History of Vonore
History of Vonore

The Little Tennessee River Valley (of which Vonore forms a part) is one of considerable archaeological and historical value. The valley was the principal homeland of the Cherokee Indian Nation for a long period of time. Many of the Overhill Cherokee Indian villages were located in the area. Tanasi, widely regarded as the source of the name of the State of Tennessee, and Chota, the Cherokee capital, were located in the Vonore area. Sequoyah, the inventor of the Cherokee alphabet lived in the area, and the Indian villages played host to Sam Houston during his sojourns with the Cherokees. And Vonore is home to Fort Loudoun, the first Anglo settlement west of the Alleghenies which was completed in July of 1757 only to be surrendered to the Cherokees in August of 1760.

The geographical location of Vonore along the Little Tennessee River has long been the envy of developers and politicians, and this very valuable natural advantage led to some of the most disruptive years in recent times. Vonore's geographical advantages gave rise to one of the most outrageous government land grabs in recent history. With the aid of biased media representatives, prejudiced jurists, and constitutionally questionable laws, the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) began the Tellico Project. This project involved the construction of the Tellico Dam, and the resulting Tellico Lake caused the inundation of most of the prime river bottomland along the Little Tennessee River and resulted in the relocation of persons of influence and leadership from the area. This project involved TVA's acquisition of some 38,000 acres of land in portions of Blount, Loudon, and Monroe counties. Of this acreage, 1841 acres comprised the river channel. About 8447 acres were designated as prime farmland, about 5488 acres were designated as land of statewide importance for agriculture, and 22,224 acres were undesignated, their proper use (in terms of agricultural capability) being limited to pasture and forest. This land grab allowed the acquisition of roughly twice as much land as was necessary for the land inundated by the resulting Tellico Lake and proper easements. This land was then transferred to the Tellico Reservoir Development Agency (TRDA), a puppet agency created to allow the transfer of this newly acquired TVA land to large developers. Some of the land is now being sold in one quarter acre lots in the developments for as much as $200,000. The average price paid to the original landowners was about $200 per acre. And county, state, and federal agencies sanctioned this amazing grab of private lands. An article in the Knoxville News-Sentinel described the situation as local landowners, fishermen, and environmentalists argued in Congressional hearings in an effort to stop the Tellico Dam and save the Little Tennessee River for posterity. A quote from this article says, "arrayed against this meager force were ranks of beady-eyed bureaucrats, porkbarrel congressmen, biased news media, prejudiced jurists, and greedy local promoters and politicians". The rights and freedoms of individual property owners throughout the nation suffered a major setback in the Tellico Project, and mere words or government reports cannot describe the untold anguish of families uprooted from their lifelong homes. Ironically, TVA itself in its Alternatives for Completing the Tellico Project admitted that the area could be developed just as well, or possibly better, without the Tellico Dam. The encroachment of an out of control Federal government into the lives of the inhabitants was nearly a deathblow to the town of Vonore as the Tennessee Valley Authority continued with the Tellico Project. Indeed, plans for a new town of Timberlake (a planned community based on river resources) was almost implemented. Some of the new industries tried to unofficially call the area New Tellico or Tellico Lake. Local, state, and federal authorities seemed intent upon replacing the town of Vonore with a government planned entity. The puppet agency, TRDA, was authorized to control the development of the land acquired from TVA. Vonore was the only municipality directly affected by the Tellico Dam, and, quite significantly, Vonore was, and is, the only municipality not represented on the Tellico Reservoir Development Agency board. This means that the development of the town of Vonore and its' surrounding communities is in the hands of persons outside the area. To this day, there are practically no state highway signs providing directions to the town of Vonore despite the town being the site of the Fort Loudoun State Park, the Tellico Blockhouse and the Sequoyah Museum. Efforts by government and industry officials are to emphasize "Tellico" in describing the area (Tellico Lake, Tellico Village, Port of Tellico, Tellico Industrial Park, etc.), but the town of Vonore still exists and maintains an identity much to the dismay of government planners, the local media, and politicians.

Town leaders had foreseen this turn of events and had incorporated the town on June 21, 1965. This allowed the town some control of its area. The town of Vonore was too tough to die, and at the present time, Vonore is poised on the verge of tremendous growth, residentially and commercially. Ironically, this growth will probably allow Vonore to regain almost full control over its destiny, but the Vonore of the past has to give way to a new identity. The historical society has tried to maintain and strengthen Vonore's identity by forming a group dedicated to preserving our past heritage and documenting the changes that are occurring. Please see our publications for more information.

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