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Essay: Anderson County, Tennessee

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Anderson County, the twentieth county to be organized in Tennessee, was shaped in 1801- 5 years after Tennessee became a state and 25 years after the declaration of Independence was signed. It was named after Senator Joseph Anderson. The county seat has always been at Clinton, originally named Burrville for Aaron Burr. Clinton is on the Clinch Riverm the Southern Railway, and United State Highway 25W. It is about170 miles east of the state capitol at Nashville, 18 miles northwest Knoxville, and 559 miles southwest of Washington, DC.
Anderson County is situated in the South Carolina upstate amongst the Savannah and Saluda Rivers. As Europeans and Africans were established in the Lowcountry and midlands in the seventeenth through the late eighteenth centuries, the Cherokee Indians utilized Anderson County as a hunting ground until after the Revolutionary War. Small farms and a few industrial sites filled its early nineteenth-century landscape, and concentrated most of the area’s settlement on its western half, which had opportunity to the Savannah River.

After the Civil War, development of the railroad created new towns and commercial activity. In the 1880s, investors constructed textile mill plants on the Saluda River and along railroad lines to Columbia and Greenville/Spartanburg, substituting the focus of commercial activity to the county’s eastern half.

As throughout the state, the area’s importance on cotton farming declined in the twentieth century, when many farms converted to dairy and beef cattle. With the erection of Interstate 85 to Atlanta, and the damming of the Savannah River creating Lake Hartwell, Anderson County fascinated international businesses and vacationers in the late twentieth century.


Anderson County contains 718 square miles in the South Carolina Piedmont. It is bordered on the west by the Savannah River and Lake Hartwell, on the north by Pickens and Oconee Counties, on the south by Abbeville County, and on the east by the Saluda River. Its topography includes rolling hills and river valleys. Main rivers in the county comprise of the Rocky River, which flows near the county seat of Anderson and into the Savannah River, then Broad Mouth Creek, which flows near Honea Path and Belton and into the Saluda River. Smaller creeks in the entire of the county, includes six and Twenty, Three and Twenty and Eighteen Mile Creeks, feed into the Savannah and Saluda Rivers. 1


During the late Mississippian period (ca. 1450’1500), people living in areas along the Savannah River and in lower Abbeville Counties and Anderson undergone dramatic social change. Archaeological proofs indicated that once thriving societies abruptly abandoned their towns.
Archaeologists have suggested several reasons for the sudden evacuation, including drought and military and political struggle. With the towns in southernmost of the Cherokee lying north of present-day Anderson County in Oconee and Pickens Counties, and the abandonment of towns along the central Savannah River Valley, the survey area remained a semi-wilderness.2

Nonetheless, the Cherokees claimed the area of present-day Anderson County as hunting territory. The Cherokees were recent immigrants to South Carolina, having migrated southeast in the 1500s into areas previously occupied by the Creeks. The concentration of their settlements persisted in the Appalachian Mountains and into Tennessee and North Carolina, possibly because of the tension between the Cherokee and neighboring Creeks and Catawbas in the South Carolina and the Georgia interior. Their grounds in present-day Anderson County were used as hunting lands, with only temporary shelters or camps. The Cherokee people valued the demarcation of their lands. They felt endangered by post- Cherokee War camps, such as Boonesborough on Long Cane Creek that carried colonists close to their own towns, but decided that those recognized before the surveying of the boundary line did not have to be detached. At the same period, the Cherokees wanted trade to continue with South Carolina, demanding that some tracks remain open and that traders still have the ability to pass through their lands. The Cherokees even allowed giving lands within their territory to Alexander Cameron and Richard Pearis, both descendants of Indian traders, and both of whom had sons themselves by Cherokee women. The land grants were in the neighborhood of Honea Path on the Saluda River, near the boundary line with access to trade routes to the Catawba towns and Charleston.

Anderson County, an area of 353 square miles, or 214,000 acres, that is in the northeastern portion of Tennessee. It is bounded on the northeast by Campbell County, on the west by Morgan County, on the southeast by Knox County and on the northwest by Scott County.

According to census data, the population of the country on 1974 was 60, 300. Clinton, the county base, is around 7.5 miles north of the Knox County line on U.S. Highway 25. Oak Ridge is the major city. The agency, Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA), one of the leading energy research and production centers in the country is situated in Anderson County. Melton Hill Dam and Norris Dam on the Clinch River are portions of the tributary development system under the Tennessee Valley Authority.

According to the 1967 Conservation Needs Inventory about sixty-three percent of the country was forest, seventeen percent pasture, seven percent federal land, and four percent cropland. About six percent was urban. The remaining areas are water or land under miscellaneous utilization. General type of farming is a main farm practice. Growing beef cattle is the leading farm initiative. Many farms are functioned part time. The operators travel to Clinton, Oak Ridge, Knoxville, and other nearby cities for employment.

The soils of the county molded under trees. They are principally light colored, highly leached, and strongly acid and varies from shallow too deep over rock. Those in the southeastern two-thirds of the county- the Great Valley- have a loamy and clayey sub-soil. Most of the soils in the northwestern third of the country, in the Cumberland Mountains, have loamy subsoil.


The weather of the Anderson County in winter, valleys are very cool with occasional cold and warm spells. The higher slopes and mountaintops are commonly cold. In summertime, valleys are very warm and regularly hot. Mountains are warm throughout the day but are cool at nighttime. Rainfall is a heavy and is evenly distributed throughout the year. Summer precipitation cascades primarily during thunderstorms. In winter, precipitation in the valley is chiefly rain. Occasionally, it snows. In the mountains it is chiefly snow, but rains are frequent. Snow covers persist only at the highest elevation.

1. Charles F. Kovacik and John J. Winberry, South Carolina: The Making of a Landscape (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1987), pp. 16-18.
2. David G. Anderson and J. W. Joseph Garrow & Associates, Inc., Prehistory and History along the Upper Savannah River: Technical Synthesis of Cultural Resource Investigations, Richard B. Russell Multiple Resource Area, Russell Papers, Vols. I and II (Atlanta: Interagency Archaeological Services, National Park Service, 1988), pp. 319-327.

Internet References:
1. Tennessee Virtual Archive (TeVA) URL: http://teva.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/

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