Nestled on the banks of the Hiwassee River, the “twin cities” of Charleston and Calhoun form one of Tennessee’s oldest settlement areas and are rich in history. Drawn to this region for its abundant natural resources and wildlife, early peoples built villages and cultivated the soil. Much later, the Cherokee arrived, and Charleston became a gateway into the Cherokee Nation, as travelers needed a passport to enter the town. In 1838, life here changed when the federal government forced the Cherokee to leave on the Trail of Tears. Soon after, Union and Confederate armies occupied the towns and pillaged the farms during the Civil War. Following this destruction, the area became an agricultural and transportation center, shaped dramatically by the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Chickamauga Lake in the late 1930s. Hollywood came here in 1960 and told the story of that change through the critically acclaimed film, Wild River. The Hiwassee River Heritage Center introduces these stories and many more through interpretive panels and displays.
The Center for Historic Preservation funded the development and creation of all of the exhibit panels and displays for the Heritage Center. I was charged with writing the text for the panels, finding and securing appropriate images and artifacts, and overseeing the exhibit’s production and installation.