Walker's Ford was a thriving community on both banks
of the Clinch River, with a ford and ferry crossing
apparently from modern Walker's Ford Road in Union
County on the west to Bear Creek Road in Claiborne
County on the east. Later, perhaps in the very late
1800s but probably the early 1900s, a bridge was built
there; Joe Payne has a photo available through the link
The area was inundated when Norris Dam was completed
in 1936, and the bridge was torn down. Much of the surrounding
land which was not flooded is now owned by TVA, which
kept detailed maps of the property owners and cemeteries.
Those maps are included at the end of this article.
Walker's Ford was probably named for Rev. Henry
Walker, who owned land on both sides. The Walkers
began to settle the area in the early 1840s, but at
least some gazetteers in the mid-1850s did not include
the name; Civil War records do clearly indicate that
the name was in use by the war. A letter in AWB1929
attributes the name to his son Daniel Mackmahan Walker,
who operated the ferry there for a number of years,
but the name was in use when Dan was still too little
to have been operating a ferry.
For decades, nearly every family in the area was either
related to or at least connected through marriage to
the Walkers. The community had its own post office,
stores, and a number of homes. It was also a starting
point or waystation for farmers taking their goods downriver
on flatboats for sale. Knoxville was a closer destination,
but, as a major hub for railroads, Chattanooga usually
brought better prices. While the trip downstream was
by boat, the trip home was usually on foot, although
after an especially good sale, a farmer might purchase
a horse for the trip.
The exact bounds are unknown and probably changed over
time. Today, the name usually refers to the Union County
side only, but letters in AWB1929
indicate that people who lived there did at one time
refer to both sides by that name.
More often, though, residents referred to the Claiborne
County side as Bear Creek
or sometimes even Lone
Mountain. In my Family
the name "Bear Creek" is typically used on
the Claiborne County side for locations that were probably
along what is now Bear Creek Road unless contemporary
accounts explicitly used a different place name.
Walker's Ford was a major crossing point of the Clinch,
although there were fords nearby. Troops, bandits, and
everyone else crossed at Walker's Ford during the Civil
War, with a skirmish fought there 2 December 1863.
Even before the war, though, many people from the general
direction of Knoxville likely crossed at Walker's Ford.
Using modern names for streets, travelers often went
the eastern route from Bear Creek Road to Lone Mountain
Road, following it to Little Sycamore Road and Mulberry
Gap Road, reaching the Virginia state line or Mulberry
Gap in about 30 miles. Travelers taking the western
route could easily reach Tazewell and Cumberland Gap,
the latter being about 22 miles away.