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Hamilton County - Tennessee



1540 Spanish expedition of Hernando De Soto passed through area
1663 British established colony of Carolina which included all of Tennessee
French from the Mississippi Valley also claimed the land
1761 "Old French Store" first structure by European men built in area
Store became trading post
Is now marked by a historical plaque
1763 French and Indian War ends
England gained undisputed title to the territory
1777 Chief Dragging Canoe moved to South Chickamauga Creek Villages
Was member of Chickamauga Indians, a splinter group of the Cherokees
They resisted European settlement of area
Cooperated with the British in the American Revolution
1794 Ignoring federal policy, militiamen destroyed primary Chickamauga Indian towns
Ended struggle for area now including Chattanooga
Several battles fought between Native Indians and settlers on Lookout Mountain
1796 Tennessee became the 16th state
Native American lands making up about three-fourth of Chattanooga area
1805 The Cherokee and the U S government agreed to open first roads in area
1816 Ross’s Landing established at the to be site of Chattanooga
1817-38 Cemetery established at site of Old Brainerd Mission
One of oldest in Chattanooga
Contains graves of Indians and missionaries
Mission built by Congregational and Presbyterian Church
Named for missionary David Brainerd
Served as school for the Cherokees
First in America to teach arts and agriculture to Native Americans
1819 Hamilton County established on lands north of the Tennessee River
1820 Population of Hamilton county was 82
1828 First steamboat, the Atlas, traveled from Chattanooga to Knoxville
John Ross elected first Principal Chief of Cherokee Nation
He successfully resisted removal of his people to Oklahoma Territory until 1838
1837 A U S Post Office opened at Ross’s landing
John P Long became first postmaster
1838 The infamous "Trail of Tears" started by boat from Chattanooga
John Ross, Principal Chief of the Cherokees traveled on one of the boats
His wife was one of thousands who died on trip
First issue of the Hamilton Gazette printed by Ferdinand A Parham
Later called the Chattanooga Gazette
1839 Two different early names, Ross’ Landing and Lookout City
Tennessee legislature passed an act establishing town of Chattanooga
City’s name may be derived from:
1. Creek language meaning "rock coming to a point" referring to Lookout Mountain
2. An Indian word for "hawk’s nest"
3. A corruption of the name of a settlement called "Tsatanuge"
Settlement located at foot of Lookout mountain
1850 Western & Atlantic Railroad ran first train from Atlanta to Chattanooga
1854 The Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad completed
1858 East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad completed a direct line from Chattanooga
1861 Tennessee seceded from the Union
Chattanooga favored the decision
Hamilton County majority voted to stay in Union
Bridge burners tried to disrupt rail service in East Tennessee
Unionists destroyed two local bridges
Confederate troops arrived in town on November 14th
1862 Union spies, "Andrews Raiders" hijacked steam locomotive, "The General" in Atlanta
Party of eight convicted of spying and hung in Atlanta by Confederate authorities
Are buried in Chattanooga’s military cemetery
Statue honoring group placed in National Cemetery
The group was recipients of first Congressional Medal of Honor
Andrews, a civilian, was not awarded the medal
1863 Confederate forces evacuated Chattanooga
Bloodiest two day battle of Civil War occurred at Chickamauga on Sept 19th and 20th
More than 34,000 Union and Confederate soldiers killed
Chattanooga’s most famous engagement fought on Lookout Mountain on Nov 24th
Clouds prevented Confederate gunners support from top of mountain
Engagement named "The Battle Above the Clouds"
General Ulysses Grant directed assault on Missionary Ridge on Nov 25th
Thirty one Congressional Medals of Honor awarded for battles around city
One given to Arthur MacArthur, father of General Douglas MacArthur
National Cemetery established by General George Thomas
Contains graves of more than 25,000 soldiers from ten wars:
French & Indian War, Revolutionary War, War of 1812, Civil War, Spanish American War, World War I, World War II, Korean War, Vietnam War, Persian Gulf War.
1864 General William Sherman began his "March to the Sea" from Chattanooga base
Amassed force of 100,000 troops
1867 Largest recorded flood occurred on Tennessee River
The riverboat "Cherokee" made 50 mile trip to Bridgeport, Alabama in just two hours
1869 First issue of "The Chattanooga Times" published
1870 Hamilton County courthouse moved to Chattanooga from Harrison
1872 Read House Hotel opened on New Year’s Day
Located on site of old Crutchfield House
Listed on National Register of Historic Sites
1878 Yellow fever epidemic swept through area
366 people died from fever
1880 First telephone exchange opened
1882 Chattanooga first received electricity
1885 Construction of Lookout Mountain’s first incline railroad began
1886 Chattanooga University opened
1890 Chickamauga/Chattanooga National Military Park dedicated
Park contains 8,200 acres
Is nations oldest and largest military park
1891 Walnut Street Bridge across Tennessee River opened
1895 Lookout Mountain’s second Incline Railway began operation
Is steepest passenger railway in the world
Steepest grade in 72.7 degrees
1898 Chickamauga Battlefield served as training base during Spanish-American War
1899 First franchised Coca-Cola bottling plant built in city
Benjamin F Thomas and Joseph B Whitehead paid $1.00 each for bottling rights
1904 Hales Bar Lock and Dam completed November 13, 1913
Fort Oglethorpe established as a permanent military post
1915 Dixie Highway linked the mid-west to Florida
1917 Market Street Bridge opened
1921 Tivoli Theater opened
A $43,000 Wurlitzer organ accompanied silent pictures
Building now home of Chattanooga Symphony and Opera
1928 Miniature golf invented on Lookout Mountain
Tom Thumb Course near Fairyland Club became first miniature golf course
1930 Engel Stadium opened
Is present home of the Chattanooga Lookouts
Lovell Field, city’s first airport opened
1933 Tennessee Valley Authority created
TVA’s system of locks and dams created 9 foot channel throughout Tennessee River
1935 Chattanoogan's voted for public power
Electric Power Board created
1936 Chattanooga Free Press published first daily newspaper
1940 Chickamauga Dam dedicated by President Roosevelt on Labor Day
Chickamauga Lake has 810 miles of shoreline
1941 Song "The Chattanooga Choo Choo" created by Irving Berlin
Was a score for the movie "Sun Valley Serenade"
Glen Miller received first ever gold record for song
1943 Fort Oglethorpe designated Third Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps training center
Fort closed Dec 31, 1946
1954 Chattanooga’s first TV station, Channel 12 went on air
1958 Golden Gateway urban renewal began
1962 Desegregation of city and county schools began
1965 Chattanooga State Technical Community College opened
1969 University of Chattanooga and Chattanooga City College merged with University of Tennessee
1971 Railroad passenger service ended
1973 Walnut Street Bridge closed
Southern Railroad station became part of Chattanooga Choo Choo Vacation Complex
1976 Bicentennial Library opened
1980 TVA completed Raccoon Mountain Pump-Storage-Hydro Plant
Sequoya Nuclear Plant opened
1984 First Riverbend Festival celebrated
1985 Convention & Trade Center Opened
The Southern Belle, a 500 passenger riverboat began operating from Ross’s Landing
The "Tennessee River Master Plan" approved to revitalize area
1989 First section of Tennessee Riverpark completed near Chickamauga Dam
1993 Tennessee Aquarium along with Ross’s Landing Park and Plaza opened
1995 Creative Discovery Museum opened
1996 IMAX 3D Theater opened




From the time the Tennessee Valley was first inhabited over 10,000 years ago, the Tennessee River and its tributaries have been a vital source of transportation, communication and trade.  When regular contact between Europeans and Cherokees became common, much of the Chattanooga area was hunted but uninhabited because it was the disputed territory of three native tribes.  After Britain gained colonial control of all lands east of the Mississippi River, they proclaimed much of the southwest territory off-limits to settlers.  So, while the British considered much of East Tennessee, North Georgia, and Northeast Alabama Cherokee land, American settlers wanted these lands for their own.


The Tennessee River for centuries was a highway for Native Americans, traveling by canoe.  Then, in the mid 1830's, many of the early Ross's Landing settlers floated themselves and their few belongings on flatboats past this bluff.  Later, the river was dotted with keelboats laden with goods for delivery at Ross's Landing and churning steamboats filled with passengers and freight.


Ross’s Landing was an Indian trading center for many years
Was established by John and Lewis Ross 1816
They were sons of an early Scottish settler who married into Cherokee Tribe
Landing consisted of a landing, warehouse, and ferry service
It was the southern edge of a ford to cross the Tennessee River
It was an important supply route for religious missions by the Cherokee
Indians removed to the West on Trail of Tears 1838
White settlers changed the name of the area to Chattanooga
A military bridge was located on site during Civil War
Bridge destroyed during flood of 1867
River could only be crossed by ferry until Walnut St Bridge constructed 1891
The Ross Landing area is listed on National Registe


ROSS LANDING (Early 1800's)
John Ross spent his first years in North Georgia, near the Coosa River.  In 1800, when he was 10, his father established a homestead at the foot of Lookout Mountain, on the road between Brown's Ferry and John McDonald's trading post.  In 1813, Ross married Quatie Brown, and shortly thereafter, he joined the group of Cherokees who fought with Andrew Jackson against the British and the Creek in the war of 1812.  Upon returning from battle, John Ross and Timothy Meigs established a mercantile business near the mouth of the Hiwassee River.  When Meigs died in 1815, John's brother, Lewis Ross, joined the company.  Leaving Lewis in charge of the Hiwassee operation, Ross moved downriver to build a ferry and warehouse on the south bank of the Tennessee River.  Ross's Landing stretched from the foot of the bluff as far west as today's Market Street, which was possibly the site where Ross's ferry landed.

The type of ferry built by Ross is not known, but a swing ferry was in use in the 1850's.  This ferry traveled from bank to bank like a pendulum, with its hub on Chattanooga (now Maclellan) Island.  A cable attached to this hub was suspended by several buoys and attached to a flat-bottomed craft.  By moving the rudder, the operator could use the current of the river to push the platform and its cargo to the chosen bank.

In 1819, Cherokee land north of the Tennessee River was ceded to the United States.  That same year, John Ross was elected president of the Cherokee National Committee.  Tennessee's General Assembly created Hamilton County in the fall of 1819, making Ross's Landing an active hub for the transfer of goods from one nation to another.  Ross himself stood as the chief negotiator between these two nations.



Established about 1816 by John Ross some 370 yards east of this point.  It consisted of a ferry, warehouse, and landing.  With the organization of Hamilton County in 1819 north of the river.  It served not only the Cherokee trade but also as a convenient business center for the country.  Cherokee parties left from the landing for the West in 1838, the same year the growing community took the name Chattanooga.



(1790 - 1866)  John Ross was the grandson of John McDonald and the son of Daniel Ross, natives of Scotland and partners in a trading post established at Ross's Landing.  He dedicated himself to the education of the Cherokee Nation.  John Ross i called the greatest of the Cherokee chiefs, although only one-eighth Cherokee.  He served as principal chief from 1828 - 1866.  He fought against the removal of the Cherokees from this region, ultimately leading them on the Trail of Tears journey to Oklahoma in 1838.



In May 1838 soldiers, under the command of General Winfield Scott, began rounding up Cherokee Indians in this area who had refused to move to Indian Territory (Oklahoma).  About 15,000 Cherokees were placed in stockade in Tennessee and Alabama until their removal.  Roughly 3,000 were sent by boat down the Tennessee River and the rest were marched overland in the fall and winter of 1938 - 1939.  This force removal under harsh conditions resulted in the deaths of about 4,000 Cherokees.  In late June 1938 a party of 1,070 poorly equipped Indians was marched overland from Ross' Landing at Chattanooga, Tennessee, to Waterloo, Alabama because of low water in the upper Tennessee River. 
Following the general route of present-day U S Highway 72, they camped at Bolivar, Bellefonte, and Woodville (Jackson County, Alabama).  About 300 escaped along the way, and on June 26, the remainder refused to proceed from Bellefonte.  The local militia, under the command of Army Captain G S Drano, was called out to get the group started and escort it to Waterloo.  Arriving in miserable condition on July 10, 1838, the Cherokees were placed on boats to continue their journey West.  The "Trail of Tears", which resulted from the Indian Removal Act passed by U S Congress in 1830, is one of the darkest chapters in American history.  This historical marker will forever mark the beginning of this "Trail of Tears".


In 1775, Richard Henderson, a North Carolina judge, negotiated a treaty with several Cherokee chiefs which ceded 20,000,000 acres of Cherokee land.  It was this treaty which provoked the young brave Tsu-gun-sini--Dragging Canoe-- to withdraw with his followers to the Chattanooga area.  From here they planned to prevent further loss of Cherokee lands.

In this struggle, Dragging Canoe was aided by John McDonald, a Scotsman who had established a trading post in the gap of Missionary Ridge later known as Rossville, who was also Britain's agent to the Cherokee.  From the time of America's Revolutionary War until 1794.  Dragging Canoe and his followers (called the Chickamaugas, though they were not a separate tribe)  were responsible for several raids on colonial properties and people, but the main threat they raised was to settlers attempting to move via the Tennessee River.  In 1785, the Chickamaugas stopped a boat carrying trade goods south from Baltimore.  John McDonald prevented them from killing the boat's passengers, one of whom was a fellow Scotsman, Daniel Ross.  Ross joined McDonald as a trading partner, and cemented this union by marrying McDonald's daughter.  The third child of this marriage, though only one-eighth Cherokee, became one of the greatest of the Cherokee leader, John Ross


It gives me pleasure to announce to Congress that the benevolent policy of the Government, steadily pursued for nearly thirty years, in relation to the removal of the Indians beyond the white settlements is approaching to a happy consummation... The consequences of a speedy removal will be important to the United States, to individual States, and to the Indians themselves...  It will separate the Indians from immediate contact with settlements of whites;  free them from the power of the States; enable them to pursue happiness in their own way and under their own institutions; will retard the progress of decay, which is lessening their numbers, and perhaps cause them gradually, under the protection of the Government and through the influence of good counsels, to cast off their savage habits and become an interesting, civilized, and Christian community.  (President Andrew Jackson, Message to Congress 1830)



Under the terms of the 1835 Treaty of New Echota, all Cherokees remaining in the region were to move west by 1838 to Indian Territory, today's Oklahoma.  A small number of Native Americans emigrated voluntarily, but most of the Cherokee Nation remained, hoping that the disastrous treaty could be annulled.  Federal troops, state militia and volunteers began assembling in Tennessee and neighboring states in 1836 to carry out the removal.  A stockade fort was erected to house a company of troops assigned to the post of Ross's Landing (Chattanooga).  As the summer of 1838 arrived, the military began the forced removal of the Cherokees from their homes and fields.
Collected at gun point, the Cherokees were herded into internment camps.  The internment camp near this site was called Camp Cherokee.  Several parties of Native Americans were sent downriver by barge and steamboat before low river levels during the summer halted that means of transport.  In October 1838, the final groups of Cherokees departed on an overland march west.  The "Trail of Tears" claimed the lives of several thousand people due to malnourishment, disease, exposure, exhaustion, and heartbreak.


In preparation for the Removal, the lands and improvements of Cherokees in the region were appraised in 1836 in order to provide financial compensation for property that could not be transported west to Arkansas.  Occupying a homestead near the mouth of Citico Creek was a Cherokee named Water Lizard.  The homestead included a house of hewed timber, a log kitchen, smokehouse, corncrib, and stable.  He farmed thirty acres of "low ground" and tended an orchard of 38 peach trees and three apple trees.  In 1838, Anglo-American settlers on the north shore of the Tennessee River and Native Americans on the opposite bank lived very similar lifestyles, but were tragically separated by prejudice, power, and greed for new land that led to the "Trail of Tears".


In 1826, Ross sold his Rossville holdings, the ferry, and the warehouse.  He then moved closer to the capital of the Cherokee Nation in North Georgia, committing his energy to the struggle to maintain possession of Cherokee lands.  Though many Cherokees had moved west of the Mississippi as early as 1817, the vast majority had remained behind, hoping a permanent settlement could be reached with the U S government.  Chief John Ross worked toward this goal for 20 years, but when three rival leaders signed the Treaty of Removal in 1836, Ross's work was futile.  This treaty ceded all Cherokee land east of the Mississippi to the United States.  In return, the Cherokees received five million dollars and seven million acres in the west.  The removal was to be completed within two years.  Ross continued to challenge the validity of the treaty (those who signed it were later assassinated but to no avail.  In 1838, the Cherokee wee forcibly  removed from their farms and villages, to be held in three stockades, one of which was located near Ross's Landing.  Three groups left Ross's Landing in June, 1838, but sent news that poor traveling conditions had caused the death of several of their number.  Ross asked for a delay in the Removal so that the summer heat and low water might be avoided.  This delay was granted, and 2500 Cherokees spent the summer in Camp Cherokee, near Ross's Landing.

Later in the fall of 1838, the final group of 13,000 marched away from Rattlesnake Springs, near Charleston, Tennessee.  Hundreds died on the journey, and among them was Ross's wife.  The loss, both to our region, and to its native inhabitants, remains incalculable.

Though Ross and his people were forced to leave, the settlement which had grown around his ferry and warehouse continued to grow as a center of river and rail trade, and just twenty-five years after the forced removal of the Cherokee Nation, the Chattanooga area would again be the site of tragic struggle between two nations.

After the removal of the Cherokee Nation in 1838, the southern bank of the Tennessee River was open for legal settlement.  Prior to the Removal, 53 families had settled in Ross's Landing to establish occupancy rights.  These families formed the core of the community that decided to call itself by the Creek name for Lookout Mountain--Chattanooga.

The new community hoped to become more than an overgrown village, and it pinned these hopes on the development of an economy that could utilize the area's natural and geographical assets.  Chattanooga's boosters felt sure that their town would grow rapidly in size, regional importance and economic value, and they set out to prove this by developing an industrial base, by improving river traffic, and by establishing a hub for far-ranging rail network.

Chattanooga's geographic position made it a natural candidate for regional warehousing and riverboat transport, but natural obstructions south of town made this a difficult task.  Shoals and a whirlpool at the Suck necessitated significant improvements for navigation at regular water levels, and made the river unnavigable in the low water seasons, from late summer to early fall.  Further south, the Muscle Shoals made steamboat navigation impossible, and thus prevented easy passage to the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers.  The lack of a convenient method of east-west transportation led many Chattanoogans to see the railroad as the channel of the future


The first rail line to appear in Chattanooga was Georgia's Western and Atlantic, completed in 1850.  But within the next decade, the Nashville and Chattanooga, the Memphis and Charleston, the East Tennessee and Georgia, and the Wills Valley also established lines that connected with Chattanooga and eventually used a common terminal at the south end of town.  Chattanooga had quickly become an important hub for regional rail transportation.

Aside from a distillery and flour mill, a brickyard, a water company, and corn and flour mill, the most important industrial developments in Chattanooga were made by the East Tennessee Iron Manufacturing Company.  Two separate operation were based here in Chattanooga.  In 1854, the foundry at the south end of town was producing wrought and cast iron materials for use on the railroads, while on the bank of the river, the company built the Bluff Furnace.  In 1856, Bluff Furnace began reducing Roane County ore.


After the Civil War, the governments of Chattanooga and Tennessee were both nearly bankrupt, but in July, 1866, Tennessee became the first Confederate state to be readmitted to the Union.  Because they would not suffer from further military occupation, the way seemed clear for Chattanooga to get back on the track toward growth.  Essentially, this path involved the same activities which had driven pre-war Chattanooga:  attracting industry and exploiting to the fullest the already existent possibilities of river and rail transportation.

Navigation of the Tennessee continued to be organized as Upper River trade and Lower River trade because of the unnavigable Muscle Shoals.  The full route for the Upper River boats was from Knoxville to Decatur, Alabama, but the companies involved found it more convenient to split the Upper River nearly in half, with Chattanooga as the midpoint between the other two ports.  They did this not only because their boats could stay more consistently loaded with a shorter, more regular schedule, but also because at Chattanooga's rail head, cargoes could be shipped to, or brought from, Charleston in the east, and the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in the west.

Steamers wharfing in Chattanooga commonly carried cotton, grain, sugar, molasses, whiskey, iron ore, coal, and passengers.  When cotton was the main cargo the biggest challenge for the wharf manager was to find a place to store it.  When the wharf was clogged with cotton bales from Market Street to the foot of Cameron Hill, the cotton was stacked in vacant lots and sidewalks as far into town as Ninth Street (now M L King, Jr Blvd).
Boats leaving Chattanooga carried finished wood products, pig iron, textiles and anything the railroad might bring from other parts of the United States, including people.  A stately cruise of 12-15 mph was a pleasant and scenic way to reach a destination, and most of the boats that wharfed into Chattanooga could be rented for excursions or parties

The Joe Wheeler was the last of the active steam packets, and in 1920, some of its parts were used to build the Captain Lyerly, which was used as a towboat.  Towboats became the main type of commercial craft as the century progressed, and while this change took place, the engines changed as well.  Diesel-powered engines pulled heavy loads faster and more efficiently than steamboats, and they were soon the only commercial boats on the river.


On March 7, 1867, the Tennessee River began to rise at the rate of one foot per hour.  Chattanooga experienced floods every spring, but this one, later known as the Great Flood continued to rise until March 11, when the waters crested at 57.9 feet above low water levels.  The second day of the flood sent the Meigs Military Bridge (minus the stones from the Bluff Furnace walls) floating downriver, and by the fourth day, all but the highest ground in the city was under several feet of water. 

This flood (and two others in 1875 and 1886, both of which were more than 50 feet above low water levels)  convinced the city, when rebuilding, to significantly raise the levels of Chattanooga's streets.  In some cases, current street levels are as much as ten feet higher than those of the last century.  But even with today's street levels, a flood on the scale of the Great Flood would reach the second level of many buildings on Market Street.


The Tennessee River was a major avenue of commerce in the 19th century for a number of industries.  In the 1880's, the Blair Lumber Company operated a sawmill in this location.  Millions of feet of logs were rafted down the river from the forests drained by the Clinch, Powell, Houston and French Broad rivers in upper East Tennessee.  Perched on the high ground adjacent to the river, the steam-powered sawmills hauled logs from the river up long inclined ramps to be debarked, cut and dried into lumber for use in local and regional industries.  Brick makers, such as D J Chandler and J F Wright, mined clay from the rich alluvial deposits along the riverbank and fired the bricks in kilns near the river.  The Riverwalk passes over a wetland that is the remnant of a brick clay-mining pit excavated by J W Wells and Company in the early 20th Century.

Chattanooga could claim success in all of its attempts to gain an industrial base and to expand river and rail transport, but in the 1880's, questions of wharf ownership entangled the city in a protracted lawsuit, and endangered continued growth on the river.  V K Stevenson owned the lion's share of the wharf, and felt entitled to collect wharfage fees from those boats which docked at his property.  Local merchants felt that this discouraged river trade and pressed the city to establish the wharf as free and public.  Unfortunately, an 1852 ordinance had relinquished all city claims to the land on the waterfront.  The city's only option, other than buying the land outright, was to forbid the charging of wharfage to any boats that landed at the foot of Market, Broad or Chestnut Street.  In effect, the city claimed that these streets, and their rights of way, ran directly into the river, and were public property.  Stevenson then began the legal battle that would last longer than he did.  When the suit was decided in favor of his estate, improvements were made to the property.  A metal tramway stretched from a warehouse to the water's edge, and a conveyor belt that was three feet wide carried sacks of grain from the boats directly into a warehouse at Chestnut Street.  Also, Stevenson's estate granted permission for a Belt Railroad to pass through the property.  This spur line ran from the depot at Ninth and Market Streets, west toward the river, then followed near the banks of the river around the base of Cameron Hill and then east to Market Street.  The Belt Railroad shuttled freight between the trains and the riverboats, and also carried goods made by riverfront industries to the rail head at the south end of town.

A deal was accomplished in 1906 and the city finally owned the wharf property from Market to Chestnut Street.  Landowners on the east side of Market also offered to sell their wharf property, which might then have extended the public wharf to the original site of Ross's Landing, but the city declined. 

One successful industry in Chattanooga used lumber from forests in East Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia.  Floated down the Tennessee, the logs made their way to Chattanooga sawmills, where they were cut into usable lumber.  After drying, the wood was sent to planning mills for finishing.  One long-active riverfront company, Loomis and Hart, operated saw and planning mills, and manufactured wooden furniture.

Other industries with sites on the waterfront were mills for corn and flour, a distillery, a pork packing plant, an ice company, a foundry for fabricating iron, and a brickyard which made bricks from the clay of the river bank.

One of the largest and most successful companies near the river was the Chattanooga Brewing Company, which occupied the entire block bounded by Broad, Chestnut, Second and Third Streets.  This company was a successful employer in Chattanooga from the late 1880's until the pressures of Prohibition forced it out of business in 1918.  In 1929 the site was bought by the Coca-Cola Bottling Company.  Another victim of Prohibition was the White Oak Distillery, which produced its own whiskey but also served as a regional distributor for several other brands.



By 1911, load limits and costly repairs of the Walnut Street Bridge led officials to begin planning for a new bridge.  Many officials and residents of Chattanooga wanted a Market Street Bridge because so much of the traffic crossing the river was destined for Market Street, the commercial center of downtown.  But officials also wanted a concrete bridge because maintenance would be easier. 

A Market Street location, then, was problematic in several ways.  First, this location would destroy part of the wharf.  Second, the level of the land at this location would dictate a low bridge, and the Army Corps of Engineers would only approve a bridge with channel spans 300 feet wide with 100 feet clearance because of the possibility that gunboats might have to travel the river.  A concrete bridge would be unable to meet these requirements at Market Street without a drawbridge, and the necessary width of the spans also made the use of concrete unlikely.

Fortunately, the city's chief engineer, B H Davis, came up with a design that would please both the City Commissioners and the Army Corps of Engineers.  The approved design was for a concrete bridge which would have the required 300 foot channel span, with shorter spans from the banks of the river to the central piers.  In order to meet the federal height requirements, the central span would be a steel drawbridge of bascule design.  This type of drawspan  lifts, like one side of a see-saw, because of a counterweight.  On the Market Street Bridge, each wing of the drawspan is counterbalanced by a block of concrete which moves toward the roadbed as it lifts the center of the span.

Construction began in late November 1914.  The city issued $500.000 in 5%, 30-year bonds to finance the construction of the bridge, but as the engineers ran into more and more difficult problems, it became apparent that the bridge would cost far more.

The biggest problems arose because of the piers.  In one site, an underground stream flowed into the cofferdam, preventing the concrete from drying;  eventually the spring itself had to be plugged with concrete.  Another site had, not a solid bottom, but a collection of large boulders.  Caissons were built so that workmen called "sand hogs" could work underwater, excavating the boulders to reach bedrock.  On top of their caissons rested a concrete pier 55 feet high, which weighed more than a million pounds.  As their excavation moved closer to the bedrock, the pier moved down with them.

To build the concrete arches and the roadbed to span the piers, the contractor had to erect wooden falseworks.  These were strong and fairly elaborate pieces of work, but they required constant attention because they prevented driftwood from passing.  If left to accumulate, the driftwood formed an obstacle movable only with explosives.  On December 19, 1916, a 28-foot flood caused driftwood to accumulate at a rate too fast to be controlled, and when the falseworks were dislodged by the pressure of the river, the span had to be abandoned because the concrete had not yet cured.  The year of 1916 saw continued cost overruns and construction difficulties, and in March of 1917, the bridge faced another challenge.  All of the masonry work was complete and work on a concrete counterweight had begun when the river again flooded, cresting on March 7 after reaching the fourth highest water level recorded in Chattanooga's history.  The bridge, however, was largely undamaged, and work continued.  The drawbridge was successfully tested on August 3, and on November 17, 1917, the bridge was officially opened and presented to the county.  It was named to honor Chief John Ross, who led the Cherokee Nation west on the Trail of Tears.

There was not as much pomp, nor were there as many attendees as there had been when the Walnut Street Bridge opened, but the bridge remains an engineering feat.  Even though it cost twice as much as the county hoped it would, it remains the largest bridge of its type in the U S, and the third largest in the world.