Just outside of Chattanooga Tennessee, Rossville has seen a lot of change since its foundation in the early 1800s. Although the city was not incorporated until 1905, it was known as Poplar Springs going back 120 year previous to that date. Rossville was named for John Ross, the man who established a Ferry across the Tennessee River as well as the Trading Post that would one day become the city of Chattanooga. In 1838, settlers began to replace Rossville's previous residents, the Cherokee Indians who had just vacated the area via the Trail of Tears.
In 1905, Peerless Woolen Mills was established in the newly incorporated town. This would be the first of many textile mills which would eventually turn the small town into a prosperous city. During World War Two, Rossville boomed due to Peerless being the primary manufacturer of blankets used among the armed forces. It became the largest single-unit textile mill in the world! The town was known for its nice shops as well as a dance hall across from the Peerless Mills. The Peerless plant burned down in the 1967 fire that would go down as one of the largest industrial fires in US history. The 1.5 million square foot building went down, costing 1,400 jobs and over 2 million in damages.
As happened across the United States in textile mills everywhere, drastic downsizing occurred in the mills of Rossville and the population experienced the devastating effects of rampant unemployment. While older residents of the area still reminisce on the good old days of Rossville, many younger ones struggle to keep their family afloat in the fragile climate of Rossville's main streets. Some of the old businesses still exist. Sherrill’s TV, Brody’s Jewelry, Best Jewelry, Rossville Bank, Brock Insurance, Roy’s Restaurant, and Dream Cream can still be seen with their lights on and cars in their parking lots. Stores like Hixson’s Men Store, The Jo Ann Shop, Vassey’s Men Store, Personality, and the LaDean that once made Rossville the place to shop are long gone. They have been replaced with Pawn shops and Second Hand Merchandise stores. Vacant lots are often filled with men and women selling items out of their cars on on card tables. Empty mills and factories press in from every side, an all-too-obvious reminder to residents of past glories and prosperity.
When one looks at the current statistics of Rossville, it is hard to take heart.