Taking the Greenback Loop

A Day Away by Mike Steely

Fall is a great time to get out and visit some of the least visited small towns in our region. A family drive with a few stops in interesting places can be fun and you might be surprised with what you find.

From Knoxville, you can take Kingston Pike west until it leaves the long commercial district and enters Loudon County. Right at that county line is Dixie Lee Junction, a growing community that once drew diners to the cafe there, now long closed. If you turn left on Highway 11 there, you’ll drive to Lenoir City where you can stop and take a walking tour of the historic Lenoir City Cotton Mill.

Lenoir City also has a great lakeside park that is good for walking, relaxing and fishing. Lenoir City Park has public bathrooms, great lake views, and a boat ramp. There are popular events like concerts there now and then.

From Highway 11, turn left onto Highway 321 where from the new bridge you’ll get a view of the dam where the highway once crossed. Once across you can take Tellico Parkway on the right to Tellico Village or continue along what is also called the Lamar Alexander Highway.

Further down 321, or Lamar Alexander Parkway now, you will find East Main Street on the left which will take you into historic Friendsville, a little town founded by Quakers. It was a secret Underground Railroad stop for runaway slaves who hid in a cave near the Friends Church. The cemetery at the church has the graves of early Quaker settlers and Friendsville has a small downtown section worth visiting.

You can double back toward Lenior City on 321 and take a left onto County Highway 95, taking it south toward Green-back, a community named for U. S. currency and the political party. Along the way keep an eye out for the National Campground meeting house. The congregations began meeting there in 1873 and events are still held in the historic place.

In Greenback you’ll find an abandoned railroad depot and a community museum along with a “castle” built by a local man.  “Fortress of Faith” was built by Floyd Banks Jr. and is located at 250 Lee Shirley Road. The community was settled by ousted residents of nearby Morgantown, which was flooded by the TVA.

Greenback was also a stop on the Underground Railroad and was named for the “Greenback Party” a movement to increase the amount of paper money in our nation.

From Greenback you can take Highway 411 north to Maryville and then take Highway 129, which becomes Alcoa Highway, back toward Knoxville. Or you could follow Highway 411 Southwest to the town of Vonore and visit historic Fort Loudoun and the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum.

Taking a Day Away with the family and visiting well-known and little-known historic places is a great educational and enjoyable experience.