Originally chartered by the Tennessee General Assembly in 1866, the ET&WNC Railroad was completed in 1882 with financing obtained by Pennsylvania industrialist Ario Pardee and his associates.
Ario Pardee was the king of the Pennsylvania coal barons. Born in Chatham, N.Y., on Nov. 19, 1810, Ariovistus Pardee grew up on a farm near Lebanon Springs, N.Y.. By the time of his death in 1892, he stood among Pennsylvania's millionaire elite, one of the founders and major contributors to Easton's Lafayette College.
‘‘Like other pioneers of American industrialization, Pardee, "the silent man,' as many called him, possessed both vision and organizational genius,’’ Donald L. Miller and Richard Sharpless wrote in ‘‘The Kingdom of Coal,’’ published in 1985. ‘‘He was a strong supporter of technical innovations, especially those which enhanced hard coal's value as a fuel.’’ Pardee's financial support and work on the ET&WNC was typical of his contribution to the railroad and mining industries.
Ario Pardee, Sr. died in 1892 and is buried in Hazelton, Pennsylvania. His son, Ario Pardee, Jr. was a noted Union Army commander during the Civil War and also heavily involved with the ET&WNC and the Cranberry Iron and Coal Company. The Pardees were contemporaries of Andrew Carnegie and other major Eastern industrialists and philanthropists, all of whom supported higher education. "Pardee Point" was the most noted scenic view along the Tennessee portion of the ET&WNC Railroad.