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History of Sweetwater

The lands that would eventually be Sweetwater are noted in a grant of reservation to Issac Vann in "Sweet Water" dated July 10, 1817, from the Cherokee Agency of the Office of Indian Affairs. Development continued along the Sweetwater Creek, spurred on by the coming of the East Tennessee and Georgia Railroad. By 1852, lots were being sold by I.T. Lenoir for the town of Sweetwater. In 1867, the community's first printed newspaper came out as the "Sweetwater Forerunner". An election was held in 1875 to incorporate the present-day City of Sweetwater. The first Mayor was J.W. Clark, the Recorder was Austin Fry, and the first constable was J.H. Montgomery. During its first year, the City collected $39.19 in fines, $133.20 in privilege taxes and $383.02 in other taxes.

The usual "city problems" were part of the City's growth. Streets and sidewalks were major concerns, as well as setting the salary of the street lamp lighter (Aquilla Orr, $6.00 per month in 1886) and a citizen's petition to close all drinking saloons at dark (1887). The first fire limit was established in 1891 and the first school directors were appointed in 1893. By 1897, the City built its first permanent City Hall (still standing) and the population numbered 1,200 persons.

1905 saw the beginning of the public library in the City and in 1915 Circle Park was opened downtown. By 1917 the City had an ordinance to regulate automobile garages in town and in 1920 it was voted that on the first Monday of each month the City would furnish a wagon to haul off trash and garbage (Note: Anyone failing to keep their premises clean was to be arrested). 1924 saw the purchase of the City's first mobile fire fighting equipment as the Brockway Torpedo arrived via rail and was put into service (still operating for special events as part of the City Fire Department). The Post Office was built in 1938 to keep Sweetwater in touch with the world and in 1939 the City purchased the existing electric distribution system.

The 1940's brought the Planning Commission (1944) and building permits were required for construction (1947). In 1950 the phone system changed to the "new dial system" from the "old magnetic system" and in 1951 natural gas was available in town. Home rule was adopted in a referendum in 1955 and is still the legal authority for the City government.

An urban renewal program adopted in 1960 created the "Heartland Industrial Park" in the downtown area. The City adopted a sales tax and began a Head Start program in 1965 and in 1966 began the fluoridation of City water.

The 1970's saw establishment of the Recreation and Parks Commission to develop the present-day recreation center which opened in May, 1977. The present City Hall complex was completed in 1978-1979. The Sweetwater railroad car was placed at Circle Park downtown in March, 1981.

More recent development has seen the creation of the commercial district along Highway 68, additions and new buildings for the school system, the opening of a new fire hall on Highway 322, and construction on a traditional neighborhood development known as "Willow Creek".

Providing for the needs and services required by our community has always been a part of what Sweetwater is about. We're proud of our past and look forward to our future, becoming all that we can as a community of people together. Come join us when you can!

*Source of historical information is the work of Sally Sands, a resident of Sweetwater, and her multi-volume work, A History of Monroe County, Tennessee



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