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Oh, Give Me A Home




Story by Sherri Gardner Howell

It all started with the buffalo.

The Eastern woodland buffalo, to be exact. Cousins to those symbols of the wild west, the woodland buffalo made their home in Pennsylvania and Maine but went in search of greener – and warmer – pastures in the winter. That migration brought them to East Tennessee.

“The buffalo took the path of least resistance,” says Joe Swann, City of Maryville City Councilman, former Maryville mayor and local history buff. “They went right through what is now Maryville.”

That’s important, says Joe, because these buffalo carved out what would become the major transportation network for East Tennessee. “They basically traveled the land through what is today Interstate 81 and on through the middle of what is now Maryville. When the Indians came later, they followed the buffalo trail. Maryville is right in the middle of that pathway to greener lands.”

The buffalo may be responsible for one of the special things about Blount County – location – but it was the forward-thinking people who roamed around and settled in Blount later who set the stage for the culture of the area. Blount Countians are proud of their past and their heritage, but they don’t let a love and respect for the past hold back progress.

“The arrival of Isaac Anderson to start what would become Maryville College in 1819 was a tremendous influence on Maryville,” says Joe. “Education took a place of prominence for those who settled here, and people came because they were looking for a place that had a good educational system for their children. It was a catalyst that brought forward-thinkers and people with progressive ideas.”

Good farmland was important, and the area had that. The transportation and river systems were nearby. Hotels started to spring up, and the reputation as a good vacation spot developed. Travelers intent on passing through decided to stay.

“With Maryville College and the focus on education in general, the area attracted a diverse group of people who were coming here to do a lot of different things, but at the center of it was a culture of people who cared about education and progress,” says Joe.

Timber, water power, iron works and manufacturing all played roles in shaping Blount County. “The Little Tennessee river system attracted ALCOA, and Denso came to town because of the manufacturing culture, both huge steps in the right direction,” says Joe. “And the Chamber of Commerce – which was focused on economic development from the very beginning and continues to be so today – came along in the 1920s to support existing businesses but also to be a driving force in attracting new business and industry. It was all a fascinating combination that built a model for a good community.”

The things that worked together in the past are still at work in Blount County. People and businesses still come – with the county attracting 5,000 new jobs since 2010.

Progress has followed the path set long ago, giving many a good home where the buffalo once roamed.

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