Permanent settlement in what is now Anderson County, Tennessee, dates to 1795, when Thomas Frost built a cabin. After statehood, settlements soon expanded, increased by the arrival of German immigrants in 1800. On November 6, 1801, Anderson County was created from parts of Knox and Grainger Counties. The county was named after Joseph Anderson, a prominent U.S. Senator and former territorial judge in Knoxville.
The first seat of government in Anderson County was Burrville, named after Vice-President Aaron Burr. After Burr killed Alexander Hamilton in their famous duel and became implicated in a land speculation scheme, the Tennessee General Assembly changed the name of the Anderson County seat to Clinton in honor of either Vice-President George Clinton or his nephew DeWitt Clinton. Agriculture was the key occupation in the county’s early history, but a number of small businesses supplemented subsistence farming. Land speculation, especially in coal mining areas, began in the 1830s and continued throughout the 19th Century. Once the county was linked to regional railroad networks during the middle decades of the 19th Century, coal mining became its leading industry.
In the 1930s and 1940s, the Federal Government made its presence known and propelled Anderson County and the state to national prominence. In 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Tennessee Valley Authority into law and changed the Tennessee landscape, especially that of Anderson County. TVA launched its first major construction project with the building of Norris Dam, the planned community of Norris, and public parks at Norris and Big Ridge. The dam provided jobs, flood control, and electricity to Anderson County.
World War II led to new federal initiatives. Anderson County’s location and resources and its proximity to Tennessee Eastman in Kingsport attracted federal planners searching for a site for the development of the atomic bomb. The resulting city of Oak Ridge became the fifth largest city in Tennessee within two years. The “Atomic Capital of the World” brought national and international attention to the state in 1945, when the first atomic bomb exploded over Hiroshima.
From its establishment in 1801 to recent historical events, Anderson County has influenced the role of the state in the nation, and the role of the nation in the world. Its 2010 population was 75,105. Anderson County sits along the beautiful Clinch River and boasts numerous cultural activities and historical sites. Anderson County has a thriving tourism industry, thanks to major attractions such as Norris Lake, the Museum of Appalachia, the American Museum of Science and Energy, the Coal Creek Miners Museum, the Historic David Hall Cabin, and numerous other sites. Anderson County is also home to the Y-12 National Security Complex, and two of the top 10 global automotive manufacturers.
The City of Clinton is the county seat of Anderson County. It was originally named Burrville in 1801. In 1809 the name was changed to Clinton. Clinton, located along the Clinch River, is about halfway between the historic towns of Norris and Oak Ridge. The population as of the 2010 Census was 9,841.
The City of Norris was built out of necessity in the 1930s. Norris was a planned community built by the Tennessee Valley Authority to temporarily house the workers who were building the first TVA dam, Norris Dam. The city’s ultimate purpose was to be a permanent town that demonstrated cooperative living and utilized the most modern convenience of that time, electricity. The city was incorporated in 1949. Its population as of the 2010 Census was 1,491.
The City of Oak Ridge was incorporated in 1962 and its population as of the 2010 Census was 29,330. The largest portion of the City of Oak Ridge is located in Anderson County, with a smaller portion located in Roane County. Oak Ridge was established by the Federal Government in 1942. First known as the Manhattan Project, it was secretly developed for the purpose of making nuclear weapons which were used to end World War II.
The Town of Oliver Springs was incorporated in 1903 and its population as of the 2010 Census was 3,395. Oliver Springs is actually located in three counties: Anderson, Morgan, and Roane. Oliver Springs is noted for the resort hotel built in 1895 near the town’s famed mineral springs.
The City of Rocky Top was created in the 1800s as a booming mining town in North Anderson County. It was first called Coal Creek. In the early half of the 20th Century, there were two mine disasters that occurred here: Fraterville in 1902 and Cross Mountain in 1911. Coal Creek changed its name in 1936 to Lake City after the completion of nearby Norris Dam, which formed Norris Lake. On November 7, 2013, Lake City’s city council voted to ask the Tennessee General Assembly to amend the city charter to change the name of the city to Rocky Top, Tennessee. Its population as of the 2010 Census was 1,775.