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Namesake: Bean Station in Grainger County

9:24 AM, Jul 11, 2010   |    comments
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  • Bean Station, TN, City Website
  • Officially incorporated in 1996, the City of Bean Station is one of the newest municipalities in Tennessee.  Yet, with origins that date back to the American Revolution, its history goes deeper than almost anywhere else in the state.

    The root of the name "Bean Station" has nothing to do with legumes.  In this area beside Cherokee Lake in Grainger County, you are much more likely to come across wild berries than any kind of bean.

    "Of course, the name comes from William Bean.  He moved his family here in 1776 and they became the first white settlers in the state of Tennessee," said Ken Coffey, an expert on Grainger County history.  "The thing about William Bean is he did the same thing as Davy Crockett and Daniel Boone, but he never got into politics so he never actually got credit as an early pioneer."

    The Beans' new home was located on a fertile valley at the crossroads of two of the South's most famous routes.  Their chosen area is where the Cherokee Great Warpath intersected the Old Wilderness Trail that led pioneers into western territories.

    "The Bean's built a fort to protect themselves and settlers from the Cherokee and called it Bean's Station," said Coffey.  "It didn't matter where you came from or where you were going, you went through those crossroads at Bean's Station."

    That kind of real estate made Bean Station a prime spot for business.  The Whiteside family built a tavern and hotel at the crossroads that was the largest anywhere on the route from Washington, D.C., to New Orleans, LA.

    "The tavern had a wide range of celebrities who visited it during their travels.  President Jackson, President Johnson, President Polk, and the outlaw Jesse James stayed here. Abraham Lincoln's mother actually worked at the tavern.  This is a very historical crossroads."

    Bean Station was the site of a bloody battle when the nation found itself at a crossroads during the Civil War.  In 1863, the Battle of Bean's Station resulted in a Confederate victory, but at a steep price for both sides.  The three-day battle killed nearly 300 Union and Confederate troops and wounded an additional 1,200.

    After the war, the completion of a railroad through Bean Station helped transform the area from a battleground into a playground for the wealthiest Americans.  The beautiful valley became home to the Tate Springs Resort, which ranked as the South's premier luxury vacation destination.  The elegant resort featured ball rooms, tennis courts, and a golf course that was played by Bobby Jones.

    The Tates' also marketed the mineral-rich spring water to the world as "Tate Epson Water."

    "They sold this water to people around the world as a tonic and said it would cure all kinds of physical ailments, which it obviously did not," said Coffey.

    The advent of automobiles and the death of the railroad led to the demise of Bean Station's heyday.  People no longer needed to travel through these historic crossroads to reach their destination in Tennessee.

    Today much of the history of Bean Station sits underwater.  TVA flooded the valley in 1941 to build Cherokee Lake.  The scenic overlook at the top of Clinch Mountain offers a spectacular view of the lake and Bean Station.

    Not everything is submerged in the man-made body of water.  The cemeteries along the water's edge and a small island in the lake are surviving elements of the Civil War battleground.  All of these provide a glimpse of a rich history that shaped the future of America at Bean Station.

    "We are hoping to restore the island and have it marked as a historic site, which was the breastworks during the Battle of Bean's Station." said Coffey.

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