Jerry Summers: The Lost Community Of Dallas

Thursday, October 7, 2021 - by Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers
Jerry Summers

In a previous article we discussed how the small rural communities in Alabama of Waterloo and Riverton were partially submerged under the waters of the Tennessee River when the Tennessee Valley Authority was created in 1933 for the purpose of controlling and regulating the raging 586 miles of its rivers and tributaries.

            Although the name “Dallas” has not disappeared from the list of communities, it is not the original location of Dallas Island which is now submerged under the Tennessee River in Hamilton County.

            As far back as the 1700s the property later known as Dallas Island was called “Oo-le-quah” and established as a village by the Cherokee Indians.  The occupying Spaniards led by explorer Hernando DeSoto named the land “Coste” and found a village in existence there in 1540.

            After Rhea County north of Hamilton County had been created, a southern portion of Rhea was ceded to become ultimately a part of Hamilton after a temporary location of government at Poe’s Tavern on the west side of the river which is now the 1969 created municipality of Soddy Daisy.

            When TVA started its revolutionary project of taming the raging river archaeological studies were made of the areas of Chickamauga Island near the site of the proposed dam as well as Dallas Island.

            The spillway waters were released on January 15, 1940 and after three months the rising levels covered the land known as Dallas Island.  This is not the same island that is today part of Chester Frost Park.  The present-day Dallas area was actually the high ground that the lake did not cover. The original Dallas Island was a long, 84-acre island at the mouth of Prairie Creek and Dallas Branch and was just upstream of the initial mouth of Wolftever Creek.

            Prior to the area being submerged and lost in the designated goal of mitigating flooding, Dallas Island and the adjacent shore revealed evidence of earlier civilizations.

            Three temple mounds that once stood on the island were found along with artifacts of pottery, tapestries, tools and copper.

            Prior to motorized land transportation, the primary method of travel was by river and county leaders decided that the county seat should be at a river landing.

            On the high ground opposite Dallas Island a permanent courthouse was established, and the community was first called “Hamilton County Courthouse” but in 1833 was renamed “Dallas.”

            The name was chosen to honor American statesman Alexander James Dallas, who served as Secretary of the Treasury, reporter for the United States Supreme Court and member of the Cabinet of President James Madison (1809-1817).

            Numerous communities and six U.S. Coast Guard Cutters have been named Dallas and his son, George Mifflin Dallas, was vice-president under President James K. Polk.

            The mammoth city of Dallas, Texas is considered named after him, his father and brother.

            In 1833 Dallas was a thriving community with a population of 200 citizens, one lawyer, two doctors, four stores, two taverns, a blacksmith shop and a hotel with a grand ballroom.

            According to an 1832 map of Tennessee, Dallas was at that time the only town in the state that was along the Tennessee River and south of Rhea County.

            According to historian Dr. James Livingood, “Dallas never prospered.”

            The mail route from Athens passed through Dallas and continued to Chattanooga on the Dallas Road and a ferry connected Dallas to Vannville on the east side of the Tennessee River whose name was eventually changed to Harrison, which also faced a slow death as the county seat.

            Eventually two railroads would by-pass Dallas in favor of a route through present day Soddy Daisy and in 1840 Dallas lost in a referendum which moved the county seat to Vannville.

            The area remained primarily agricultural due to the rich fertile farmland until TVA made its memorable decision to flood the Tennessee Valley and much of the Dallas hollow would become the Dallas Bay of Chickamauga Lake.

            Just like its southern neighbors in Waterloo and Riverton, Ala., the construction of the reservoir required that the families, churches, cemeteries, a public school and public roads be relocated.

            However, while the Alabama communities' growth remained fairly stagnant over the years since TVA submerged portions of their land under the waters of Pickwick Landing Dam, the real estate near the underwater property of “Dallas Island” has become a booming area of population growth.

            Soddy Daisy, Harrison and other original lands of the Cherokees continue to grow and develop under the TVA Act of 1933 under the Franklin Delano Roosevelt and subsequent Democrat and Republican Administrations.

            As always, progress often brings conflicting results to different individuals and communities.

            Credit should also be given to local historian Harmon Jolley for portions of his January 19, 2003 article on Chickamauga and Dallas Islands which I have used in this publication.       

* * *

Jerry Summers

(If you have additional information about one of Mr. Summers' articles or have suggestions or ideas about a future Chattanooga area historical piece, please contact Mr. Summers at jsummers@summersfirm.com)

           


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