Grainger County was formed from Knox and Hawkins Counties in 1796, the year Tennessee became a state. It is named for Mary Grainger Blount, wife of William Blount, Governor of the Territory of the United States, South of the River Ohio Southwest Territory. Anderson, Claiborne, Campbell, Hamblen, Hancock, Scott and Union Counties were formed from parts of the original Grainger County.
Like many East Tennessee counties, Grainger County was generally opposed to secession from the Union. In Tennessee’s Ordinance of Secession referendum on June 8, 1861, Grainger County voters rejected secession by 1,756 to 495.
Since 1992, Grainger County hosts a festival celebrating the county’s iconic tomatoes, and has special events about the county’s history and its agricultural impact in the state. The festival takes place annually during the last full weekend in July.
Indian Cave is an historic site located on the Holston River near present-day Blaine. The cave was used for centuries before Europeans entered the area, as indigenous peoples settled in the area about 1000 CE. Remains of cane torches and other artifacts located in the cave indicate use by prehistoric indigenous peoples.The Iroquoian-speaking Cherokee migrated into the area from the northeast, making the eastern Ohio River valley and Appalachians down into South Carolina their historic territory.
In the 1700s, a Cherokee village was located just west of the main cave entrance, before the people were pushed out by encroaching Anglo-American settlers. The Donelson Party passed the Indian Cave entrance on their way down the Holston River in 1779 to settle present-day Nashville, Tennessee. In the years after the American Revolutionary War, the number of settlers continued to increase. Under the Indian Removal Act of 1830, Congress authorized the president to remove the Indians from the Southeast to territory west of the Mississippi River.
Robert Hoke, a former Confederate general from North Carolina, purchased the cave on July 21, 1869 as one of his business enterprises after the American Civil War. He had it mined for bat guano, a valuable natural fertilizer.
Area businessmen formed the Indian Cave Park Association on January 4, 1916 to develop the cave as a commercial attraction, as was being done for other caves throughout the Great Smoky Mountains. The Association did not open the cave officially to the public until May 30, 1924. The cave is not open to visitors and is closed to the public as of 2005.