East TN Small Towns…
A few weekends ago marked my first foray into East TN on my mission to visit and shoot in TN’s Small Towns. I had plans to attend a friend of the family’s all-star football game in Williamsburg, KY, so I mapped out my target towns starting in Pleasant Hill. I didn’t have much time in Pleasant Hill because I wanted to make the kickoff of the game. It appeared that the primary industry and residence for its inhabitants was a large commercial retirement home.
After the football game, I made my way back into TN and towards a small community called Clinchmore, population 273. To reach Clinchmore from interstate 75 I had to take a small winding road that climbed over a mountain and then back down the other side. The community was dominated by the Stony Fork of the New River. Houses, old and older, lined the tributary. Every few feet there was a better view of the icy river begging for me to stop and shoot. I even discovered an abandoned elementary school which I couldn’t pass up.
After Spending the night in Oak Ridge, I made my way to an area called New River before the sun was up. I found a store with its light on but no one in yet and another community dominated by the river flowing through it.
The next town I made my way to was Petros, home of the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary. It was Sunday morning and the towns inhabitants were making their way to their houses of worship as I photographed.
Wartburg was my next stop, the largest town I had visited so far, population 913. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but it makes for a very different look and feel compared to the other towns. I shot around the town square and out at the “Obed Wild and Scenic River” segment of the Cumberland Trail.
I was needing to get home but wanted to stop at one more small town on the way, Oakdale. The view as you enter this town from the east has to be the best I have experienced while shooting the small towns. Atop the large elevated bridge that spans the Emory River, you can see the entire town from the train tunnel into the mountain side to the steeples on the distant hillside. Besides the obvious impact of the Emory River, the rail industry is a significant factor in this community with a fairly large rail yard that appears to be growing.