Largest privately owned OHV riding area in the country. Located in East Tennessee, in what is considered the “Valley & Ridge” section of the Appalachian Mountains, in-between the Blue Ridge (Great Smoky Mountains) and Cumberland Plateau. The entrance to WindRock Park is located in Oliver Springs, TN, the property itself spans over 4 different counties due to its sheer size: Anderson, Campbell, Morgan, and Roane counties. The Coal Creek Company established in 1872 currently owns the 72,000 acres on which WindRock Park operates. Coal Creek Company has two subsidiaries, Coal Creek Ventures, Inc. and WindRock Properties, LLC., Coal Creek Ventures actively maintains the over 300 mile OHV Trail System and WindRock Properties manages the full service Campground and provides support services for the WindRock OHV Trail System
History of WindRock Park & Oliver Springs, TN
Native American Era
The area around Oliver Springs was called Tah-hah-lehaha, which meant “healing waters” in the Cherokee language. The natural mineral springs reputation for miraculous medicinal properties and the abundant wildlife on WindRock Mountain were enticing. This is why Native Americans were so inclined to stay and use the area as a hunting ground and campsite.
During 1761 a long hunting expedition led by Elisha Walden explored much of the Clinch and Powell River valleys. However, settlement in the area did not begin in earnest until the 1790’s, and growth remained slow. Oliver Springs was founded in 1821 as Winter’s Gap. It was named for its first permanent settler of European descent, Major Moses Winters, who had settled in the area before 1799. In 1826, Richard Oliver became the town’s first postmaster. The town was then renamed Oliver Springs in his honor. Oliver provided mail service from his 35-room mansion, which also served as an Inn. He was the first to develop the commercial potential of the mineral springs. He would transport his guests between the springs and the Inn. During the Civil War, the Inn was used to as a hospital by both sides. Joseph Richards bought Oliver’s land in 1873. He built the first resort hotel, and in 1894 replaced the first structure with a 150-room hotel with then-modern amenities. Oliver Springs became a popular resort town. The Oliver Springs Hotel catered to wealthy guests, who came from all over the Unites Stated and Europe to drink the waters and bathe in the springs. In 1888, the railroad came to Oliver brought thousands of visitors to the springs. Sadly, in 1905 the hotel burned down and the town decided to cover the springs rather than rebuild the hotel. Evidence of the water conduits and reservoirs can still be seen on the site.
Coal Creek War
The Coal Creek War was an armed labor uprising that took place primarily in Anderson County, in the early 1890’s. The struggle began in 1891 when coal mine owners in the Coal Creek watershed attempted to replace free coal miners with convicts leased out by the government. Over the course of a year, the free miners continuously attacked and burned prison stockades and company buildings, hundreds of convicts were freed, and dozens of miners and militiamen were killed or wounded in small-arms skirmishes. On historian describes the conflict as “one of the most dramatic and significant episodes in all American labor history.The Coal Creek War was part of a greater struggle across Tennessee against the state’s controversial convict-leasing system, which allowed the state to least its convicts to mining companies to compete with free labor. The outbreak of the conflict touched off a partisan media firestorm between the miners’ supporters and detractors, and brought the issue of convict leasing to the public eye. Although the uprising essentially ended with the arrests of hundreds of miners in 1892, the publicity it generated led to the downfall of Governor John P. Buchanan, and forced the state to reconsider the convict-leasing system.
In 1896, when its convict-lease contracts expired, Tennessee’s state government refused to renew them, making it one of the first Southern stated to end the controversial practice.
Early 20th Century
In the early part of the twentieth century, the area became dependent on the coal industry. According to historian Keith Glass, the WindRock Coal and Coke Company, a subsidiary of the Bessemer Coal Iron and Land Company of Birmingham, began operating a coal mine near Oliver Springs circa 1904.
In 1942, during World War II, the United States government brought up the neighboring communities of Robertsville, Edgemoor, East Fork, Elza, Bethel, Scarborough, and Wheat and built the secret city of Oak Ridge as part of the Manhattan Project. During this period, on the most prominent buildings in Oliver Springs, the Dr. Fred Stone, Sr., Hospital was built by Dr. Fred Stone, who worked as a physician and examiner for the new Manhattan Project employees.
Eventually, the economy of Oliver Springs became dependent on government employment in Oak Ridge, and suffered when employment levels declined at the end of the Cold War in the early 1990’s. In the years following the end of the Cold War, Oliver Springs and its neighbors struggled to re-establish a solid foundation on which to base their economies. Oliver Springs experimented with several industries during that time. In the late 1990’s, the movie October Sky was filmed in nearby coal mining areas as well as the city’s downtown area. Currently, the economy is thriving and is taking advantage of the mountains, which are very popular among the OHV communities.