History of Campbell County, Tennessee

Time Line


By Dallas Bogan

Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan. 

The following consists of the early history of Claiborne County, Tennessee, as written by ROBERT P. CARR, Tazewell, TN 1894. I will leave the spelling as it was originally written.


     In order to extend this little book a few pages further, I will give a sketch of the earliest settlements in the territory now known as CLAIBORNE County was Fort BUTLER on BALL Creek and a station was also made on Station Creek, for which the creek has ever taken its name. Also another station of whites at YOAKUM Station, in Powell's Valley.

     The above mentioned settlements were the first in this country. It will be remembered that people had to live in close settlements and build forts for protection against the Indians. They were often shot down if caught outside their forts. One instance I will relate. In the Station Creek settlement there lived a family by the name of ROBINSON.

     One morning soon their horses had strayed away from the fort. One young man of the family (James ROBINSON) went in search of the horses. He was going through a large cane brake, near where the city of ARTHUR now stands. At a large spring he was shot by the Indians. He ran nearly a half mile and fell and expired in a few minutes. He was buried at the place he died and his grave is, to this day, marked, it being more than one hundred and twenty years ago. The spring has ever since been called BUTCHER Spring.

     The settlement at Fort BUTLER was once attacked by a large squad of Indians. The whites succeeded in getting them surrounded on a high bluff near the mouth of SYCAMORE and pressed them until they jumped over the cliff and were either killed or drowned. They killed nearly all the enemy. This was a great victory for Fort BUTLER. They were not molested any more for a long time.

     The famous CUMBERLAND GAP was a noted passway for whites going from North Carolina and the mother settlement on the WATOUGA to the FRENCH LICK settlement on CUMBERLAND River. This is already mentioned. The first emigrants from WATAUGA to FRENCH LICK floated down the HOLSTON and TENNESSEE Rivers. They were troubled so by the Indians that they were compelled to abandon that route and go by way of Cumberland Gap. They wre conducted through the mountains from Cumberland Gap to HAZEL PATCH, now a station on the Louisville & Nashville Railroad, by Daniel BOONE.

     There was no roads in them days. They traveled through the dense forests by blazed pathways. It was along this road that the 500 soldiers traveled, under the command of Major EVANS, to relieve the FRENCH LICK settlement. As already stated, it might be of interest to tell you how these soldiers were paid by the FRENCH LICK Settlement. There was a tax levied, which was the first tax known to the State of Tennessee, as follows:

     "Thirty shillings was levied to the head of each family, one fourth in venison and bear meat at ten shillings per one hundred pounds, one fourth in corn at four shillings per bushel, one eighth in salt at six-teen dollars per bushel, one eighth in pork at eight dollars per one hundred pounds and one fourth in money. Every man was to deliver his taxes to Major EVANS."

     I will state that the first emigrants from WATAUGA to FRENCH LICK numbered about three hundred. They made their journey in the winter of 1779, and it is said that that was the coldest winter that has ever been experienced since that time. As already stated, they floated down the river on flat boars. One family in the crew had small pox. It was necessary to keep them behind far enough for the others to keep out of reach of the contagious disease.

     They were attacked by the Indians at HIWASSEE, and, as this family was behind, they were captured. This spread the disease among the Indians and killed them by the hundreds.

     CLAIBORNE County was laid out in 1801 and named in honor of W.C.C. CLAIBORNE, one of the first supreme judges of the state and the first representative in congress from Tennessee. The first county court was held at the house of John OWENS, December 7, 1801. The following magistrates were present:

     Isaac LANE, Joseph WEBSTER, Wm. TRENT, Jas CHIUM, Abe LENHAM, John WALLEN, Matthew SIMS, John VANBEBBER, Wm. ROGERS, George READ, C. NEWPORT, John CASEY, Joseph NATIONS and James RENFROE.

     The oath of office was administered by Andrew EVANS and Joseph COBB, magistrates of GRAINGER County. Isaac LANE was chairman and Walter EVANS clerk.

     David ROGERS was first sheriff, but, being unable to give bond, John HUNT, Sr., was elected in his place.

     The next term of court was held at the house of John HUNT, who lived where TAZEWELL is now located. The third term of court was held at the house of Elisha WALLEN. It was then that a small frame courthouse was built and it is standing in Tazewell to this day.

     The first resident lawyer in Tazewell was Luke BOWYER.

     The court appointed commissioners to locate the county site for CLAIBORNE County, Viz: George REED, John VANBIBBER, Matthew SIMS, Abe LENHAM, Jos. WEBSTER, John BULLARD and Silas WILLIAMS.

     At that time there was three places contesting for the location. One was OLD TOWN, in Powell's Valley; one at BIG SPRINGS, the other one at RUSSELL's CREEK, the present location.

     The committee visited the three places and considered the application and when they visited RUSSELL CREEK they located the site there. At the fork of the MULBERRY GAP and CUMBERLAND GAP roads there was a grocery where whiskey was sold at ten cents a quart. The committee became top heavy and while drunk located the county site on RUSSELL CREEK and went home.

     The town of TAZEWELL is now about ninety years old. It has never grown to much magnitute, yet she has held her own and preserved a good name.

     In the history of CLAIBORNE County there has only been two hangings for murder. One about sixty years ago, the other about nineteen years ago.

     Before the war, it is said TAZEWELL was one of the finest little towns in East Tennessee, but during the war the town almost destroyed by fire, the court house and all other public buildings being entirely consumed. The town has gradually been rebuilt. The town has two splendid brick churches, built about the year 1844. Also a fine brick school building, where there has been a successful school for the past forty years.

     TAZEWELL COLLEGE is a chartered institution.

     The present court house was built in 1867, by V.H. STURM. There are many modern residences in TAZEWELL, and the present population is about six hundred souls.


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