The Old Copper Road gets aid of alliance

By LARRY C. BOWERS
Posted 12/7/17

A new alliance has been formed in the Polk and Bradley county community in an attempt to protect, preserve and promote the Old Copper Road.Members of the Old Copper Road Preservation Alliance met …

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The Old Copper Road gets aid of alliance

The BOARD OF DIRECTORS for the newly formed Old Copper Road Preservation Alliance includes, from left, Joe Fetzer, Janice Neyman, Dana Teasley, Melissa Wood and Ken Rush. Historian Brian Reed is also a member, but was unable to attend Wednesday's meeting.
The BOARD OF DIRECTORS for the newly formed Old Copper Road Preservation Alliance includes, from left, Joe Fetzer, Janice Neyman, Dana Teasley, Melissa Wood and Ken Rush. Historian Brian Reed is also a member, but was unable to attend Wednesday's meeting.
Banner photo, LARRY C. BOWERS
Posted

A new alliance has been formed in the Polk and Bradley county community in an attempt to protect, preserve and promote the Old Copper Road.


Members of the Old Copper Road Preservation Alliance met Wednesday morning at Cleveland's Museum Center at Five Points, for an informational event.


The voice of the newly organized alliance is Dana Teasley. She is an entrepreneur at the Business Incubator on the Cleveland State Community College campus.


She said she first had some ideas about an alliance five or six years ago, but tabled the effort for some time due to a busy schedule. She re-explored the idea about a year and a half ago.


That was when she went to talk with Cleveland's Melissa Woody, head of tourism development for the Cleveland/Bradley County Chamber of Commerce.


Woody has joined Teasley on the board of directors of The Old Copper Road Preservation Alliance.


Other board members are Janice Neyman of the Museum Center, Joe Fetzer, Ken Rush and historian Brian Reed. All but Reed attended a Wednesday gathering at the museum.


Woody also announced that the Chamber of Commerce is nearing completion of the publication of a new brochure dedicated to the Old Copper Road, which will be distributed to regional museums, businesses, and tourist attractions.


The alliance is in the process of securing its 501(c)(3) designation as a nonprofit. This will open up opportunities for grant funding, and other assistance and promotion.


Teasley spent much of her time Wednesday discussing the mission of the alliance.


She joined Woody in emphasizing that significant research and planning still remains for the alliance to reach its goals. 


The two said they have collected a number of photographs of the Old Copper Road, but the quality is not that great for a majority of those. They are urging anyone who may have some old photographs of better quality to provide their usage to the alliance for preservation and future promotion.


Teasley said promotion of the Old Copper Road is something she and other board members feel will enhance the region.


She pointed out the numerous historic locations and structures along the route of the Old Copper Road, which pretty much follows Highway 64 from Cleveland to Copperhill. Much of the original roadbed is under the waters of Parksville Lake.


In addition to its board of directors, the alliance is planning for an advisory committee made up of community, business, and government leaders from Bradley and Polk counties, as well as The U.S. Forest Service.


"The Old Copper Road is a rather remarkable and untold story," said Teasley. "It came about by accident."


She said early settlers in the Copperhill area attempted to find gold, but discovered copper instead. "The first copper mine, called the Hiwassee, was opened in 1850," Teasley said, adding that the discovery created the need for transporting the copper ore out of the area.


This resulted in the construction of the gravel/dirt roadway from Copperhill to the railroad in Cleveland. This construction was financed by John Caldwell at a cost of $22,000.


"He couldn't find anyone to work on the roadway, and was forced to hire some Native Cherokee who stayed in the area after the Removal to Oklahoma in 1839," she said.


A railroad spur from Etowah to Copperhill was added to the area in 1886.


She said a number of historic locations sprung up over the years along the Old Copper Road, and in Copperhill, Ducktown and Cleveland. 


One of those old structures is the Julius Raht Home in Cleveland, now a privately owned structure. It was originally the destination of the copper ore shipments from Copperhill. Raht was general manager of the Polk County mining operations, before and after the Civil War.


Other landmarks are Ocoee Dam No. 1, , Ocoee Dam No. 2, and the TVA power house and flume line.


In more recent years came Parksville Dam, Parksville Lake, and the Ocoee Rafting Center for the Olympics in 1996. In 1988, Highway 64 was designated as the first U.S. Scenic Highway and Byway. 


Historians say the Old Copper Road was painstakingly built in 1853 to connect the copper mines in Copper Basin to the railroad terminus at Cleveland. Caldwell hired local Cherokee Indians and whites to build the road, an arduous task completed in two years.



Many potential workers didn't want to venture into the gorge along the Ocoee River.


Upon completion, copper haulers drove teams of oxen and mules over the road for two days to transport the ore. The return trip was half day longer because of the uphill grade.


The haulers and teams camped overnight next to the Halfway House, so named because it was halfway between the copper mines and Cleveland. They spent the next night in Cleveland, camped out east of the railroad depot in an area called “Frogtown.”


The old road is now a section of U.S. Highway 64 that links Ducktown to Cleveland. 


A five-mile restored section of the original roadbed can be found at the Ocoee Whitewater Center, where it opened to the public as a hiking and biking trail after the Olympics.


Along the way, visitors can see the two Ocoee Dams, as well as the Historic Ocoee Flume Line and Diversion Dam


The Old Cooper Road was designated by the Tennessee Legislature on Feb. 8, 1963, under the late Tennessee Gov. Frank Clement.


Currently, there is one highway marker along the roadway, near the backwaters of Parksville Lake — just before entering the Ocoee Gorge at Greasy Creek.

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