Wind Power Generators on Buffalo Mountain Photo by Karl Eiermann
Oliver Springs is the only town of any consequence on the Devils Triangle Loop. With a population of some 3,300 it is not large enough to attract major retailers.
The original Native Americans who inhabited this area found excellent hunting grounds and natural springs known to them as "healing waters". The earliest explorers came in the 176os, but settlement didn't begin until the end of the century.
Named for Richard Oliver, the towns first postmaster (1826) and inn keeper, Oliver Springs became known for its mineral springs. By the late 1800s a large hotel had been constructed which catered to wealthy guests looking to bathe in the "healing springs". The railroad came and so did thousands of visitors.
The hotel burned down in 1905 and was never rebuilt. The springs became a thing of the past.
The early 1900s brought coal mining to the area.
In 1942 the U. S. Government bough vast areas of land to the south of Oliver Springs as part of the Manhattan Project and development of the atomic bomb. Oliver Springs became dependent on government employment. By the 1990s this supporting industry scaled back and left the local economy in shambles.
Today there is still mining, but much of the old mining fields have become Coal Creek OHV and Windrock ATV areas, popular with off road vehicle owners. The Devils Triangle has also brought some life back to this backwoods section of Tennessee.
A geographic oddity is that three counties adjoin each other within the city limits of Oliver Springs.
Coal mining, beginning in the 1970s, for a time was the major employer in the Triangle area.
In 1891 there was an uprising of the miners in protest of the state leasing prisoners to the mines and reducing the need for hired workers. Known as the Coal Creek War, several hundred miners took over the prison at Briceville. Miners marched the convicts to nearby Lake City where they were loaded onto a train and sent to Knoxville.
There were several other skirmishes involving releasing of the prisoners and burning of the stockades. There was also a raid on the Cumberland Mine in Oliver Springs. The Tennessee Legislature abolished the act of leasing prisoners in 1896 and constructed the Brushy Mountain State Penitentiary as a result.
Several mining disasters brought national attention to the Triangle area in the early 1900s. In 1902 at the nearby Fraterville Mine 216 miners lost their lives in an explosion. The town lost all but three of its adult males. A large monument surrounded by 89 graves dedicates the lost miners today.
in 1911 another 84 miners died in an explosion at the Cross Mountain Mine.