In 1905, Fr. E. F. Callahan wrote to Bishop Thomas Byrne, explaining why Harriman would be a good permanent center for the East Tennessee Catholic Missions.
Missions of St. Francis de Sales: (Seven Counties-see no. 1) Comprising Counties of Washington, Johnson, Sullivan, Hawkins, Greene, Unicoi, Carter. Mission House at Johnson City….Families 17 (Catholic 8, mixed marriage 9). This field has only an Agricultural population of old time Methodist, Baptist, Presbyterian, etc. There will be very little foreign settlement here. It is a richly settled section. Johnson City is the Commercial, R.R. (railroad), Telephone and Political center.
Harriman Missions: (Nine Counties-see no. 2. 250×200 feet for future mission center) Comprising Counties of Roane, Anderson, Morgan, Fentress, Pickett, Overton, Putnam, Cumberland and Rhea). Mission House and Center at Harriman….Families 31 (Native 10, Foreign 21). This field has a sparse population, much vacant land. A foreign population to some extent now, and a future prospect for a heavy emigration, land being cheap and vast bodies of coal and ore. Mines of coal and iron are opening up and mills or furnaces will follow calling for workmen. Harriman is the Commercial and R.R. center.
Athens Missions: (Eight Counties-see no.3) Comprising the counties of McMinn, Meigs, James, Bradley, Polk, Monroe, Blount, Loudon. Mission House at Athens, Tennessee. Money promised for a future Mission Center.
Now that I have gone over the grounds for the best location for the Apostolate, considering not only present needs but future necessities, and Harriman to my mind presents the best center if we can secure a location that is suitable and reasonable in price then:
1. Personally I like Harriman because there is less prejudice towards Catholics there and more interest shown in our teachings than in any city I have been in. When looking over the city as I came from Nashville, several gentlemen, such as Mr. Duvall, Head of the Hoe and Tool works, Mr. ______, manager of the Leather works, etc., to whom I spoke, became immediately desirous of securing the Mission Center for their town, promising assistance. The Mayor expressed himself, some time ago, as anxious for a Catholic Church. The editor of the paper is willing to throw the weight of his influence to such a consummation also. All of these gentlemen are non-Catholics, with even no Catholic affiliations.
2. Harriman is a cosmopolitan town, seemingly far from sectional prejudice.
3. As a center, it is nearly equidistant from Bristol and from Nashville, as it is from the Georgia line to the Kentucky boundary.
4. All things considered, it is as accessible as even Knoxville, by railroad, to all parts of the Mission Field: the Cincinnati Southern passing through from North to South; the Southern from East to West. The L & N train line being but twelve miles distant with the probability of their entrance into Harriman in the near future.
5. It is accessible, or central, to Knoxville, Nashville, and Chattanooga: As also to Cincinnati and the North over two lines, to Atlanta, Birmingham and the South, and equally so to Washington and New York, either by Asheville or Bristol. This gives advantages when missionaries from other Apostolates can be invited to spend some time teaching in Tennessee.
6. It is the coming center, I believe, of great coal and iron industries, being situated in the midst of unlimited natural resources; and perhaps it may be the center of leather, and woolen, cotton milling.
7. The counties adjacent offer more open land for emigration than any other East Tenn. Section; Anderson, Scott, Morgan, Fentress, Roane, Cumberland, Rhea, etc., counties numbering 17000, 11000, 9000, 6000, 22000, and 8000 inhabitants each, as compared with almost twice that number in any other group of counties.
8. Harriman is a very healthy town, and North, East, South, and West are health resorts, or mineral springs. As a future location for a sanitarium it is unequalled. At Oakdale the A.S. R.R. has a division point, and it is said the Southern and the A.S. intend to erect stops, etc. near Harriman. The O.C. moving theirs from Oakdale, 5 miles from Harriman at present. So it will be taking into account the various mining towns now at her door, the R. Roads, etc. it will be logical location for a Hospital and Educational Ministries.
These Bishop are the conditions that suggest Harriman for an Apostolate. Hoping that you will excuse the length etc. of this letter. I return to Knoxville tomorrow or Friday. So if you desire to reach me I will be there. As soon as I hear from you I will see if the Citizens of Harriman will not donate a location, or at least give us a very low figure on it. We should strike while the iron is hot. Awaiting your commands and begging a store in your prayers,
Your Child in our Lord,