- Population: 118,186 (2006 Census estimate)
- Founded: 1796; named after William Blount, first governor of the Territory South of the River Ohio
- County seat: Maryville, population 26,433; named after Mary Blount, wife of William Blount; hometown of U.S. Sen. Lamar Alexander
- Alcoa, population 8,463; named after the Aluminum Company of America, which has a large plant there
- Louisville, population 2,176; core of the town lies along the shore of Fort Loudoun Lake (Tennessee River) adjacent to Louisville Point Park
- Friendsville, population 924; home to quarrying operations for Tennessee marble. It also has been home to the Society of Friends Church, which gave the town its name
- Rockford, population 816; home to Rockford Manufacturing Co., a textile company owned by the Koella family
- Townsend, population 260; gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park
- Attractions: Great Smoky Mountains National Park; Foothills Parkway
MARYVILLE - Beyond question, Maryville, carved out of a wilderness before Tennessee was even a state, has evolved into a municipality that faces big-city issues, even though its population remains only about 26,000.
Its proximity to the scenic Great Smoky Mountains, low tax rate and vibrant business community make Maryville attractive to those looking to relocate. By the same token, those who have roots in the city seem content to remain.
The city's forward thinking can be symbolized by its 2-year-old Municipal Building with its high-tech infrastructure and sophisticated security. But its respect for its heritage can be found in the downtown district, where classic old buildings are still being utilized by modern commercial enterprises.
Sally McNiell, city historian and a retiree from the history faculty at Maryville College, said Maryville was founded in 1785 as a fort on Pistol Creek in what was then called the Territory South of the River Ohio.
The fort, she said, offered protection from nearby Cherokee Indians who were, to say the least, not entirely enthusiastic about the intrusion of European settlers.
Early residents were mostly from Scots-Irish and German stock and came from Virginia, upper East Tennessee and North Carolina, McNiell said. The early economy was based on subsistence agriculture, trapping, iron forges and grist mills.
Why Maryville's exact location was selected has to do with the availability of water and where streams could be crossed, either by ford or ferry. Settlers also had to deal with land grant and safety issues, McNiell said.
If Maryville residents had goods to sell outside the area, they were generally taken to Louisville, which was more of a transportation hub with its position near the Tennessee River.
But as time went on, Maryville, named for the wife of William Blount, the territorial governor who gave his name to the county, began to attract people with educational opportunities.
McNiell said that ministers of the day would establish schools in their church houses. Indeed, that was what gave birth to the Southern and Western Seminary in 1819. That institution later became Maryville College.
During the Civil War years, Maryville, which was chartered as a city on July 11, 1795, was a stronghold of abolitionist thinking and stood foursquare with the Union forces. Only 24 percent of Maryville residents voted to secede from the Union, histories say.
Politically, Maryville and Blount County even today can be counted on to support the party of Lincoln in most state and national elections.
Also today, education remains one of Maryville's most important attractions. In addition to Maryville College, a respected private liberal arts institution in the heart of the city, many parents go to great lengths and expense to place their children in Maryville schools because of the system's high academic standards.
Maryville High School also is a perennial champion in football in the state.
The city today struggles to control the inevitable growth that will come in future years. Residents are concerned that increased population and the requisite infrastructure requirements will not damage the natural beauty and resources of the area, nor its rural character, anymore than necessary.
It is a fine line that government and business must walk to heed that admonition.
© 2008, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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