Namesake: Turkey Creek in Knox County

5:56 PM, Nov 29, 2011   |    comments
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For many East Tennesseans, the name Turkey Creek elicits thoughts of retail stores, restaurants, and traffic at the shopping complex in West Knox County.

For most of Farragut native Malcolm Shell's life, the name Turkey Creek was associated with an actual body of water.

"I grew up here. When I was a young boy, I used to do some small game hunting along Turkey Creek," said Shell. "Turkey Creek is a real creek, which is obviously what the shopping complex took its name from. The creek flows into what is now Fort Loudon Lake."

Three different branches of Turkey Creek wind through western portions of Knox County before merging at the Tennessee River: Turkey Creek, North Fork Turkey Creek, and South Fork Turkey Creek.

The South Fork of Turkey Creek is also the most westerly of the three branches. It begins near Everett Road and eventually flows into the main creek at Virtue Road, cutting across the Willow Creek golf course along the way. South Fork Turkey Creek is also known as "Little Turkey Creek."

North Fork Turkey Creek flows along Campbell Station Road. This stream's waters cut a picturesque path through Campbell Station Park. This branch ends where Campbell Station Road ends at Concord Road.

The main Turkey Creek follows Lovell Road, Kingston Pike, and Concord Road until it joins the other branches of the creek.

The entire stream system was known as Turkey Creek centuries before the area housed department stores and movie theaters.

"I guess it goes back to the early settlers who were in this area in 1787. You think about it, that was two years before George Washington was president and settlers were already living here," said Shell. "Colonel David Campbell moved to this property that was given to him with a land grant for service in the Revolutionary War. He chose this place because it was called Grassy Valley and it is a beautiful area."

The creek played a large part in sustaining Campbell and other people along the early frontier.

"This creek and a nearby spring were a source of fresh water. Col. Campbell built the Campbell Station Inn basically at the corner of what is now Campbell Station Road and Kingston Pike where there was access to the water," said Shell. "The Campbell Station Inn was the last stop for people going west where they could stay the night, use holding pens for cattle, and have protection. There was nothing else west of here and the Inn was basically a fort."

Decades later during the Civil War, Turkey Creek was a prominent geographical feature in the fight between Union and Confederate forces at the Battle of Campbell Station.

"The battle was fought here on November 18, 1863. It was fought on both sides of the creek. Of course, the creek became a barrier that was difficult to get across under fire," said Shell.

For all the well-documented history that took place in the areas around Turkey Creek, there is not much to explain why these specific streams earned the moniker Turkey Creek.

One obvious guess is the creeks were named for wild birds in the area.  However, you can find another plausible theory by examining the history of other places named Turkey Creek in the United States.

In many cases, the name Turkey Creek refers to the shape of the creek on a map. Turkey Creeks typically run in three branches that eventually merge together, thereby resembling the shape of a turkey's foot.  That is exactly what happens in West Knox County with Turkey Creek, North Fork Turkey Creek, and South Fork Turkey Creek.

While today Turkey Creek is on the map mostly as a shopping destination, for Shell the actual creeks stand as landmarks in the area he calls home.

"I've worked numerous places in the country, but I always found myself coming back here.  It has changed a lot through the years from being very agrarian to its current state of being quite urban.  But it is still a beautiful place with a rich history and I love it here," said Shell.

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Note: Namesake is the renamed title of the series formerly known as 'Why do they call it that?'

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