Grainger County

Albert Lea


There’s a city in Minnesota named for a native of Grainger County, which is odd.┬áThis native of Grainger County also fought for the Confederacy, which makes this fact even odder.

Albert Lea, Minnesota, is named for Albert Lea, who was born in Grainger County in 1808 and attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, graduating in 1831.

Like so many West Point graduates of that era, Albert Lea became an engineer, which in those days meant he was also a surveyor and cartographer. Albert spent his first five years out of the academy posted at Fort Des Moines. From there he explored, surveyed and mapped parts of Iowa and Minnesota, which is why Albert Lea, Minnesota, and the lake beside it were named for him in the 1850s.

Charles McGaha

Speaking of Grainger County and wars: Tennessee had nine Congressional Medal of Honor recipients during World War II. One of them was Charles McGaha of Grainger County.

McGaha was fighting in the Philippines and crossed a road under a hail of bullets to save an injured comrade. Injured himself, he returned to his men, then removed another wounded soldier. Then he carried a third man to safety, and finally collapsed from loss of blood and exhaustion.

The story doesn’t end there. Charles McGaha survived the war but was stabbed to death in a taxi cab in Columbus, Georgia in 1984. Today there is a small section of road in Columbus named for this Tennessee hero.

Grainger is also the only county in Tennessee named for a woman.

Mary Grainger Blount was the wife of William Blount, who was governor of the Territory South of the Ohio River. Before Tennessee became a state in 1796, it was part of this territory.