Transportation Drives Economy
In the early years, most pioneers around Sparta were fairly self-sufficient. However, in 1809, Keys & Clemmon opened the first mercantile establishment. Other entrepreneurs soon followed-- hatmakers, a tanner, tailors and others. In later years, Jesse Lincoln, cousin to President Abraham Lincoln, owned a store in Sparta. And during the 1820s the county and city thrived as more businesses, churches and schools appeared. Sparta was on its way to a bright future.
But it was the turnpike that was surveyed and constructed in 1815 that really started commerce booming in this area. The turnpike was built from Nashville to Knoxville and traversed Lebanon, Sparta and Kingston. The road became a great thoroughfare from east to west, bringing passenger and freight vehicles whose drivers would stop in the town for rest and nourishment. The traffic caused Sparta to quickly spring into prominence.
Large quantities of goods were transported over the highway, and long wagon trains of immigrants passed by daily, seeking homes in the West. It was not uncommon to see four- and six-horse stagecoaches loaded with passengers passing in both directions. A train of from 50 to 100 immigrant wagons winding down the side of a mountain was also a common sight in those days. Sparta was one of the many stopover/relay towns for travelers. The town's merchants and hotel proprietors flourished.