By the late 1800s the Roan Creek Valley was one of the areas recognized as having a high potential for economic development due to its vast supplies of timber and sizeable quantities of iron, manganese and other valuable minerals. These natural resources spurred efforts to attract a railroad to serve Johnson County and help the farmers in Upper East Tennessee who were among the poorest in the state. Without rail transportation, reliable water routes, and good roads, they were unable to compete in regional markets. By 1910, railroad service was extended beyond Elizabethton, in adjacent Carter County, into Mountain City. Trains through this portion of Johnson County primarily carried logs and iron ore. Farm products were soon added, however, and area farmers finally had access to regional markets. <.p>
Mountain City as described in 1939 
Mountain City, seat of Johnson County, is a trading center for farmers. Mountain people ride or walk into this town from their distant cabins to buy supplies with "cash money," or to swap eggs, chickens, butter and cream for tobacco, sugar, coffee, salmon, bananas and other "store-boughten" delicacies.
In 1885 the town, first called Taylorsville for an early settler, was given a more picturesque name; it is in a high valley surrounded by mountain peaks. The coldest weather ever registered in Tennessee was recorded here December 30, 1917 when the thermometer dropped to minus 30°.