Voices Of The Land

Long before there was a United States or a state of Tennessee, the land that is now East Tennessee was a magnet for travelers and settlers.

Natalie L. Haslam Signature Gallery
It’s the land. It’s not just dirt and soil. Men’s lives are in it.
Farmer on the French Broad River facing removal by Douglas Dam, 1942

Geographically, historically, and politically, East Tennessee is a distinct region within the rest of the state. It is a land of mountains and valleys and rolling hills, a land where the progress of TVA, atomic energy facilities, and a state university blend with cherished traditions and love of place to create a special way of life.

From the Cherokee to the white settler to the advent of TVA and Oak Ridge, the exhibit Voices of the Land: The People of East Tennessee explores the story of the ever-changing, yet always close, relationship of a people to their land.

Visitors can hear more than two centuries of East Tennesseans tell their own stories. History becomes personal, for instance, when the visitors read the words of the Cherokee Chief John Ross, “Is it true you will drive us from the land of our nativity and from the tombs of our Father and our Mothers? …We implore you to forebear.”  Or those of an Oak Ridge worker recalling her supervisor’s warning, “[We] cannot tell you what you are doing.  I can only tell you that if our enemies beat us to it, God have mercy on us.”

The exhibit is divided chronologically and thematically into five sections:

  • Orientation Video. Voices of the Land: The People of East Tennessee
  • The Land Beckons
  • A Land Divided
  • Voices of Opportunities
  • Federal Voices
Their vallies are of the richest soil…. Should this country once come into the hands of the Europeans, they may with propriety call it the American Canaan.
J. W. Gerard DeBrahm, Fort Loudoun engineer, 1756

Voices from the Homefront

East Tennessee Historical Society 2008


The great God of Nature has placed us in different situations…. He has given each their land…he has stocked yours with cows, ours with buffaloe; yours with hog, ours with bear; yours with sheep, ours with deer.
Chief Old Tassel, 1777