, Bethel, Scarborough, and Wheat and built the secret city of Oak Ridge as part of the Manhattan Project, code name for the atomic bomb. During this period one of the most prominent buildings in Oliver Springs— the Dr. Fred Stone, Sr. Hospital— was built by Dr. Fred Stone, who worked as a physician and examiner for new Manhattan Project employees. Eventually the economy of Oliver Springs became dependent on government employment in Oak Ridge, and suffered when employment levels declined at the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s.

In the years following the end of the Cold War, Oliver Springs and its neighbors have struggled to re-establish a solid foundation on which to base their economies. Oliver Springs has experimented with several industries. In the late 1990s, the movie October Sky was filmed in Oliver Springs, as well as nearby coal mining areas and the downtown area of Knoxville. Currently, the local economy is beginning to take advantage of the mountains, which are very popular among all-terrain vehicle (ATV) riders with the largest privately owned off-road facility in the United States called Coal Creek OHV located on Windrock Mountain.

Windrock Mountain

October Sky Festival
Abston/Daugherty Building
Colonial Hall

The October Sky Festival will be held in Oliver Springs on October 21, 2017. 

The Historical Society Festival Committee is busy planning for the 9th Annual October Sky Festival. 

This year's October Sky Festival will be jam packed with all the excitement of previous years, plus plenty of new additions. Keep checking back as the festival approaches and the list of events grows!

Follow our progress at: 

2015 C. S. (Sonny) Harvey Memorial Gospel Singing Event

May 30, 2015 at 6:00 PM at the old Beech Park Baptist Church Guy across from the Windmill Inn. Admission is Free!
We are currently in the process of   restoring the Abston Building in Oliver Springs. The building is on the National Register of Historical Places and will serve Oliver Springs and the surrounding communities as a historical museum and archives to house the many artifacts that have already been donated by the community. It will feature a meeting room, theater, replica of streets and businesses of the past, coal mining artifacts and much more.

The Abston Building was built in 1915 as a garage but has served many functions central to the community since that time such as a bus station, a theater, a bowling alley, a church meeting location, and a snack bar. The building is approximately 52 feet wide by 110 feet deep. The building is located at 505 Winter Gap Avenue in Oliver Springs.

Architectural Rendering

Stained Class Window

Stained Class Window
installed above main door

  The Conference Room

The Conference Room

Listed on the National Historic Register, it is the oldest house in Oliver Springs. The original part of the house was a 2-story log structure built by Lewis Rector. It was remodeled over the years. It has been associated with many prominent people.

Joseph Estabrook, the fifth president of the University of Tennessee, bought the house in 1852. In 1882 it was bought by Eliza Gerding Hannah McFerrin, widow of Major John Harvey Hannah. Mrs. McFerrin was the daughter of George Frederick Gerding who, in 1844, founded Wartburg, Tennessee, as a Swiss Colony. Mrs. McFerrin's two prominent sons, Gen. Harvey H. Hannah and Gerald Gerding Hannah, and a daughter, Bernice McFerrin
were reared in the old house.

Located on the corner of Main and Springs Streets, the building is not open to the public.

Colonial Hall
in late 1800's
The Abstom/Daugherty historical museum and archives building that is decorated for the Historical Society Christmas party on a clear December night.

Information about website contact w.lee@ohsistorical.com

The Oliver Springs Historical Society normally meets at 6.00 pm on the first Monday of each month in the Abston/Daugherty museum building, Oliver Springs. For more information, call Pat Crowe at 865.435.0384 
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