Doctoral Dissertations

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



Major Professor

James C. Cobb

Committee Members

Bruce Wheeler, Charles Johnson, John Gaventa


This dissertation investigates the relationships among government authority, community life, and economic development in the Upper Little Tennessee Valley. This area saw extensive growth during the first quarter of the twentieth century because of the exploitation of its timber and mineral resources. These industries introduced transient families into the area, contributing to the fragility of the economic and social structure. These transient families, like the longtime residents, embraced the regular paychecks industrial employment offered, and willingly participated in the exploitation of the area's resources, sacrificing long-term sustainable growth for the short-to-medium-term security of a cash income.

Following that period of rapid growth, the founding of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the construction of TVA's Fontana Dam cut off access to much of the area's resource base and displaced many residents from their homes, disrupting the already tenuous threads holding the area's communities together. Both transient families and longtime residents again adapted to the changing economic conditions by seeking whatever short-term financial security they could obtain.

After the completion of the dam in 1945, residents found their economic options even more severely curtailed. Tourism provided the sole opportunity for escaping the poverty which a half century of extractive growth could not eliminate. By the 1990s, several communities in the Upper Little Tennessee had begun to use tourism as a means of economic growth, but their growth paled by comparison to neighboring counties adjacent to the National Park

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