Big Ridge State Park was created in the 1930s as part of the Norris Project. The project was developed by the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), National Park Service, and the Civilian Conservation Corps. The Norris Project turned into three state parks (Big Ridge, Norris Dam, and Cove Lake). The park officially opened in May of 1934. Big Ridge is located about 25 miles away from Knoxville in Maynardville, TN.
In 1783, a man by the name of Henry Sharp established a pioneer fort beside Norris Lake in what is now Big Ridge State Park. When the fort was established it was part of Hawkins County, today it is located in Union County. Sharp brought his family as well as the families of his neighbors. Many of these families are still prominent members of Union County including Sharp, Graves, Hinds, Gibbs, Loy, Miller and Rice. Sharp’s Station was part of a network of trade routes and safe stops for travelers en route to Jacksboro . Some of the other stations in this network included: James White’s Fort, Well’s Station, Gibbs’ Blockhouse, Raccoon Miller’s Blockhouse, and Holmack’s Station.
On November 13, 1794 a settler from Sharp’s Station by the name of Peter Graves was ambushed by Native Americans on top of Big Ridge about a half-mile away from the station. The Natives where hiding between two huge boulders. Peter was killed and scalped. Peter was laid to rest in Lon Sharp Cemetery. He was the first settler to be buried there. A few weeks later the station was attacked. Fighting went on well into the night, by morning, none of the settlers were harmed and several attackers were wounded. The raiding party withdrew across the river. Fighting continued sporadically until the summer of 1794.
Norton Grist Mill
The mill was constructed in 1825 by Tim McCoy, who transferred operations to Lewis Norton and his sons. In the 1930s the TVA purchased the mill and surrounding lands as part of the Norris Project. People from all over the area relied on the mill to turn their corn into corn meal. The owner of the mill would take one gallon of meal out of each bushel ground into corn meal as payment. The mill wasn’t just for grinding corn, it was a spot for social gatherings. Locals would gossip with neighbors, traded knives and horses, played music, and sometimes told fairytales. The mill that stands today is not the original mill. The park service reconstructed it in 1968, vintage features from the original still remain including the raceway, gears, wheel shaft and mill stones.
In the 1800s Maston Hutchinson and his family settled in the Big Ridge area. While living in the area Matson’s daughter, Mary, was stricken with Tuberculosis. Like so many that contracted this disease she did not survive. Maston continued to live in the area until his death in 1910. He was laid to rest in the Norton Cemetery located just down the trail from his family home.
L.B. & Della Hutcheson
Lewis Bratch Hutcheson and his wife Della where amongst the settlers living in the Dark Hollow region of Big Ridge. L.B. was a Sheriff of Union County from 1930 until his death in 1935. L.B. was killed in the line of duty in May of 1935 when a group of criminals that had just escaped from the Cocke County Jail opened fire on road block L.B. had sat up on the Highway 33 bridge. After L.B.’s death, his wife Della was selected by the Union County Court to be the new Sheriff. She was the first female Sheriff of Union County and only the third in the state of Tennessee.