Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Glen Oaks, LaFollette, Tennessee
Harvey Marion LaFollette (1858-1929) was born in Wisconsin to a politically-active family. Family members included members of the U.S. House of Representatives elected from Wisconsin, Indiana (2), and Washington; two U.S. Senators from Wisconsin; and a Wisconsin Governor, as well as lesser state-level officials. Harvey LaFollette served as Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction before moving to Tennessee.
In about 1891, Harvey and his brother, Grant, bought 37,000 acres of land around Big Creek Gap, southwest of Cumberland Gap. Here they founded the Lafollette Coal, Iron, and Railway Company which would soon employ 1,500 people and operate the largest blast furnace in the south. They would lay out a town they would name LaFollette, and Harvey would build what remains the largest house in the city.
An interesting sidebar discovered while researching this post was the reason behind LaFollette's unusually wide streets. It seems Harvey Lafollette asked his good friend John Fox, Jr., to help him design the town that would be his base of operations. Fox told his friend to build the streets extra wide because everyone would someday have two buggies and two wagons and would need lots of room. As a result, LaFollette is one of few towns where buildings haven't had to be torn down for highway widening projects. This John Fox, Jr., of course, is the famous author of the prototypical Appalachian novels The Little Shepherd of Kingdom Come (1903) and Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1908). And, yes, I own and have read copies of each.