Scientists have traced the human habitation of East Tennessee to the settlement of Early Woodland Indians, who entered the region around 1500 B.C. These people migrated along the Hiwassee River and its tributaries. A second group of Mississippian Indians eventually entered the area, establishing a way of life lasting until the appearance of the Cherokee. In the early 1700s, the Cherokee established supremacy in the East Tennessee region and remained uninterrupted until the removal in 1835. Objects in the exhibit date back to the Mississippian Indians and continue to the Cherokee. Items on display showcase the Native American way of life including pottery, beadwork, hunting prowess, and agriculture.
Settlers moved into the Ocoee Region because of the favorable climate, fertile soils, and rivers. Many people came into this region using large covered wagons, one of which can be seen on display. In addition, this exhibit explores the daily life of a settler, including their home life, work in the fields, and educational opportunities. Some of the items showcased include a pioneer rope bed, school bell from Eureka Valley school house, and farming tools all dating to the early-mid 1800s.
From copper mining to major industrial enterprises, Bradley County has always been a center for trade and commerce. An industrial boom began with the building of the railroad through the center of town. This specific moment spelled success for Cleveland’s trade. Hardwick Stove Company and Dixie Foundry built prosperous businesses in the stove industry. Additionally, Hardwick Woolen Mills, Cleveland Chair Company, and other companies developed and prospered in our town. Artifacts on display showcase these specific companies including the Hardwick Woolen Mill whistle, stoves from each of the industries, photographs of workers, and various advertising materials.
The Ocoee region and Bradley County have a proud military history starting with the American Civil War. On display are military uniforms for Corporal Paul Huff, Medal of Honor recipient during World War II and Corporal Clarence Richmond, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross during World War I. The Museum also displays additional uniforms, medals, weapons, and other military-related items from the American Civil War through the Gulf War.
The exhibit also explores the development of downtown, including artifacts from various local businesses including a grocery store, hardware store, and several others. The Ocoee region’s role in the 1996 Olympics is highlighted extensively, as well as, the outcome of many of the industries that started in the early 1800s.