There are many reasons tourists visit Bradley County. Some come to enjoy activities in the Cherokee National Forest and soak up the scenery. Others come on business related to the church organizations headquartered here. Sporting events hosted by Bradley and Cleveland parks departments and activities associated with Lee University also bring many visitors to Bradley County. They stay in our hotels, shop in our stores, put fuel in their vehicles and dine in our restaurants. Some fall in love with the community and decide to make Bradley County home.
With the exception of the commonwealth of Virginia, Tennessee has more Civil War sites that any other state in the union. Several of those sites are located in Bradley County. Union General William Sherman once spent the night in the historic Henegar House in Charleston. While there he received orders from General U.S. Grant. This is just one of many significant stories being told by the Bradley/Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau.
In 2009, I had the pleasure of helping cut the ribbon on two gateway markers that tell the story of Bradley County’s role during the Civil War. One is located at the Henegar House in Charleston and the other one is near the entrance to the Museum Center at Five Points. One marker contains a quote from President Abraham Lincoln which says, “To take and hold the railroad at or east of Cleveland, Tennessee, I think is as fully as important as the taking and holding of Richmond.” These are stories that are significant to our local heritage and contain little-known facts about our county’s role in the Civil War.
The gateway markers are part of the Civil War Trails Program which includes more than 800 interpretive markers at Civil War sites in Virginia, Maryland, Tennessee, North Carolina and West Virginia. When tourists follow the trail they will eventually find their way to Bradley County and learn about events that helped shape who we are as a nation.
The history of the Cherokee Nation is also an important part of our heritage. Everyone living in Bradley County is living on lands that once belonged to the Cherokee. It is important to recognize that story and honor the spirit of the Cherokee which will always be here. The Convention and Visitors Bureau has worked with local historians and preservationists on a Cherokee Heritage Project to highlight this time in our history. The CVB published a brochure called “Your Passport to Explore Cherokee Heritage.” It features 16 important sites that are significant to the Cherokee Nation and the Indian Removal now known as the Trail of Tears.
The Convention & Visitors Bureau produces a visitor’s guide which is distributed in welcome centers and mailed to people who request information about the area. Each year about 50,000 Visitors’ Guides are sent to people who are considering visiting our community. Many of these visitors stay in Bradley County because it is centrally located to the activities in the region.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau works hard to develop unique experiences to draw visitors to our area. It is important to the local economy and contributes to the quality of life. For more information about local history and activities, log on to www.clevelandchamber.com. Click on the Recreation & Visitors link. Whether it is special events, outdoor adventure or American history, Bradley County has interesting experiences to offer visitors and residents alike. I am thankful and humbled to call this beautiful place my home.