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Rocky Top, Tennessee

(originally Coal Creek/formerly Lake City)
City of Rocky Top
Rocky Top City Hall
Rocky Top City Hall
Location of Rocky Top in Anderson County, Tennessee.
Location of Rocky Top in Anderson County, Tennessee.
Country United States
State Tennessee
Counties Anderson, Campbell
Founded 1856
Incorporated 1939
Named for "Rocky Top"
 • Type council-manager
 • Total 1.54 sq mi (3.98 km2)
 • Land 1.54 sq mi (3.98 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
866 ft (264 m)
 • Total 1,781
 • Estimate 
 • Density 1,148.89/sq mi (443.51/km2)
Time zone UTC-5 (Eastern (EST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-4 (EDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 865
FIPS code 47-40240
GNIS feature ID 1290479

Rocky Top (formerly Coal Creek and Lake City) is a city in Anderson and Campbell counties in the eastern part of the U.S. state of Tennessee, northwest of Knoxville. The population was 1,781 at the 2010 census. Most of the community is in Anderson County and is included in the Knoxville Metropolitan Statistical Area. On June 26, 2014, the city officially changed its name from Lake City to Rocky Top, after a last-ditch effort by the copyright owners of the song "Rocky Top" was denied by a federal court.


Founding as "Coal Creek"

Cross Mountain Mine 1917
Child coal miners at Cross Mountain Mine near Coal Creek, 1910. Photo by Lewis Hine.

The town was originally named Coal Creek when it was founded in the early 19th century, after the 1798 Treaty of Tellico opened the area to settlement, taking its name from the stream that runs through the town. Coal Creek and the nearby town of Briceville were the site of a major lockout of coal miners in 1891, which resulted in the town of Coal Creek being occupied by the state militia for over a year after miners attempted to force an end to the use of unpaid convict labor in the mines. This labor struggle, known as the Coal Creek War, was eventually resolved in the coal miners' favor with the abolition of Tennessee's convict labor program. The Fraterville Mine disaster of 1902 occurred nearby, in the village of Fraterville.

Renaming to "Lake City" (1936)

The name "Lake City" was adopted in 1936 after the completion of nearby Norris Dam formed an artificial lake above the dam. Some area residents, including the nonprofit Coal Creek Watershed Foundation, have urged a return to the old name of "Coal Creek" to commemorate the community's heritage.

Renaming to "Rocky Top" (2014)

In 2013, a business group proposed to establish a theme park in the city if the city name was changed to "Rocky Top" to take advantage of the song of that name. On November 7, 2013, Lake City's city council voted to ask the Tennessee General Assembly to amend the city charter to adopt the proposed name. The House of Bryant, which owns the copyright to the song, as well as multiple trademarks and copyrights associated with it, has objected to the name change, asserting that it would violate intellectual property rights. On May 29, U.S. District Judge Thomas A. Varlan denied the House of Bryant's request for an preliminary injunction, holding that renaming the town was not likely to be deemed to be a use in commerce as required for trademark infringement.

On June 26, 2014, the city officially changed its name, after Varlan denied a last-minute attempt by House of Bryant to prevent the vote. House of Bryant's appeal is pending before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals.


Rocky Top is located in northern Anderson County, and is the northern terminus of U.S. Route 441. Interstate 75 serves the city with two exits and leads south 24 miles (39 km) to Knoxville and north 32 miles (51 km) to the Kentucky state line at Jellico, Tennessee.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Rocky Top has a total area of 1.6 square miles (4.1 km2), all land.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1880 800
1890 1,865 133.1%
1910 1,102
1920 1,204 9.3%
1930 1,116 −7.3%
1940 1,520 36.2%
1950 1,827 20.2%
1960 1,914 4.8%
1970 1,923 0.5%
1980 2,335 21.4%
1990 2,166 −7.2%
2000 1,888 −12.8%
2010 1,781 −5.7%
2020 1,628 −8.6%

As of the census of 2000, there were 1,888 people, 815 households, and 485 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,186.1 people per square mile (458.5/km2). There were 900 housing units at an average density of 565.4 per square mile (218.5/km2). The racial makeup of the town was 98.78% White, 0.11% African American, 0.48% Native American, 0.16% Asian, 0.26% from other races, and 0.21% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 0.42% of the population.

There were 815 households, out of which 27.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 38.7% were married couples living together, 16.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.4% were non-families. 37.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 19.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.17 and the average family size was 2.84.

In the town, the population was spread out, with 21.9% under the age of 18, 5.9% from 18 to 24, 24.8% from 25 to 44, 23.8% from 45 to 64, and 23.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 43 years. For every 100 females, there were 78.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 71.3 males.

The median income for a household in the town was $14,844, and the median income for a family was $21,895. Males had a median income of $25,469 versus $17,115 for females. The per capita income for the town was $10,615. About 31.8% of families and 32.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 31.7% of those under age 18 and 23.7% of those age 65 or over.


Norris Dam State Park is located near Rocky Top. It has a Rocky Top address.

Notable people

Rocky Top is the hometown of songwriter Dean Dillon, whose songs have become hits for singers including George Strait, Toby Keith, Keith Whitley, George Jones, and Kenny Chesney. Rocky Top (then Coal Creek) was also the birthplace of early 20th century artist Catherine Wiley (1879–1958).

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