Knoxville is so full of interesting secrets and amazing history. Today I had the pleasure of driving on Knoxville’s first racetrack. The story was explained to me that after the civil war, an ex-slave [Cal Johnson] was awarded the gruesome contract to collect and bury the dead Union soldiers. That ex-slave became a millionaire and with his fortune created the first thoroughbred racetrack in Knoxville, TN. The field in the center of the racetrack is also known as being the location of the first airplane landing in Knoxville. This racetrack exists today and later this week, I will upload a video of a drive around the track.
On an unrelated note, I learned that the animosity between South Knoxville and Downtown Knoxville is rooted in history even if today’s Knoxvillians do not know why they detest each other. Apparently when the Great Depression hit, many Appalachians left their mountain homes seeking prosperity elsewhere. Naturally, many found the "big city" of Knoxville. Blue blood Knoxvillians did not appreciate the influx of foreigners to their fair city and took a dislike to the Appalachians. While the blue blood Knoxvillians primarily resided to the north of the river, the Appalachians took residence to the south of the river known today as South Knoxville. The Appalachian influence in South Knoxville is the reason for South Knoxville’s uniqueness and eccentricities.
n.b. None of this has been fact checked and was conveyed as an oral history.
tl;dr: Knoxville’s first horse race track still exists and was also the location of the first airplane to land in Knoxville.