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The Calhoun area was settled by John Walker (c. 1770-1834), a part-Cherokee grandson of Nancy Ward and a prominent gure in the formation of McMinn County. Walker operated a ferry along the Hiwassee River and helped contract the Cherokee Turnpike Company in 1806, which maintained the road between Knoxville and Georgia. In 1819, Walker helped negotiate the Calhoun Treaty, in which the Cherokee ceded the remaining lands between the Little Tennessee River and the Hiwassee River, including what is now McMinn County. McMinn County was organized at Walker’s house that same year.
The oldest town in McMinn is also its newest city with a name equally founded in history. Calhoun was named after John Caldwell Calhoun (c. 1782 – 1850), an American statesman who served as the seventh vice president of the United States. The county is named after Joseph McMinn, governor of Tennessee from 1815 to 1821, who spent the last years of his life in Calhoun, and is buried in the Shiloh Presbyterian Cemetery.
In 1954, the pulp and paper giant Bowater (now Resolute Forest Products) established a plant in Calhoun that soon grew to become one of the largest newsprint mills in North America. The
mill, which dominates the western half of Calhoun, produces 750,000 metric tons of newsprint and specialty paper per year.
In December of 1973, the segment of Interstate 75 near Calhoun, Tennessee, was opened to traf c. Following this date, multiple vehicle accidents occurred due to visibility problems experienced in foggy conditions. The culmination of these events occurred on December 11, 1990 when dense fog contributed to a series of chain-reaction collisions involving 99 vehicles with 42 injuries and 12 fatalities. In 1993, a fog detection and warning system was implemented along the Interstate section. This system includes a three-mile fog detection area spanning north and south of the Hiwassee River and an eight- mile warning zone on each approach to the fog prone area. In 2006, a project was initiated to upgrade the original system
to current technology. Driver safety issues due to visibility problems have improved signi cantly since the system has been in place, with only one fog-contributed accident being recorded in 2001.
The main street of Calhoun has recently been designated by the National Historic Trails Service as an “Original Route” of the Trails of Tears. During the 1828 Cherokee Removal, several thousand North Carolina Cherokees were forcibly removed from their lands. This route led through Calhoun, down present day Main Street, to the ferry crossing at the Hiwassee River.
Calhoun is a city deeply grounded in the history of America with notable markers and places of great historical value throughout the area. Situated along the banks of the Hiwassee River, which ows from the Appalachian Mountains and empties into the Chickamauga Lake impoundment of the Tennessee River. Visit Discover Calhoun to learn more and check out McMinn Life Summer Issue featuring the River Town Festival.