South Pittsburg and the surrounding farmland along the Tennessee River have a long history of Native American settlement. Ancient trails throughout the region led to historically significant sites like Long Island and Burns Island (formerly Lowry Island), which can be seen from the riverbanks at South Pittsburg Municipal Park. The Cherokee dominated the area in the 1700s and early 1800s.
Small-scale mining operations began in South Pittsburg in the mid-1800s. The town’s access to the Tennessee River and the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad gave investors hope the region could become a major industrial center, which is how it became known as “South” Pittsburg. Just north of South Pittsburg, along the South Cumberland Plateau and Walden’s Ridge, there were coal mines in Whitwell, coke ovens in Victoria, iron ore in Inman and smelters in South Pittsburg.
Lodge Manufacturing Company – one of America’s oldest cookware companies – was founded in South Pittsburg in 1896 by Joseph Lodge and his wife. The company is still owned and managed by the descendants of the Lodge family, and a new Lodge Factory Outlet Store is located downtown next to the manufacturing facility.
South Pittsburg’s quaint downtown features shops, restaurants and the historic Princess Theater, which has been revived in recent years to showcase live musical performances and theater productions. An iconic blue steel bridge can be seen in the horizon from downtown crossing the river to New Hope. Each April, thousands of visitors descend upon the town to enjoy food, music and festivities during the National Cornbread Festival.
Beautiful Sweeten’s Cove is located just minutes from South Pittsburg, featuring winding Battle Creek and the historic Bean Roulston Graveyard. Sequoyah, developer of the Cherokee alphabet, is said to have lived in this area along Battle Creek and the Tennessee River with his brother-in-law, Major George Lowery, and Lowery’s wife (Sequoyah’s half-sister), Lucy Benge The Bean Roulston cemetery is the final resting place of many early settlers of Marion County. A small Civil War battle took place in the cove on June 4, 1862, and the cemetery has markers for 20 unknown soldiers. Sweetens Cove Primitive Baptist Church, which was built in 1850, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.