McMinn and Meigs counties are home to several museums which tell the history of a mill town, a family dairy's rise to regional success, Native Americans in the region, and an aircraft that still draws hundreds of pilots to this area each year.
Englewood Textile Museum
The Englewood Textile Museum takes all the strings of the town's history, from the textile mill boom to its decline, and ties them all together to present a town with a background as rich as any other small town in the South.
The women and their work in the textile mills have been the backbone of Englewood since the very beginning.
Many longtime residents of the town have always known it all got started with a single mill founded by John J. Dixon in the mid-1800s on the banks of Chestuee Creek.
The Brient family took over the mill after Dixon's death in the 1870s, expanding it and moving it up the hill to absorb the Tellico Junction community and be closer to the railroad tracks. It was named after a reference to Robin Hood's legendary home located deep in the forests of Englewood by Nannie Chesnutt, a sister-in-law of the Brient family.
The whole story is covered in Then and Now: The Women of Englewood's Textile Mills, a Community Action Group of Englewood Sponsored book published in 1993, but never before in any sort of permanent public display until the textile museum opened in March 1994.
Taking up two full buildings in downtown Englewood not far from City Hall and the library, the museum traces the history of the textile industry and the town that grew around it. A large mural depicting the history of the town from 1850 to 1925 graces the museum's large exterior wall facing the Garden of Memories where commemorative bricks purchased by the public are placed.
The James.W. Chesnutt House was donated to the Community Action Group of Englewood in May 2001 by the Chesnutt-Brient Estate. The donation of the building was made by Cullen and Mickey Smith of Waco, Texas, who still visit the family home place in Old Englewood just southeast of the current Englewood city limits.
The little white house behind the Englewood Textile Museum was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in late 2001. Restoration of the house, which will be used as part of the museum, is continuing.
Next door to the museum is The Company Store, an antique mall with space for 25 dealers in fine antiques, collectibles and quality crafts. The store, like the museum, is a project of the Community Action Group of Englewood. The hours for the store are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call the museum at 887-5455.
Louisville & Nashville Depot
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Etowah Depot, once described as the finest L&N passenger station between Knoxville and Atlanta, now houses a historical museum and changing display areas and the offices of the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Tourism Association and Etowah Chamber of Commerce.
The Depot, which was constructed in 1906, was restored to its original splendor following a three year renovation initiated in 1978.
A permanent exhibit, Growing Up With The L&N: Life And Times In A Railroad Town, located on the ground floor of the building, discusses the ways in which the L&N Railroad shaped the history and culture of the Etowah area.
Museum hours are Tuesday through Saturday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Sunday noon to 4 p.m. For more information contact Ginny Madsen at 263-7840.
Mayfield Dairy Visitor Center
Located at 4 Mayfield Lane, the 4,200-square-foot Mayfield Dairy Visitor Center provides guests with a glimpse into the history of the family-grown company, from the founding fathers to the 1,300 people - including the fourth generation of the Mayfield family - who now work there.
Visitors are able to tour the plant, view an informative film about the company's history, and browse through the gift shop and purchase their favorite frozen treat in the center's ice cream parlor.
Free tours are scheduled every 30 minutes (except at noon) Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with the last tour beginning at 4 p.m.
Center hours are March through August from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with the last tour beginning at 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. September through February, center hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday with the last tour beginning at 3 p.m. and hours on Saturday are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with the last tour beginning at 1 p.m. There is no milk production on Wednesdays and no ice cream production on Saturdays.
Note: seasonal hours are subject to change. Please call for updated information.
Visitors should allow 45 minutes for the tour, and should wear comfortable shoes.
The visitor center is handicapped-accessible, but, because of stairs in the plant area, the in-plant tour is only partially handicapped-accessible. The center can accommodate walk-ins, but prefers a scheduled tour for large groups.
For more information, contact the center at 745-2151 to make arrangements.
McMinn County Living Heritage Museum
Housed since 1989 in the former McMinn County High School building at 522 West Madison Ave., in Athens, the McMinn County Living Heritage Museum originally opened in 1982 in the historic Old College building on the campus of Tennessee Wesleyan College.
The move came following a year of renovation done to the old high school building with the help of the Mayfield family of Athens, the state of Tennessee and the many supporters of the capital campaign fund.
Today, the museum offers more than 30 permanent exhibits, including a country store and log cabin, a rural doctor's area, a lawyer's display, a print shop, models of early Cherokee towns, and a display of military uniforms from McMinn County worn in almost every major conflict since the founding of the nation.
In total, there are more than 7,000 artifacts from McMinn and surrounding counties dating from 1745 to the 1940s housed in the building.
The museum's range of permanent exhibits expanded in 1994 with the addition of a collection of antique glassware donated by Dr. and Mrs. Chalmer Chastain of Cleveland. Featuring many prestigious and one of-a-kind pieces, the exhibit has become a popular attraction.
Several special exhibits are also spotlighted throughout the year, ranging from an annual quilt competition and show, fashion show and luncheon, Cherokee Days and Pioneer Days, and an annual Japanese Quilt Show.
The museum's Holiday House has become a Christmas tradition in McMinn County. Sponsored by the McMinn County Living Heritage Museum Guild, the one-day affair finds the museum decorated with traditional seasonal ornaments, features an expanded Christmas themed gift shop, and includes a bake sale of holiday favorites. A silent auction also held at this time is one of the guild's major fundraising events.
Another major fundraiser is the annual Trash and Treasure Sale, a huge sale of items donated by the community with all proceeds going to the museum. The sale also features a silent auction and an opening-night Premiere Party with refreshments and an early look at the items up for sale and bid.
Besides offering educational tours of the facilities, the museum has also designed a program that takes many of the attractions into the schools. The Traveling Trunks are an educational program that brings hands-on learning directly into the classroom. Featuring subjects such as endangered species, dinosaurs, the railroad, the environment, quilting, art, Civil War, Pioneers, and an overview of the history and lifestyle of the Cherokees, the trunks come packed full of videos, games, posters and artifacts to make learning fun and creative. There is a $10 fee for a two-week rental of each trunk; they are available to any organization.
The museum is handicapped-accessible and houses its displays and exhibits in a climate-controlled environment. The museum's gift shop, The Treasure Trove, offers a variety of traditional and handmade items. Several books by local and regional authors are also available.
The museum is open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, and is closed on Sunday and major holidays. Admission is $5 for adults, $3 for senior adults and students, but is waived for those who just wish to browse the gift shop.
Museum memberships are available at a cost of $35 for families, $15 for individuals, and $10 for senior adults.
For more information, call 745-0329 or visit online at www.livingheritagemuseum.com
Meigs County Museum
In January 1990, the Meigs County Historical Society successfully raised enough money through their active fund raising campaigns to open the first Meigs County Museum, which was located in the Old Culvahouse Law Office on Smith Avenue, off Main Street in Decatur. Thanks to a $100,000 gift to the historical society in January 2001, a new museum building opened on Dec. 13, 2002, directly beside the old facility.
Plans are under way for a major landscape project around the new and old facilities. Memory bricks/pavers are being sold and renovations for the old building are scheduled with expectations of using it for wedding and shower receptions.
Green Thumb employees staff the museum - as part of a federal program for senior citizens - which contains several displays relating to the history of the county. At different times of the year, themes for the exhibits may vary from local artists to Native American culture.
Museum hours are Wednesday 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday and Friday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
For more information, call or fax 334-4424 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Meigs County Archives
The Meigs County Historical Society hosted the opening of the Meigs County Archives on April 26, 1998. The Archives Room is located in the new Meigs County Museum building. Old books and documents of record were retrieved from the Courthouse attic and cleaned and organized by members of the Historical Society.
Anyone wishing to view the archive books and records should do so during regular museum hours, which are Wednesday 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., Thursday and Friday 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
For more information about the Meigs County Archives, contact the Meigs County Historical Society, P.O. Box 43, Decatur, TN 37322.
Cherokee Memorial Park
Located in southern Meigs County on the banks of the Hiwassee River, earlier this year the park received a $1.3 million federal grant to complete work on the park, an ongoing project for the past 10 years.
The $1.3 million is to be for the Cherokee Memorial Park for the construction of an Interpretive Visitor Center at Blythe's Ferry. This site is significant to the Cherokees and the Trail of Tears because more than 9,000 Cherokee Indians camped and crossed the Tennessee River at Blythe's Ferry in 1838. In 1998, the Tennessee Valley Authority Board of Directors granted Meigs County a 25-year recreational easement, giving public access to the 28.6 acres to be used as Cherokee Removal Memorial Park. The Interpretive Visitor Center construction project will include a memorial wall, an interpretive trail and overlook point above the Tennessee River.
To get to the park, take Highway 58 South from Decatur to Birchwood and follow the signs. The park is about 45 minutes from Athens.
Swift Air Museum
Located at the McMinn County Airport, the Swift Museum houses vintage Swift aircraft and exhibits. Located just off Highway 30 between Athens and Etowah, the museum sponsors several annual events including a National Swift Owners Convention and Fly-In on Memorial Day weekend.
The museum is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and is open weekends by appointment. There is no charge to tour the museum.
For more information, call the museum at 745-9547 or visit online at www.globetemcoswift.com.