City of Red Bank
Hamilton County Tennessee
Before the Civil War, the area we now know as Red Bank was
called Dry Valley or Hamilton. After the war a union church was established
where all denominations came together to worship and the area eventually became
known as Pleasant Hills. In 1885, George S. Hartman, the area's first
Postmaster, received a letter from the Post Office Department requesting that
the name Pleasant Hills be changed because the name was already being used in
several other areas. After receiving the request, Mr. and Mrs. Hartman were
sitting in their home trying to think of another name for their rapidly growing
community when Mrs. Hartman looked out the window and saw the red bank of a
hill, freshly washed by rain. So, in 1887 "Red Bank" became the
community's official name.
Red Bank began as an early rural suburb of Chattanooga running along the
Dayton Pike from Stringer's Ridge to Daisy, TN. It's growth began by a housing
boom following World War I. Early settlements sprang up along the stops of the
Chattanooga Traction Company trolley line. The first of these stops being
Valdeau; then came White Oak, Flora, Morrison, Ford and Red Bank. Other
divisions of the area were called Midvale Park, Oak Wood, Druid Hills and Rustic
Dale. Numerous large and beautiful homes were built in Red Bank along Dayton
Pike in the late 1800s and early 1900s. So many in fact, that in 1924, a
movement began by many of the residents along the Pike, to have the area renamed
"Daytonia." An effort was also made to have the name of the Red Bank
School changed to Daytonia and the Chattanooga Traction Company was even asked
to change the name on the Red Bank Trolley car. Many older settlers of the
Dayton Pike opposed the name change and the efforts eventually faded.
The first school in Red Bank was a five classroom
building erected on the corner of Dayton Boulevard and Morrison Springs Road. It
was built in 1913 as an elementary school. An auditorium was added in 1937 and a
second addition was completed in 1951 making Red Bank Elementary the largest
elementary school in the county. Red Bank's first junior high school was built
on Dayton Boulevard in 1924 and destroyed by fire in 1935. The school was
rebuilt in 1936 and later expanded into a high school. The first graduates of
Red Bank High School received their diplomas in 1940.
By 1945, the population in the area of Red Bank had
grown to over 4, 000 and thoughts of becoming a new city began to arise as an
option that was seriously being considered by many of its residents. Rumors were
running high that the city of Chattanooga might annex Red Bank within its own
boundaries. An incorporation meeting held in January 1945 led to a long and
heated debate among local residents. Many felt that incorporation should be
postponed until after the war so that men who were in the service would have the
opportunity to vote. D. F. Hamilton, a long time resident of Red Bank, led the
opposition by urging, "Leave this incorporation alone until after the war.
Let's put everything we have behind our boys on the fighting front and spend
nothing that might help bring the war to a speedy and victorious close." It
was suggested that a charter be completed for the new city and published in the
local papers so that all residents of the community could understand what
incorporation would mean. The meeting adjourned with no solution and no date set
for another meeting.
In February of 1945, a bill was introduced to the
State Legislature that would allow Red Bank to become a municipality. The bill
was to have set up the machinery for the government of the new city providing a
majority of the qualified voters approved such an action in a referendum to be
held within 45 days of the bill's enactment.
The charter for the new city presented to the
Legislature proposed to divide the new municipality into two districts. One
district would be the area north of Leawood Street and the second south of
Leawood Street. The measure also proposed terms for the mayor and city
commissioners be set for four years, except for those elected the first time.
Members of the city commission were not to be compensated for their services and
the mayor would have no vote in commission maters except in the case of a tie. A
stringent provision outlawing nepotism was included in the charter bill - no
relative of a member of the commission could be employed by the city if they
were related within the fourth degree of the law.
The charter proposed the establishment of a jail
and workhouse to handle prisoners. It would also outlaw the sale of intoxicating
beverages of any nature and give the town commission authority to regulate
places of amusement. The apparent purpose of this provision being to regulate
the showing of "moving pictures" on Sunday.
The State Legislature promised to enact the new
bill and give the people of Red Bank an opportunity to vote on incorporation.
However, area business leaders raised a large opposition to the bill and went so
far as to send telegrams to the Legislature voicing their opposition. Despite
the opposition, Gov. Jim McCord signed the new bill into law on March 1, 1945
and a referendum date was set for April 14 for the citizens to vote on
On April 14, 1945 a mere 478 registered voters cast
their ballots to strongly defeat the measure for Red Bank's bid in becoming a
new municipality. The vote was 95 for incorporation and 383 against. The major
opinion voiced against incorporation was the proposed boundaries for the new
city. Many felt that the southern boundary should have been set at Newberry
Street and should have included White Oak and other areas. Sam Carter, who
resided in Red Bank for many years, complained, "You could turn a snake
lose to crawl the line they had in that incorporation act and he would break his
back trying to get over it." The question of Red Bank becoming Hamilton
County's newest city would not be raised again for another ten years.
In 1955, with a population of over 10,000, fears of
being absorbed by the city of Chattanooga caused the residents of Red Bank to
consider incorporating their community once again. On April 19, 1955 about 200
citizens of Red Bank and White Oak, fearful of being annexed, voted in favor of
incorporating, even though Chattanooga Mayor Olgiati had assured them that the
annexation of Red Bank had not been discussed by the Chattanooga city council.
The State Legislature in 1955 had passed a bill that would have enabled
Chattanooga to annex Red Bank without voter approval. There was now a sense of
urgency for residents of Red Bank to form their own city. Boundaries for the new
city, to be called Red Bank-White Oak, were now to include the voting precincts
of Red Bank 1 and 2 and White Oak. Hixson, Falling Water, Valdeau, Lupton City
and Stuart Heights were not included in the limits of the proposed township.
In June of 1955, of the 4,712 registered voters in
the Red Bank-White Oak area, only 940 cast their votes to make Red Bank-White
Oak the sixth municipality in Hamilton County. The vote ran 631 in favor of
incorporation and 309 against. On July 19, 1955 Red Bank-White Oak elected five
new city commissioners: Paul T. Grammer, James F. Guess, Jr., R. Hayden Landers,
Burk S. "Tom" Millard and Red Bank Elementary School Principal, J. E.
Brown. By a vote of the five city commissioners, Tom Millard was elected Red
Bank's first Mayor.
The new office for the Red Bank-White Oak township was opened in the Masonic Building on Unaka Street. By 1967, new and larger facilities were needed. On October 21, 1967 a new $100, 000 city hall was dedicated on Dayton Boulevard about a block from the old city hall.
Red Bank City Hall dedication
October 21, 1967
In March of 1966, the City
Commissioners of Red Bank-White Oak, took the first steps in attempting to
shorten the cumbersome name of their city. The state highway department had
requested that the long name be shortened because it would not fit on standard
freeway signs that were being erected in the area. The state was already using
the name "Red Bank" to designate the community. The name "White
Oak" could not be used since there was a small community of White Oak, TN
in Campbell County. It was suggested that "Bank" might be taken out of
Red Bank, the "White" out of White Oak and the community named
By August of 1966 the city commissioners of Red
Bank-White Oak had passed an ordinance calling for a referendum at the state
election in November declaring that the name be known as the City of Red Bank.
The residents overwhelmingly approved the name change in the November referendum
and on January 7, 1967 the city of Red Bank-White Oak officially became Red
Aerial view of Red Bank
after widening of Dayton Boulevard
of Red Bank
Burk S. "Tom" Millard
J. E. Brown
R. Hayden Landers
Joe H. Godsey
Tom H Collins
Thomas R. Dodd
Ronnie E. Moore
Ernest E. Lewis
Ronnie E. Moore
thanks to the employees of Red Bank City Hall for their assistance with the
photographs and newspaper articles.