Polk County, Tennessee

Caney Creek

The village of Caney Creek was named for the nearby stream on which cane grew, in Polk County. It was probably the most historically popular community in the area. More has been written on its history than any other.

The village of Caney Creek was built by the Eastern Tennessee Power Company in 1918 for the employees who worked at the plant. There were about fifteen families that lived at Caney Creek and their only way in and out of the village was to cross the Ocoee River, either by boat or by a 150' suspended bridge. Caney Creek gained fame as the only town without an automobile. The village was once featured in Ripleys Believe It Or Not in the 1920s and 1930s for being the one village in the United States in which no automobile or horse-drawn vehicles had ever traveled through.  The residents did own cars, but they kept them on the other side of the Ocoee. Supplies were transported via the L&N Railroad, which ran a spur into Parksville then up the lake to the wharf approximately one mile below the village, then onto the dinky for transport to the village or on up to the Power House. To get to Caney Creek the residents would go by car to Parksville, transfer to boat for about ten miles, then on to the dinky train and home. There was a second seat at the engine which they would give to women. The men would ride with their feet hanging off.

There were sixteen homes, a small hotel and an elementary school that also was used as a church. Some of the families living at Caney Creek from 1912-1918 were: Masons, Andersons, Aabels, McCrabs, Daltons, Ayers, Jenkins, Reeds and Dr. Chambers. They were all employees of the J. G. White Construction Company. Some of the families who resided at Caney Creek between 1918 and 1941 were: Donald Lee Gaston; Lawrence German; W.S. Vineyard; Frank Lowe; Robert Woody; Ed Higdon; Fred Childress; Walter Moore; E.M. Crye; Frank Crye; O.G. Merrill; Edgar Poe; Howard Vineyard; R.R. Green; Hugh McClary; Charles Walker; and Earl Belk.

The village was modern for its day, with concrete sidewalks, electric street lights, city water, fire hydrants, telephones and a tennis court. The water was pure and clean, too cool to bathe in; however, all of the homes had baths. Ice was brought in daily and the commissary was well stocked. Anything one had was shared by all.

To travel from one part of the town to another, residents used the "Toonerville Trolley" of cartoon fame. When arriving, one sometimes had to blow the horn so the trolley would be waiting at the bridge. The trolley ran on storage batteries. It was also used to take the workers to and from work. It was involved in the only traffic death the village ever had when a man fell between the two cars.

The hotel was a two-story building with at least 10 rooms. It was only rented to company officials or new residents who were waiting for the homes to be ready. All of the food supplies were stored at the hotel. Twenty-five children attended the one-room school. The older children were bused to the high school in Benton. The teachers at the schools at Parksville and Caney Creek were Miss Sudie Clemmer and Miss Blanche McClary.

Why Was There A Village There?

In 1912, after completion of the dam at Parksville, the Eastern Tennessee Power Company began construction on Power House No. 2, the diversion dam and its now famous flume. The was the beginning of the Village of Caney Creek.

The flume was designed as a trough to carry water 4.7 miles to generate hydroelectricity. It was constructed of long-leafed pine timber with small amounts of yellow pine and oak being used. It was virtually reconstructed in 1934 and again in1944. By 1930 all the trestles, which were originally constructed of oak, were converted to steel.

In 1976 the flume and trestles were condemned and the decision was made to rebuild and in 1980 construction began  and was completed in November, 1983. The flume drops only 17.5 feet from the diversion dam to the extension flume, then drops 250 ft. through two penstocks to the turbines. The flume is 14 feet x 9 feet 9 inches in size. It is very likely that the Ocoee No. 2 flume is the last flume in the Eastern United States still used in the production of electric power on a so large scale. The flume is a historic landmark in that it played in the industrialization  of lower East Tennessee and in the growth of the aluminum industry. It was designed and built by J.G. White Construction Company under the supervision of William P. Creager, a famous author of books on hydroelectric power and dam design.

Between 1912 and the late 1920s the Eastern Tennessee Power  Co. became the Tennessee Power Co. and finally as the Tennessee Electric Power Co, it became one of the operating companies of the Commonwealth and Southern holdings. On August 16, 1939 all its holdings except its bus and streetcar lines were transferred to the Tennessee Valley Authority. In May, 1940, TVA had generator No. two rewound to take advantage of the more powerful wheel. On April 14, 1949 the governor failed, causing  the generator to run away. It finally left the shaft, exploded through the downstream powerhouse wall and caused a number of injuries, on very serious. It was replaced January 25, 1951.

March 3, 1941- The Chattanooga Evening Times;  "Caney Creek, unique little village built by the Tennessee Electric Power Company for the use of employees of its Power Plant No. 2 and later acquired by the TVA with the purchase of the power company properties, is doomed to disappear. It will be abandoned and demolished by the Authority according to a recent announcement. The TVA has also notified the occupants of the residences at Parksville, Ocoee No 1. plant, to vacate, it being the policy of the Authority not to furnish its employees residences, according to statements of officials. Within the past 21 years there have been only two deaths by sickness."

So the village of Caney Creek came into existence, remained for only 21 years and affected the life of so many people. This one short-lived town brought more historical value to the area that any other. Even though it is gone now, there are still many people remaining who can tell of life at Caney Creek and how unique it was to live there.

Before the last reconstruction, the No.2 Power Plant and Flume were placed on the National Register of Historic Places, it came many year too late for Caney Creek Village.