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Signal Mountain, Tennessee
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signal mountain

Signal Mountain - How it all Began

the "W" roadThe towns of Signal Mountain and Walden are located on what is known as Walden's Ridge.There are conflicting accounts concerning how Walden's Ridge got its name, but it appears that it was named in the early nineteenth for a John Walling. At this time a few Indians living in the valley below the mountain were the area's only inhabitants. Over the years, what had originally been called Walling's Ridge became Walden's Ridge.

Centuries prior to the Civil War, it is believed that the Creek, Cherokee, and other Native American tribes used Signal Point to send fire and smoke signals. During the Fall of 1863, the Union Army used Signal Point as a communications station to signal various locations in the Chattanooga area. The Union forces had retreated intoChattanooga from the battlefield of the Tennessee riverChickamauga. Their army under siege, Union soldiers were sent to Signal Point to maintain a signal line, which reported on Confederate troop movement and their own wagon supply trains.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, only a few families lived on Walden's Ridge. One landowner, Josiah Anderson, completed the Anderson Pike as a toll road across Walden's Ridge. This gave the people of Sequatchie Valley access to the railhead at Chattanooga. The tollgate, initially located at the top of the"W Road", was later moved to the home of James Conner, who continued to operate it until the 1880's. The Conner Toll House, which still stands, is believed to be the oldest structure on Walden's Ridge.

When cholera struck Chattanooga in 1873, several wealthy families headed for the open spaces of Walden's Ridge. They found relief in the clear air and pure water and were soothed by the health-giving waters of Mabbitt Springs. Summertown, now part of the Town of Walden, grew from the cabins these families built. One of the homes, "Topside", still stands today. The yellow fever epidemic of the South in 1878 sent more people to Walden's Ridge. By then additional cabins and several boarding houses had been built in the Summertown area.

old Alexian InnThe Town of Signal Mountain originated with the purchase of 4,400 acres of land in the Signal Point area by Charles E. James. Mr.James' first contact with Walden's Ridge was during the 1878 yellow fever epidemic. He led a group of people to the Signal Point area to escape the epidemic and with his purchase began plans for a residential community. Mr. James brought the modern world to the mountain. In the eyes of many residents, he was the prophet of progress, a visionary who dreamed of railroads, dams, towns, and a fine hotel surrounded by modern homes on aremote mountaintop.

Thirty years elapsed before Mr. James began developing the Signal Point area. Construction was completed in 1913 of twelve miles of streetcar track, which connected Chattanooga to Signal Mountain. Signal Mountain Inn opened in 1913 and catered to those on their way to winter in Florida. Mr. James knew the hotel needed recreation beyond that of hiking trails and the mineral waters of Burnt Springs so he constructed a casino complete with dance floors across from the hotel. Soon he added two hundred rooms to the Inn.

In 1918, the Signal Mountain Golf Course was completed. In those days, all of Walden's Ridge was open range for cattle. Farmers from Red Bank, Mountain Creek, and the surrounding areas drove their cattle up to Walden's Ridge in spring and leftthem to forageuntil fall. Attracted to the golf course greens, the animals collected there in large numbers. When the Town was incorporated, its first ordinance prohibited running livestock within the Town limits.

On April 4, 1919, the Tennessee Legislature passed the bill that chartered the Town of Signal Mountain. The first mayor was C.E. James. a view from the browWhen Mr. James died in 1925, two hundred houses had been built, most of them within a few blocks of the Signal Mountain Inn. The Alexian Order purchased the Signal Mountain Inn in 1936, built a monastery, and converted the hotel into a home for elderly men. Alexian Village, a retirement community, opened in 1983, and Alexian Inn, an assisted living facility, opened in the old hotel building in 1992.

The 1970's brought many changes to the growing Town of Signal Mountain. A library was established in 1970 and a new fire hall was built. Additional recreational facilities and a new Town Hall were built in 1979.

The Town of Walden was chartered on August 11, 1975. The name "Walden" was chosen over others considered: Summertown, Walden's Ridge, and Albion View. The first elected mayor was W. Fred Hetzler, Sr. When Billie B. Ansel was elected mayor in 1977, Walden became the first town in Tennessee to be governed by a woman. The Walden Town Hall was dedicated on September 12, 1993.

Over the last twenty years, Signal Mountain and Walden have continued to change, grow, and improve. They have retained, however, the beauty and serenity that first attracted the early settlers.

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