The Collinsville Community ›
Collinsville is located in the fork of Little Wills Creek and was first named Lynchburg for the Lynch brothers (Simon, Boyd and Elijah) who settled in the area around 1814. The city was renamed Collinsville during the 1840’s after Alfred Collins. Alfred Collins was born in Rhea County, Tennessee, and educated at Greenville College in Tennessee. He and his wife, Mahalia Emily Pierce, moved to Alabama and Collins taught school at Sulphur Springs. He then moved to what would become Collinsville and remained there for the rest of his life.
In 1852 the State Legislature granted a charter to a group of men in DeKalb County permitting the building of a railroad from Chattanooga to Elyton, which became known as Wills Valley Railroad. In 1858 twelve miles of railroad were built running from Wauhatchie to Trenton, which is now the oldest section of the AGS Railroad. The Civil War stopped all construction, but it was continued after the war. The railroad operates today as a branch of Norfolk Southern Railway.
The railroads transported goods, farm products, animals and people with a special car for the mail. By the middle of the twentieth century automobiles and buses became the transport of choice for passengers, just as trucks did for goods and farm animals. In 1970 the railroad took the passenger trains off the line, which is now used only for freight. The Collinsville Depot was moved to Canyonland Park on the brow of Little River Canyon on Lookout Mountain, where it fell into disrepair and was demolished.
In 1884, fire destroyed the depot, the Hall-Mackey store and several smaller stores. The town burned again in 1900 leaving only three buildings standing in the downtown area. Once again the depot burned, along with several railroad cars. The fire then crossed the railroad tracks and ignited the Holmes Hotel and other buildings. The three buildings that survived the fire were G.W. Roberts, C.C. Jordan’s and H.R. Jordan and Son.
Flooding was also a problem for Collinsville, which is in a narrow valley between Lookout Mountain and a ridge. Little Wills Creek could not contain the water from heavy rains flowing down the slopes and into the creek. Flood waters from these rains would spread through the town and into buildings. In 1903 the creek channel was enlarged and straightened and two concrete bridges were constructed, but flooding continued to be a problem. A flood relief project was begun by Blythe Brothers Construction Co. of Charlotte, NC to excavate the channel and construct levees and concrete flood walls. The completion of the project on July 1, 1939, was celebrated with a town picnic.
Collinsville has one of the south’s oldest and largest flea markets. Started in 1972, Collinsville Trade Day has over 800 booths and sometimes hosts over 30,000 shoppers on a good weather day. You can find used merchandise, antique collectibles, pets, farm animals, farm equipment, trees, plants, pottery, cast-iron pots and many other items. Go early to get the best deals.
For more information on the history of Collinsville, visit the official Collinsville Website History page compiled by the Collinsville Historic Association.