Discover Cocke County 2024

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Cocke County DISCOVER

Hillbilly’s Smoky Mountain Diner turns Texas-style fare into Tennessee ‘travel destination’ Duncan and Greer Center blending historic ties with modern local flair

A sweet treat at The Creamery on Broadway Turbocharging downtown with Cars & Coffee

Volume 5 - 2024
Hillbilly’s Smoky Mountain Diner owner John Scheel bringing a slice of Texas to Tennessee.
2 Discover Cocke County 2024 Hours: Mon-Sat 7:30 a.m.- 6p.m. 303 Wilton SpringsRoad, Newport, TN 37821 (423) 623-9777 Over 50 Years serving CockeCounty! •Equipment Rental •Water Heaters &Plumbing Supplies •Full Electrical Department •Paint Supplies •GardenTools •Propane Tanks •Electrical Service Poles Local Deliveries Authorized Dealer
Discover Cocke County 2024 3 DISCOVER
Duane Uhls Publisher & Editor Dave Ruthenberg Managing Editor Kathy Hemsworth Writer/Photographer Jake Nichols Writer/Photographer Angel Dykes Account Executive Mahlia Gonzales Account Executive Abby Swearingen Account Executive Penny Webb Account Executive Angie Campise Creative Services/ Production Discover Cocke County is published by The Newport Plain Talk 145 East Broadway | Newport, TN 37821 423-623-6171 Copyright: 2024 Discover Cocke County, The Newport Plain Talk. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission of the newspaper management. Reproduction of advertising and design work is strictly prohibited due to the use of licensed art services and agency agreement. Features Inside Hillbilly’s Smoky Mountain Diner turns Texas-style fare into Tennessee ‘travel destination’ Duncan and Greer Center blending historic ties with modern local flair A sweet treat at The Creamery on Broadway Turbocharging downtown with Cars & Coffee Foothills Parkway Cocke County’s History Forests, wildlife management areas and parks 4 9 15 19 23 25 28
Cocke County

Hillbilly’s Smoky Mountain Diner turns Texas-style fare into Tennessee ‘travel destination’

NEWPORT — On a busy Thursday in January, John Scheel paused an interview, turned his head and welcomed visitors to his Texas-style barbecue restaurant.

Upon realizing that they had not eaten there before, Scheel responded with an answer he gives “a couple doz-

en” times per day: “You haven’t? Well, where you from?”

And if everyone who has walked into Hillbilly’s Smoky Mountain Diner — located at 571 West Broadway in Newport — answered collectively, the answer

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Hillbilly’s Smoky Mountain Diner is located at 571 West Broadway in Newport.

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might as well be, “All over the region.”

“It’s cool,” said Scheel, who transformed from a silent investor to running the restaurant himself within a matter of weeks this past fall.

“The business we originally invested in (when) the kids who owned it were down in Cosby,” he explained. “I was just the silent investor, but about three or four weeks into it, they said it was too overwhelming and walked away from it.

“Left me standing with a big investment. So I came out of retirement, and now I’m running a restaurant.”

The job can be demanding — 80-90 hours a week, by his count, every Thursday through Sunday that the place is open.

But it has also allowed him to chat up new customers while digging into his culinary background.

From near and far

“You get to meet new people every day,” he said. “The thing I like most is talking to people, finding out where they came from, so you get to talk to people that, sometimes, they drove hundreds of miles.”

One mind-blowing example: “We’ve got a husband and wife and kids that come up from Jacksonville, Florida, once a month just to eat here.”

Another example: “This one guy comes down from Louisville, Kentucky, every Sunday for ribs, picks up his brother in Knoxville on the way, then goes home.”

But that is the draw of Scheel’s product, as he serves made-from-scratch sides to go with slow-smoked Texas barbecue topped with an assortment of house sauces.

He picked up the barbecue part in Texas, pairing that with cooking skills he learned while growing up with three sisters in Tacoma, Washington.

The front counter’s menu offers a wide variety of food choices. Hillbilly’s has also introduced its own barbecue sauces that can be purchased.

Discover Cocke County 2024 5

From page 5

“A good friend of mine did it down there,” Scheel divulged. “We had a trailer, a BBQ pit. We’d go all over. Victoria, Corpus Christi, Brownsville, all over South Texas.”

That was where he perfected the art of cooking barbecue low and slow.

The brisket and pulled pork, for example, are cooked for 13-14 hours, while the ribs and chicken take a little more than four hours at 200 degrees apiece.

“The slower you do it, the juicier it comes out,” said Scheel. “The brisket, you’re not going to find a more tender one.”

Now, Scheel is seeing similar results to what he witnessed in the Lone Star State, where hundreds of people would be lined up outside the door of the spot he co-owned at 10 a.m.

“But that’s how they do it,” he said. “If you’ve got a good product, show up before they open. That’ll tell you how good they are. That’s what we’re trying to create here.”

Bringing a taste of Texas to Cocke County

And how is that being done?

“You get the full onslaught of home-cooked, made-fromscratch products,” Scheel explained, going so far as to describe his house-made sandwich buns and the mashed potatoes that are made fresh every 20 minutes. “It’s very similar to what we did in Texas in the middle of nowhere. Once people find out, they realize you can’t find what we offer here anywhere else.“

That’s the way it goes, Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., with a different buffet offering each day to go with the slow-smoked barbecue, a complimentary fruit tray and a salad and spud section.

Thursday brings pulled pork, Friday is smoked catfish and pizza, Saturday is chicken, and Sunday — the biggest draw of the week — is ribs.

As in, the reason a man would drive almost four-and-a-half hours one way.

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6 Discover Cocke County 2024
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There is even a Texas-themed dessert, with Blue Bell ice cream — which is originally based out of Brenham, Texas — served out of a countertop in the front.

And when customers walk past the countertop, only to be greeted by a wooden counter, a sign with a steer fixed over the state of Tennessee, and a Texas-style welcome?

Well, the reactions have been somewhat mixed.

“We offend some people, but that’s part of it,” said Scheel with a shrug. “They don’t like that loud, boisterous Texas twang. They think you’re being confrontational. But that’s the way we are — we’re from Texas. You get that big welcome, come on in, part of the family. And that’s what brings people in, the whole environment.

“You get to watch us make your food, see us do every-

thing. You’re involved, you’re experiencing, not sitting down staring at the wall wondering if they’re making your food right.”

The whole experience is quite different from the pizza and sub shop Scheel discovered when he first became a silent investor back in the late summer.

“The whole restaurant has been revamped from what it was,” he explained. “When we first opened, we had a chalkboard on the wall with a half-dozen line items. Now it’s all digital.”

“And Sunday is just nuts,” he added. “It’s funny, because I would say most of our business doesn’t come from this town. Most of them come from Sevierville, Knoxville, Greeneville, Johnson City, Jefferson City, Tazewell.

“You come in here on a Sunday, and 80% of people aren’t from this town.”

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Meat sampler platter of brisket, ribs and sausage.

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Then again, that is the way Scheel wants it — for this to become “a travel destination, something people punch in on their itineraries when they come to the area.”

‘We’re not just a restaurant. It’s a whole experience’

But to bring in more crowds, he is planning more than the food itself, though that is a large draw. Rather, Scheel is channeling his showmanship — the kind that led him to stuff apples into a pig’s mouth at a state fair in Texas, helping to attract $10,000 worth of revenue off an animal that cost $250 — into plenty of other plans for his place here.

“We’re going to do the same thing here,” he summarized. “We’ve got a pit out back, we’re going to put six pigs on there. Pour concrete, open it up this spring, and we’re going to do pigs and bands and have a fire pit.”

“We’re talking to a couple Cars and Coffee groups, a couple Farmer’s Market groups — because there’s two acres of grass back there — so we want to open it up to where people can pull up, walk in, do a Farmer’s Market on weekends, Cars and Coffee once a month,” said Scheel. “Car shows, Jeep shows, we’re letting them know, have a Jeep night out here. Whether they eat here or not, that will help the whole community.”

Scheel is trying to get the word out enough that he could host one of those events this year.

He is also aiming to have a band every Friday and Saturday night, looking at the end of March of April.

As far as alcohol, Scheel said the venue will advise customers to bring their own.

But they will also need their appetites, as evidenced by the options offered when patrons walk through the door.

“Our slogan when we advertise is that you can come experience that everything is bigger in Texas,” Scheel summarized. “That’s our thing. From the size of the sandwiches to the size of the buffet, our attitude when you walk in, everything is bigger and better, and you’re experiencing that.

“We’re bringing that to Tennessee. We’re not just a restaurant. It’s a whole experience.”

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Duncan and Greer Center blending historic ties with modern local flair

NEWPORT — For years, the three-story building at 237 East Broadway in Newport sat dormant.

Reminders of its previous life as the Duncan and Greer Hardware store went unused upstairs, collecting dust as the years passed.

But in December 2023, after months of construction and a multi-million dollar revitalization effort led by building owner and Outdoor Ambition CEO/President Eric Eric Kelch, two tenants opened their doors to bring new life into what is now known as the Duncan and Greer Center.

In doing so, Kelch and the building’s first eatery/entertain-

ment tenants — The Neighborhood Beer House, Newport Axe Throwing and Snowbird Mountain Coffee — have helped lead the charge to draw traffic back to downtown Newport, supplying entertainment and dining options that have been welcomed with gusto.

“Cocke County has really embraced us,” said Cody Privett, who co-owns The Neighborhood Beer House and Newport Axe Throwing along with Mary Kaye Patterson, who holds 35 years of experience in the food industry. “We’ve heard a lot of great things from the community, and we’re excited to be here. We’re happy to be here and to see the growth of downtown.

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Neighborhood Beer House and Newport Axe Throwing located at 237 East Broadway in Newport.

The interior of the Neighborhood Beer House has a homey pub atmosphere.

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“The buildup is exciting, and I feel like there is a revitalization that’s happening. It’s exciting to be a part of that.”

On-tap brews and variety of food

The Neighborhood Beer House’s role in that effort? Giving patrons the choice of 20 different on-tap beer options amidst a rustic, unique venue, with a wide array of foods that range from burgers and mozzarella sticks to meat-and-potato skillets and chicken wings.

The menu, an expanded version of what is offered at the original Neighborhood Beer House in Sevierville, brings the kind of variety the owners sought the day they opened their Newport location.

“We wanted something that we can hang our hat on and say we have a good variety,” said Patterson. “But it’s also something that everybody feels comfortable with.”

The fare includes seasonal options, such as a $35 Valentine’s Day special that included an appetizer, two meals and a dessert for two, as well as more trendy items, like a charcuterie board.

They have also offered promotions for big games and even live music on weekends, with an Elvis impersonator making an appearance recently.

Easy to learn

For those wishing to try out their ax throwing skills at Newport Axe Throwing, it’s easy to learn and a waiver needs to be signed beforehand before getting a time slot. The cost is $15 per person per hour.

There is a coach who demonstrates, then lets people go through practice rounds before stand there and instructing people as they go along.

“Most people pick it up in 10 or 15 minutes,” Patterson said. “And the more you do it, the better you get.”

Snowbird’s ‘vision’

Similarly fresh options have been implemented at Snowbird, which opened its brick-and-mortar location in the Duncan and Greer Center to pair with a trolley location in Newport that has been in the area since 2018.

The coffee shop offers lunch options such as small sandwiches — more of the grab-and-go style for anyone working downtown — while also serving as a work space and gathering spot.

“And that was our vision,” said Melissa Ackerman, who owns the coffee spot with her husband, Corey. “To be able to provide a space to study or working or just hanging out, that was 100% our goal.”

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10 Discover Cocke County 2024
Neighborhood Beer House owners Cody Privett (left) and Mary Kaye Patterson (right).

A wide array of foods that range from burgers and mozzarella sticks to meat-and-potato skillets and chicken wings are available at the Neighborhood Beer House.

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The shop’s caffeinated coziness has brought people traveling from Rogersville, Kingsport and Knoxville to work on their computers or meet with friends, as the venue fills a niche that the Ackermans recognized well before they opened.

“That was something we recognized that was lacking in Newport, that there wasn’t really a place to get together and hang out,” said Melissa Ackerman. “And we have seen a lot of new customers and our regulars from the trolley — it just depends on whether they want to sit down or grab a coffee and go.“

Speaking of which, she did mention that the “regulars” — especially those who have gotten used to the trolley experience — may notice a few more changes than just cushy seating options, Indian-infused decor and expanded merchandise such as hats, Stanley cups and tumblers.

Former menu staples such as “The Fluffy” — a mocha made with peanut butter and caramel — have been replaced with “The Rattlesnake,” a blueberry maple chai based off a locally-made mead that the Ackermans enjoyed.

“I didn’t want to have 15 specialty drinks that stay on the

menu year-round and expect people to still want to do our seasonal drinks that we rotate,” explained Ackerman. “So I looked and tried to find our least-selling drinks, and unfortunately ‘The Fluffy’ was on there.”

“It does not mean we can’t do it, because we will always do that,” she added, dispelling any fears about one of several locally-loved drinks named for Cocke County natives.

“But,” she added with a smile, “it’s kind of a secret menu thing now.”

Secretive drinks or not, the Ackermans are grateful for the support that has followed from their trolley, which was established in Newport after they opened their first brickand-mortar location in Morristown.

“Sometimes it surprises me just how rabid Snowbird fans are,” Corey Ackerman said. “They’re all about us, and it’s cool to think we created something like that. Because you can’t go to Starbucks or Dunkin’ and get certain flavor profiles — only here.”

To that end, they have seen a similar level of support as The Neighborhood Beer House, as the center as a whole has stayed busy at a level that has not been too overwhelming for either business.

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The tables at the Neighborhood Beer House contain reminders of the building’s historic past as a hardware store.

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“The highs and lows of the different businesses don’t hit at the same time,” Corey Ackerman explained. “Coffee is big in the morning, and then they get a big lunch and dinner crowd. So the property can stay busy all day without getting crowded.”

“I think the two businesses play off each other really well,” he added. “Like, they’ll walk by to go there, but they’ll peek in the window here.

“And that was Eric’s whole goal, I think — to find tenants that, once it got rented out, everyone contributes to making the building a really cool place. Not just putting, like, an insurance office.”

To complement that flair, both tenants have found different ways to honor the building’s history while integrating their new approaches.

‘Like a time capsule’

For the Neighborhood Beer House, that appreciation has involved everything from embedding hardware store documents into tables, to placing old store books on a shelf above a bar made out of wood harvested from a pile within the building itself.

“When we first got here, the upstairs was like a time capsule,” said Privett. “There were books, binders, papers dating back to the 1800s. We took photocopies of those things, bills of sale, insurance policies, and while you’re eating, you can sit there and see what we’ve saved in this

building. So you can read the history of it.”

“And now, you have a lot of people here who have seen businesses come and go or who were here when the hardware store was here,” Privett added. “We don’t want anybody to think we’re coming in to clear anything out. We want to keep it as a reminder of renewing and restoring and keeping it a part of Newport history, to integrate ourselves with it.”

A similar thought process took place for the Ackermans and Snowbird, where patrons can find antiques from Roscoe’s Antiques in Newport, a merchandise shelf built with wood pulled out of the same third story that produced the

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Snowbird Mountain Coffee offers several options for coffee lovers.

Snowbird Mountain Coffee owners Melissa Ackerman (left) and Corey Ackerman (right)

Snowbird Mountain Coffee sits next to The Neighborhood Beer House and Newport Axe Throwing.

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wood for The Beer House bar, and even wooden boxes that hold books instead of nails, like they did when it was still a hardware store.

“Hopefully,” added Corey Ackerman, “there’s some stuff that’s utilized in the other projects we have too.”

Neither Ackerman nor Privett divulged what may lie ahead for the area, though Privett and Patterson do plan to bring another dining option, Pizza at the Cove, to Cocke County relatively soon.

But if the future for this building in particular is anything like what has occurred in the last few months, then the result will be a well-weaved symphony of historical aura and modern amenities.

“I think there’s been a common goal of respecting the history of this building,” said Privett. “That was a big part, when we first met with Eric (Kelch) and the folks at Snowbird, just respecting the building and bringing it back to life.“

“And there are a lot more plans, a lot more that we can do with this building,” he added. “Right now we have only tapped into the bottom floor, and I’m sure Eric would say the same thing.

“Our two companies coming together, being a part of this building, we’re through the roof. Because we think there is so much opportunity for this building and for downtown in what we and others can provide for the community.”

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The Creamery on Broadway in downtown Newport.
A sweet treat at The Creamery on Broadway Continue on page 16

From page 15

With other businesses opening downtown, especially with the opening of Roscoe’s Treasures Antique, Vintage and Unique Mall on East Main Street, the Ackermans’ and Kelches’ desires for bringing another business to the downtown area increased.

The Ackermans own Snowbird Mountain Coffee Company and the Kelches own the Duncan and Greer Center.


16 Discover Cocke County 2024
Reese Michaels displays some of The Creamery’s sweet treats. She has worked at the ice cream shop since it opened last fall. NEWPORT - The Creamery on Broadway opened its doors a few months ago, and customers are still enjoying the great flavors of ice cream being served up. The shop is owned by Corey and Melissa Ackerman and Eric and Leslie Kelch. uniquely painted building housing the ice cream shop is located at 236 East Broadway between Flatwoods Casey McKinney (left) and Elizabeth Banks (right) enjoy visiting The Creamery on Broadway two or three times a week
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One of the tempting treats available at The Creamery on Broadway.

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Vintage and Diana’s Beauty Salon.

You can get it all from ice cream cones, ice cream scoops in a cup, sundaes, milkshakes or banana splits.

Casey McKinney and Elizabeth Banks drive to Newport two or three times a week to enjoy treats from the Creamery on Broadway. McKinney said he is fond of the cotton candy ice cream. Banks said she loves the monster mash and moose tracks. They both enjoy trying all the different things the shop has to offer.

McKinney is a Cocke County native, and he said he is glad to see downtown Newport coming back to life. McKInney and Banks often bring their three teenage children to The Creamery on Broadway, but sometimes, they just sneak off and enjoy a sweet treat and some alone time.

Reese Michaels has been working at the shop since it opened. She said she enjoys meeting the new customers and the friendships she has established with the regular customers.

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Turbocharging downtown with Cars & Coffee

Standing next to his prized 1957 Ford Fairlane on a recent chilly Saturday morning in Newport, Ronald Shoemaker — aka Hatrack — expressed hope that the enthusiasm seen on display will carry over to make Cars & Coffee bigger and better down the road.

About 20-25 car enthusiasts brought their vehicles to the parking lot next to Tennessee Valley Cannabis at the corner of Woodlawn and East Broadway, part of the new multi-million dollar Duncan and Greer Center development that is bringing renewed life to downtown with retail eatery and entertainment tenants and with more on the way.

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A 1967 Chevelle SS 396 HP 4-speed on display during Cars & Coffee. Bill Fraecht’s 2007 Shelby Mustang Cobra’s power was on display at Cars & Coffee Saturday, Feb. 3 in Newport.
20 Discover Cocke County 2024

From page 19

“We’re excited about it,” said Eric Kelch, CEO of Outdoor Ambition and the driving force (pun fully intended) behind the Duncan and Greer Center as well as Cars and Coffee. Kelch is also a car enthusiast and brought his rather stunning 2018 Porsche 991.2 GT 3 to the event. Kelch outlined his plans for Cars & Coffee, which launched in October with 44 cars.

He said the initial plan was to do a couple of such events each year but wanted to “keep the buzz going” as spring approaches. After some light social media promotion of January’s event, Kelch posted on social media that The Newport Plain Talk was planning to cover Saturday’s event

“By July we hope to have 55 to 100 cars,” Kelch said. He said the plan will include flag signage to promote the event and to make the public parking lot on the other side and/or across from the Duncan and Greer Center available for the cars as well.

Starting in March the Cars and Coffee event will move to every third Saturday of the month beginning at 8 a.m. going until 10 a.m. or 11 a.m. “And then we’ll go out for a drive,” he said.

“We will have different groups going out,” Kelch explained. “Like the sportier cars would go out, do the Rattler and a

couple of other fun roads, then we’ll do the Jeeps in the summer when it’s top-down weather and do Max Patch and some of those other roads. The older cruisers would do a cruise drive and then everyone comes back down here and patronizes the restaurants here.”

Saturday’s event had a wide variety from exotic sports


cars to classic cars to muscle cars and a couple of monster-sized trucks.

Those in attendance at Saturday’s Cars and Coffee event expressed universal support for the event and the feeling that as word spreads and with mo re visibility it can rival other such events in nearby towns and be a point of pride for Newport.

“Build it and they will come,” Shoemaker said, borrowing the famous line from the Field of Dreams movie.

You can follow Duncan and Greer’s Cars & Coffee and get updates on its Facebook page.

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A 2021 Lexus RCD Track Edition at Cars & Coffee in downtown Newport. enthusiasts chat during the monthly Cars & Coffee event in downtown Newport on Saturday, Feb. 3. A 2018 Porsche 991.2 GT 3 on display at Cars & Coffee event in downtown Newport. A 2006 GTO on display at Cars & Coffee.
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Foothills Parkway

Snow-capped mountains are visible from an overlook along the Foothills Parkway in Cosby. The view from both sides of the parkway is beautiful in every season.
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The Foothills Parkway makes its way along almost six miles in Cosby.

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COSBY - A highly traveled roadway in Cocke County can be found in Cosby and it is known as the Foothills Parkway. The eastern portion of the Foothills Parkway consists of 5.6 miles that reach from Highway 321 in Cosby to Interstate 40. This was one of the first sections of the roadway that was completed when construction got underway in the 1960s. This section of the parkway is referred to as 8A.

Because of the Blue Ridge Parkway trekking through North Carolina and not going into Tennessee, Vice President of the Great Smoky Mountains Conservation Association Frank Maloney started lobbying for a roadway that would connect recreational areas of the national park in Tennessee.

The idea for the Foothills Parkway was approved by Congress in 1944.

The project ran out of funding in the 1970s, but then construction started on two more sections of the parkway in the 1980s. Those were delayed because of erosion, but finally were completed.

Right now, only this single section of parkway is in Cocke County. Another section, section 8B, which is to reach 14.1 miles from Cosby to Pittman Center is set to be constructed in the future. The right-of-way for that project has been acquired, and it will reach from Cocke County into Sevier County. However, when construction will actually get underway remains unknown at this time.

The existing portion of the Foothills Parkway in Cosby offers several overlooks, so you can pull to the side of the road and take in the scenery. Those overlooks include the Mount Cammerer Overlook, English Mountain Overlook and Stone Mountain Overlook.

Upon reaching Cosby, you can travel toward Newport or head farther up Highway 321 to the Cosby Entrance of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Hooper Highway (Highway 321) is also a direct route into Gatlinburg.

A sign welcomes visitors to the Foothills Parkway. The portion of the parkway in Cocke County is just less than 10 miles and runs from Highway 321 to Interstate 40.

Cocke County’s History

plowing fields, and building homes.

Portions of Greene and Jefferson Counties were cut away to create the new county, named for Sen. William Cocke, a Revolutionary War veteran who eventually served in the governments of four states: Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Mississippi.

Native Americans, of course, were the first human residents of the county, and many proofs of their residency continue to be unearthed each year during spring plowing in the form of arrowheads and bits of pottery. Circumstantial evidence also points to Spanish explorer Hernando Desoto’s party have passed through the area.

White trappers and hunters began making their way into the area by the mid-eighteenth century. By the 1770s and 1780s more folks came and settled permanently. Many of these were Revolutionary War veterans who received bounty land here in payment for the military service.

The earliest settlements, quite naturally, were along the three county’s three rivers: French Broad, Pigeon, and Nolichucky. Several forts, including Bell’s Station, Whitson, Huff, Wood, McKay, and Swagerty, were erected as safe havens from Indian attacks. Today, Swagerty Blockhouse, standing alongside Old. Hwy. 321 north of Parrottsville, is the only remnant of these structures remaining.

Legend accords John Gilliland the honor of planting the first corn crop in the county “at the mouth of the Big Pigeon River.” This spot is now known as the Fork Farm. Gilliland also gave fifty acres of land to establish a county seat alongside the French Broad River at what we call “Old Town.” Here stood the courthouse, jail, Peter Fine’s ferry, a hotel or two, and a few other businesses, such as Rankin and Pulliam’s store.

The only remaining structure from this era is the Gilliland-Cameron-O’Dell house in Old Town. Across the river is

The pioneers brought a deep religious faith with them. In 1787, a full ten years before the county’s creation, Big Pigeon Primitive Baptist Church was established in the home of John English. Church minutes mention a cessation of meetings due to “Indians being troublesome.” The church still holds services once a month.

Within twenty-five years, Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches were established, followed by Salem Lutheran Church’s establishment in 1845.

The only Revolutionary War skirmish known to have occurred in Cocke County was at the War Ford.

Because of the area’s topography, large plantations and the majority of slave labor were minimal. A few such holdings lined the rivers. Many families owned no slaves, with the average family holding a small mountain farm and ekeing out a living with the help of their large families.

By 1830, the county’s population remained small. Efforts to bring the railroad here periodically flourished and them ebbed until after the Civil War when the first train arrived in 1867.

When hostilities erupted, Cocke County citizens voted overwhelmingly to remain in the Union. However, young men allied themselves with both the Union and the Confederate armies, sometimes pitting brother against brother.

No major battles occurred here, but there were some skirmishes: the Battle of Shultz Mill on Cosby and another fracas near Parrottsville. Women, children, and the elderly suffered greatly at the hands of both armies plus marauding bands of bushwhackers.

After peace returned in 1865, Cocke County experienced unprecedented growth, and in the 1880s, after much

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From page 25

controversy and a lenghty lawsuit, the county seat was moved from alongside the French Broad River to its present site adjacent to the Pigeon River and near the new railroad. Formal education arrived in Cocke County in the form of Anderson Academy, a brick structure built in the 1830s near today’s Northwest Elementary School. Dozens of one- and two-room schools sprang up across the county; at one time over 80 such educational homes operated.

The end of the nineteenth century brought large logging companies here for the massive virgin timber which abounded. A tannery opened in the 1890s, and in the early 1900s Stokely Brothers, a canning factory, relocated here from nearby Jefferson County.

Over the past 200-plus years, Cocke Countians have done their part as “the Volunteer State,” with hundreds of men and not a few women answering their country’s call during the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, two world wars, the Korean and Vietnam Wars, Desert Storm, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Charles McGaha of Cosby was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Harry Truman for his World War II heroic service.

Now in the twenty-first century, Cocke County continues to grow and evolve. Some industries have closed; others have opened. Great strides in the local school systems have taken place. A more concerted effort to promote Cocke County’s tourist options continue to grow, and many retirees opt to settle here.

Who knows what the next century will bring?

26 Discover Cocke County 2024
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Forests, wildlife management areas and parks

Cherokee National Forest
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From page 28

There are plenty of things to see and there are plenty of things to do in Cocke County. If you like peace, qui et, the great outdoors and wildlife, you may want to make your way to one of the parks, national forests or wildlife management areas in the county.

Rankin Bottoms

Rankin Wildlife Management Area is part of the Blue Ridge Conservation Opportunity Area. Take I-40 Exit 432B - US 25E/70 towards Newport. After 2.6 miles, turn left (north) at a stoplight onto US 25E-N. After 0.8 miles, turn right (east) onto Industrial Road. Drive 5.4 miles to the intersection with Rankin Hill Road. Rankin Bridge is immediate to your right, and the in tersection of Rankin Hill Road and Hill Road is about 0.3 miles to your left.

Also known as Rankin Bottoms, it is a popular area for bird watching, kayaking, fishing and photography. It consists of 1,255 acres. Located on Douglas Lake, it consists of floodplains and islands that are subject ed to flooding when the lake is at full capacity. There are multiple entry points, but the road may be flood ed six to eight months of the year and during winter pool, the road may be rough because of the flooding during the warmer months.

There is a coal tipple on the grounds, which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was construct ed in 1925 and was part of the Leadvale Station. The area became TVA property when Douglas Reservoir was established in 1943.

Cherokee National Forest Cherokee National Forest also extends into Cocke County. It is divided into northern and southern sec tions by the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Rankin Bottoms Wildlife Management Area is a great place for kayaking, fishing, bird watching and photography. It is not uncommon to see a deer relaxing in the woods at Rankin Bottoms.

The 650,000-acre forest is the largest tract of public land in Tennessee. Houston Valley Recreational Area is in the national forest and is located in Cocke County. The campground at Houston Valley is closed because of extensive flood damage.

Martha Sundquist State Forest

Martha Sundquist State Forest consists of 2,001 acres the state bought from International Paper Company in 2001. Cherokee National Forest surrounds the state forest on three sides. The state forest has the Tennessee Gulf Trail hiking trail. It is located near Hartford just past Grassy Fork.

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Discover Cocke County 2024 29
The historic coal tipple at Rankin Bottoms is a popular site to photograph in the county.

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Wolf Creek Falls

For a scenic hike, make the trek to Wolf Creek Falls near Del Rio. It is a seven-mile round trip hike and is a moderately challenging route.

Round Mountain Campground

Round Mountain Campground is a campground in Del Rio offering $7 per night that is first-come, first

served, with payment made in a deposit drop box.

Meadow Creek Fire Tower

The Meadow Creek Fire Tower in Del Rio is a popular hike. It is a 12.1-mile out and back trail. It is a challenging route that takes over seven hours to complete.

30 Discover Cocke County 2024
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