The county seat of Roane County, Tenn. — and even capital of Tennessee at one point — Kingston has a rich history. It started as a military fort in the late 1700s, and most of the city's notable and known citizens continued to serve the state and the nation.
The city was named for Maj. Robert King, who served at Kingston's precursor, Fort Southwest Point. Built in 1792 on the fringe of the Euro-American settlements and bordering Native American territory, the spot served a prominent role in relations with the Native Americans. Kingston even served as Tennessee's state capital — for one day. The Tellico Treaty of 1805 promised to make Kingston the capital of Tennessee if the Cherokee gave up the land that is now Roane County. However, it didn't say for how long. On Sept. 21, 1807, the General Assembly met in Kingston and honored the agreement. The following day, Assembly members returned to Knoxville, reinstating it as the state's capital.
Kingston's recent history has been shaped by Watts Bar, both good and bad. The real estate and vacation spots along Watts Bar Reservoir offer some grand views and spectacular living and leisure options.
But almost a decade ago, it was a different story, when the largest coal ash release in U.S history covered 300 acres of land. Over 100 times bigger than the infamous Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989, the 2008 TVA Kingston Fossil Plant coal ash spill became national news when more than 1.1 billion U.S. gallons of coal ash slurry was released right before Christmas.
Today, the city's efforts to rebuild and rebrand are growing stronger each year.
*Time zone: Eastern Standard
*The annual Smokin' the Water celebration each July 4 has become a crowd favorite in Kingston. The event, which celebrated its 10th year in 2017, draws people from all over East Tennessee and includes something for everyone. There are parades, car shows, barbecue cookouts, a raft race and multiple concerts before the fireworks show over Watts Bar Lake, which the town's website happily states starts at "dark o'clock." (kingstonparks.com)
A TASTE OF ITALY
*In a day and age in which everyone from Taco Bell to Subway has a pizza option, the old-school, family owned Mama Mia's Restaurant and Pizzeria is a rare delight. Forget delivery for a moment and spend some time with Miss Lottie, the renowned genius behind the blended European treats. The name of the restaurant gives away the cuisine, but Miss Lottie's German background is evident in Mama Mia's famous sauerkraut-and-sausage pizza. (705 W. Race St.; 865-376-5050)
*Like most towns, there are a number of parks and options for those with outdoor interests, in both the broad and strict definitions of the term.
*Take, for instance, the county's largest sports complex, the Brillo Miller Sports Complex located just across the river in Rockwood, Tenn. It draws numerous softball and baseball tournaments a year, and welcomes families to enjoy its picnic pavilion and new playground. (700 S. Chamberlain St., Rockwood, Tenn.; 865-354-6967; roanetourism.com/vendor/105/rockwoods-brillo-miller-sports-complex)
*Plus there's the John Knox Center and the Boy Scout facility Camp Buck Toms. The Knox Center offers organized retreats and events for campers of all ages. (591 West Rockwood Ferry Road; 865-376-2236; johnknoxcenter.org)
*But most of Kingston's outdoor appeal comes down to Watts Bar Lake, which covers more than 70 square miles. The water sports are evident, but there are a lot of fishing and bird-watching opportunities as well. (wattsbarlakeinfo.com)
COMMITTED TO A CAUSE
*Kingston's famous sons and daughters were called to serve state and country in a variety ways, from military leadership to leading the state's favorite football team.
*There was Col. Robert Byrd, who served for the Union Army in the Civil War and became a state senator. There was George Gillespie, who received the Medal of Honor for Civil War heroics and served as acting Secretary of War and Army Assistant Chief of Staff in the early 1900s. Kingston native Martin W. Littleton was a U.S. congressman for New York from 1911-13, and native Sam Rayburn was the longest-serving U.S. Speaker of the House in American history.
*But perhaps the most known native was Bowden Wyatt, who reached the College Football Hall of Fame both as a player for the University of Tennessee and again as a coach for the Vols, one of only three men to attain double inductions. In 1956, the same year he led the Vols to the SEC Championship, he was named SEC Coach of the Year and National Coach of the Year.
Sources: census.org, tennesseerivervalleygeotourism.org, wikipedia.com, timesfreepress.com, johnknoxcenter.org