It’s no secret that Northeast Tennessee features some of the most amazing natural beauty in the world. And among the picturesque mountains along the eastern edge of the state, perhaps none is more magical and memorable than Roan Mountain in Carter County.

One of the first people to take note of this was Union General John Wilder in the 1880s. Just a few years before, he’d commanded “Wilder’s Lightning Brigade” in the Civil War. He was quick-witted and extremely intelligent, not to mention an inventor, expert in hydraulics, and foundry owner. And when he laid eyes on Roan Mountain, he decided to add another title to his resume: Hotel Entrepreneur.

Originally from New York, Wilder had settled in Tennessee after the war. He quickly saw the strategic advantage of nearby Johnson City as a railroad junction, and with the nearby Cranberry Mines, he planned to establish the area as a center of iron and steel manufacturing. He built the Carnegie Furnace and established the Carnegie Land Company (which explains the Carnegie Hotel and Andrew Carnegie’s connection to East Tennessee). But standing at the top of Roan Mountain in 1884, Wilder realized that scenic beauty was a “mine” of a different sort. He envisioned a hotel that would seamlessly combine creature comforts with the serenity that only picturesque views of Northeast Tennessee could provide.

It would be called the Cloudland Hotel, and Wilder envisioned patrons from across the country praising its unique offerings. In fact, an advertisement in a local paper read:

Come up out of the sultry plains
to the land of the sky.
Magnificent views above the clouds
where the rivers are born.
The hotel is the highest human habitation
east of the Rocky Mountains.

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Sarah Lane was a normal lady. She was born in Greene County in the 1830s, married Sylvanius S. Thompson, and by all accounts, maintained a very “average” existence.

But when the Civil War broke out, her husband was one of the few Northeast Tennesseeans to align himself with the Union Army. So he (and Sarah) spent the next few months organizing Union sympathizers and infiltrating the Confederate ranks in Greeneville. And so, it was only a matter of time until, in 1864, Sylvanius was ambushed and killed by a Confederate soldier.

Sarah Thompson

Sarah was devastated. But instead of wallowing in self-pity, she vowed revenge. She dedicated herself more than ever to the Union cause.

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Loch Ness has its monster; the Pacific Northwest has Sasquatch; Mexico has the Chupacabra.

But what does Northeast Tennessee have?

The Wampus Cat. Half-woman, half-cat, and all-terrorizing—the cat kills animals, steals children and smells like a mixture of skunk and wet dog.

Nice, huh?

It’s really no secret that cats have long been associated with witches and/or evil in general. If a black cat crosses your path, you’re in for some bad luck. But if the Wampus Cat crosses your path, “bad luck” might be the best you can hope for!

Local legend gives numerous accounts of where the Wampus Cat came from, but one thing that everyone agrees on is that it’s been scaring the bejeezus out of people in Northeast Tennessee for hundreds of years.

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We’ve all heard stories about mobsters during the Prohibition era, about bootlegging, speakeasies, and rings of organized crime. And from those stories, no figure is more notorious than Chicago’s Al Capone.

But here’s what you may not have heard: in those days, Chicago wasn’t the only center of vice in the United States. In fact, one little town in Northeast Tennessee was gaining plenty of notoriety for debauchery.

And that little town—was our very own Johnson City.

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Imagine seeing a NASCAR pit road, a 1930s service station, a 1950s-era café, and a moonshine still under one roof. Sounds interesting, right?

Well, there’s a place in Greeneville where you CAN see all that. And interestingly enough, they’re not even the stars of the show.

I’m talking about the City Garage Car Museum on Main Street. The real stars here are the 40 cars, ranging from the super-fast to super-expensive to super-eccentric. It’s the kind of place that inspires an infatuation with automobiles, even if you’ve never been a “car person.”

You’ll see everything from a 5-horsepower 1901 Oldsmobile (manufactured 7 years before the invention of the Model T) to the Morgan-McClure Winston Cup car—which Sterling Marlin used to win the 1994 Daytona 500. You’ll see a 1940 Ford “moonshine hauler” (made famous by the likes of Junior Johnson), a 1933 Hudson Essex Terraplane (that won the Pike’s Peak Hill Climb in 1933), and an incredibly rare 1964½ Mustang V8 Convertible.

Sterling Marlins 1994 Daytona 500 winner

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Well, it’s not actually one of the “Seven Wonders.”

As a matter of fact, this wonder is one of only TWO on Earth. And the strange thing is: you’ve probably never heard of it.

Located in the southern part of Hawkins County (near Rogersville), Ebbing and Flowing Spring is one of only two springs in the world to exhibit tidal characteristics with a predictable regularity.

What does that mean?

Well, as its name implies, the spring goes from a gentle trickle to a flood of more than 500 gallons per minute. And it does it every 2 hours and 47 minutes. Unlike thermal springs that produce warm water, the temperature of Ebbing and Flowing Spring maintains a constant 34° Fahrenheit year-round. Read the rest of this entry »

In the early 1900s, Northeast Tennessee was one of the fastest growing regions in the country. The booming coal and railroad industries had, in only a matter of decades, transformed this quiet mountain region into a string of picturesque boomtowns.

But in 1916, the story of Murderous Mary would become legendary in the minds of Northeast Tennesseans for decades to come.

It wasn’t because she was a cold, calculated killer. Quite the opposite; she’d had no prior run-ins with the law.

It wasn’t because she was especially vicious. Her crime was purely reactionary, attributable to the fact that she simply didn’t know her own strength.

So why the “legend” status?

Simple.

Mary was a five-ton Asian elephant. And the object of her affection?

A watermelon.

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