Nestled at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, McMinn County not only offers access to outdoor recreation such as whitewater rafting, hiking, mountain biking, and several lakes but also offers Mayfield Dairy Farms offering free tours, top rated museums, winery, train rides, plane rides, a picturesque downtown with unique shopping, and eateries. Known as "The Friendly City," the community is host to an active arts center that offers a variety of plays, musicals, and art shows, and also is the proud home of Tennessee Wesleyan College.
When explorers arrived in the Athens area, they found the Cherokee Indians living on the beautiful land, located halfway between Cherokee villages of Great Tellico and Overhill. The Cherokees sold the land north of the Hiwassee River (McMinn County) to the United States government in 1819 naming Calhoun as the first county seat. It was not long before the county seat was relocated to a more central location, known originally as Pumpkintown and later renamed Athens (believed to be named after Athens, Greece due to similarities in topography). In 1836 the Cherokee Removal started as voluntary, but by 1838 it became mandatory. The final leg of the forced march is known as the "Trail of Tears," and resulted in the deaths of many Native Americans.
In 1837 the Hiwassee Railroad began one of the first railroad constructions connecting Dalton, GA and Knoxville, TN but shortly after construction began it was halted in 1839 due to the Great Depression and did not start again until 1849.
McMinn County found itself divided by the Civil War (even after Tennessee joined the Confederacy in 1861); sending 12 units to fight with the Union Army and eight units to fight for the Confederacy. A hotel across from the McMinn County Courthouse, served as a brief headquarters for Union General William T. Sherman.
The South as a whole, suffered a difficult time after the war and rebuilding was hampered in the Athens area with slow, but steady, growth in manufacturing and industrial companies.
National attention was gained with the "Battle of Athens" on August 1-2, 1946 when World War II veterans, suspicious of foul play with the ballots, used force to ensure that on the day of local elections every vote "was counted as cast."
McMinn County is comprised of a rich heritage and history.