Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association
The Tennessee Overhill Heritage Association (TOHA) began in 1990 when the southeastern Tennessee counties of McMinn, Monroe, and Polk were selected as a pilot area for the National Trust for Historic Preservation's "Heritage Tourism Initiative." At that time a diverse group of people, organizations, and government agencies serving the three counties came together to build a different kind of tourism program, one that honored local history, traditions, culture, and natural resources. Those early visionaries included museum directors, business owners, artists, outdoor enthusiasts, tourism professionals, managers of public lands, farmers, civic volunteers, and ordinary people who love this place they call home. T
The National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development were the lead agencies for the Heritage Tourism Initiative, providing guidance through three years of training, planning, and project implementation. Upon completion of the pilot project period, TOHA became a permanent 501c3 not-for-profit organization. T
Why is the region called the "Tennessee Overhill?"
This region covers McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties in Southeast Tennessee, as well as the southern portion of the Cherokee National Forest. The organizers of the Tennessee Overhill Heritage Assoctiation named the region after the historic Overhill Cherokee towns that were here prior to statehood. Because the Historic Cherokee Settlements that were located in East Tennessee rested on the western slopes of the Appalachian Mountains, they were described as being "overhill" from the Carolina settlements. After consulting with Cherokee cultural specialists, "Tennessee Overhill" was deemed an appropriate name for the region.
To promote and preserve the natural and cultural resources of McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties through a cultural tourism program designed to:
- increase visitation to the region
- serve as an educational tool
- act as a catalyst for economic development
- strengthen local capacity
- Worked with the Old Line Railroad Coalition to preserve the Historic L&N "Old Line" Railroad corridor from Etowah to Copperhill.
- Coordinated an historical survey along the entire "Old Line" corridor, which led to a 19-mile section of the line, between the historic District of Reliance and Farner, Tennessee to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
- Established a partnership with Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum and the City of Etowah for passenger train excusions known as the Hiwassee River Rail Adventure.
- Unicoi Turnpike Trail - The route over the Southern Appalachians known as the Unicoi Turnpike was used as an artery of trade and warfare before written history. TOHA conducted historical research, produced a trail guide, installed highway markers, published a book about the history of the Unicoi Turnpike Trail.
- Furs to Factories Heritage Trail - Produced a guide to walk people through the history of the Overhill Region with each community serving as an exhibit, or chapter in the unfolding story. A guidebook was published, along with a trail brochure, and interpretive signs were installed at selected points along the trail. TOHA worked with several communities to develop new interpretation, create new exhibits, and produce new public programs. The "Furs to Factories Heritage Trail" was featured in the April 2008 issue of National Geographic Traveler on its Driving Tours of Appalachia Map. The trail was also highlighted in a case study on successful cultural tourism by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
- Featured as a case study in the National Trust for Historic Preservation's publication, "Share your Cultural Heritage: Cultural Tourism Success Stories, 2001
How to Support
TOHA is governed by a volunteer Board of Directors. Annual funding is provided by local governments, with special projects funded through grants, donations, earned income, and partnerships.