The 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 incorporation.

      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 "Red Oak."

      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 Bank.

 

Click on picture for larger view
Aerial view of Red Bank
after widening of Dayton Boulevard

Mayors of Red Bank

 

1955-1959 Burk S. "Tom" Millard

1959-1963 J. E. Brown

1963-1965 R. Hayden Landers

1965-1971 Joe H. Godsey

1971-1973 Joe Glasscock

1973-1975 Tom H Collins

1976-1977 Ralph Barger

1979-1981 Ralph Barger

1981-1985 Thomas R. Dodd

1983-1985 Ralph Barger

1985-1987 John Ramey

1987-1989 Ralph Barger

1989-1991 Ronnie E. Moore

1991-1993 Lester Barnette

1993-1995 Ernest E. Lewis

1995-1997 Ralph Barger

1997-1999 Pat Brown

1999- Ronnie E. Moore

 

Population Growth

1950 - 10,192

1960 - 10,777

1970 - 12,715

1980 - 13,297

1990 - 12,322

 

2001  by Dennis C. Wilson.  All rights reserved.

 

Special thanks to the employees of Red Bank City Hall for their assistance with the photographs and newspaper articles.