Hiwassee Railroad Overview
The East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad,
1836-1860 by James W. Holland from
Historical Society's Publications, Jan. 1931.
In 1836 two enterprises were projected, either of which, if successful,
would provide an outlet by railroad for goods from the East Tennessee
Valley to the southeast. These were the huge, but ill-fated, Louisville,
Cincinnati and Charleston project and the ultimately successful Hiwassee
enterprise. The Hiwassee Railroad was projected to pass thorough the
valley between the Great Smokey Mountains and the Cumberland Mountains
over a route having a maximum grade of only thirty-seven feet to the
mile. The Louisville, Cincinnati and Charleston, on the other hand,
was planned to built directly through the mountains.
The Hiwassee Railroad Company was incorporated by the General Assembly
of Tennessee on January 30, 1836. It was the first strictly East Tennessee
railroad project to receive a charter, and the first in the state upon
which actual construction work was done.
The Hiwassee Railroad, according to the terms of its charter, was to be constructed
"from Knoxville, East Tennessee, through the Hiwassee District to a point on the
Southern boundary of Tennessee, to be designated by the Commissioners hereinafter
mentioned as the most practical route to intersect the contemplated Railroad from
Augusta to Memphis. Commissioners named in the charter were: Seth J. W. Lucky, Robert
Hynds, Ebenezer Alexander, Valentine Sevier, John Blair, William Park, W. B. A. Ramsey,
Drury Paine Armstrong, and Salomon D. Jacobs.
It took about a year for the stock in the company to be subscribed
and organized. Salomon D. Jacobs was elected the first president. The
road was surveyed, located, and on June 4, 1837, was contracted to be
graded from Hiwassee River to Blair's Ferry (the present Loudon) - about
forty-one miles. The road, as planned was to pass through Knoxville,
Philadelphia, Athens, and Calhoun and within three-fourths of a mile
of Cleveland, a total of about 98 miles. The first work was begun October
In 1839 the work was entirely suspended, after 66 miles had been graded and a bridge built
over the Hiwassee River at Calhoun. The Hiwassee Railroad company issued used scrip during the early
years but by May 18, 1844 the Chattanooga Gazette listed the Hiwassee Rail Road Scrip as "busted".
The Panic of 1837 and the inordinate expenditure of money were largely
responsible for the "busted" condition of the Hiwassee Railroad Company
at this time. Inefficient of methods, purchase of materials at a high
price, poor management generally combined to dissipate a large part
of the capital stock. Total expenditure in the grading of only 66 miles
of road bed and building of one bridge was $936,329.23. The state of
Tennessee filed suit against the Hiwassee Railroad. However, on October
3, 1842 the Tennessee State Supreme Court handed down a decree in favor
of the company. On January 1, 1847, the Hiwassee company was reorganized
and new officers were elected with T. Nixon Van Dyke as president.
No further work was completed until the company was re-chartered by the state February 4, 1848 under the name
of the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad and the completion was extended to 1860. Also, the railroad
was authorized and empowered with the consent and authority of the Legislature of the State of
Georgia to connect with the Western and Atlantic Railroad at Dalton. (See details in
Overview East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad.