While the Cherokee tribe once dominated much of what is now Tennessee, and likely gave the river and the state their names, by the early 1800s their nation had withdrawn to a core area in southeastern Tennessee and northern Georgia. With more population in Georgia by this time, their social, religious, and political gathering places where primarily within Georgia.
Where history in Tennessee begins…
Rocky Fork State Park is in the process of becoming a reality. It is a portion of a large wilderness area brought into public ownership in Northeast Tennessee that will be accessed through the Tennessee State Park managed property. No other such expanse remains to be obtained - and it is also the first area of Tennessee to come into written history.
Here was the entry point of the first known Europeans into what is now Tennessee. Following the Nolichucky River, the Spanish expeditions of both Hernando de Soto and Juan Pardo entered Tennessee in the vicinity of Rocky Fork. Their route seems to have taken them around, rather than through the Rocky Fork property as they followed a loop of the Nolichucky River.
For our second entry we return to the idea of the sweep of the Frontier Line across Tennessee as European contact emerged from the crossing points of the Appalachian Mountains or down the valleys from Virginia. Settlers from Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland and, somewhat latter, Germany made early purchases of land from the Cherokee at Sycamore Shoals in what is now Elizabethton, Tennessee. Other purchases pushed further to the southwest, but still in East Tennessee. These settlers were advancing down the second geologic division of the state after the Appalachian Mountains – the Ridge and Valley region.
Tennessee has to be the best of states in which to put a park system! The diversity that Tennessee State Parks presents across the state is remarkable. And this is both a natural and cultural diversity. The great geologic divisions of the state, and the ecological regions that follow according to climate and terrain, bring about diversity in stories of people in these environments.