History of Campbell County, Tennessee

Time Line


By Dallas Bogan

Reprinted with Permission from Dallas Bogan.  This article was published in the LaFollette Press.

   There seems to be more than one theory as to how Jellico got its name. James Hayden Siler wrote in the "Jellico Advance-Sentinel", in 1938, three different versions of the origin of the town's name. He writes that the name "Jellico" is covered in some mystery. 

     One version of the name change was due to the Jellico Coal Mine operation in the Jellico Mountains at Woolridge, Proctor and Kensee. One reference mentioned by Siler is Jellico Creek, which rises in Scott County, Tennessee, and flows into the Cumberland River midway between Williamsburg and Cumberland Falls. This item is first pointed out, in 1813, as the watercourse for a grant of land among the "Tellico Land Grants." 

      For the next 20 or 30 years the creek is spelled in both land grants and deeds in the Whitley County, Kentucky courthouse with a "G" and "J" with the "G" spelling in the majority. Spellings of the different names are Gilico, Gillico, Gelico, Gellico and Gilco Creek, sometimes called river. One of the "J" spellings was Jalico. Both the "G" and "J" become the same phonetically, and with this procedure the old clerks were right in both spellings. Jellico Creek was first mentioned as early as 1813-14 and was also spelled with a "G," and Jellico mentioned in 1824 was spelled as "Gelico Mountains."

     Another theory regarding the origin of the name was taken from the plant, "Angelica." This plant grows abundantly in the Jellico Creek locality; from this plant the settlers made an invigorating drink. The Angelica is more commonly known as the "Gelica" or "Jelica" root. A theory could easily rise as to the origin of the aforementioned name. 

     Dr. L.C. Glenn of the Department of Geology of Vanderbilt University, after spending some time in the area, writes that: 

     "I have, however, always understood that the word Jellico was a corruption of the Indian word Tellico, and I think when I was in that region I discussed it once or twice with some of the older citizens, and I recall that they either suggested or agreed to Tellico being the original form. I THINK some very old maps also have Tellico applied TO the mountain ridge now known as Jellico."

      Land encompassed in the section of Jellico was called the Tellico Land Grants because of the treaty by which the Cherokee Indians ceded the land to the government. Location of this signing was at Tellico Plains, Tennessee, near the Smokies, an assemblage of the Cherokees. 

      Siler mentions another possibility of the name. The Jellicoe family was long renowned in England. Admiral Jellicoe was a participant of the Battle of Jutland who died in the 1930's. A far remote possibility was that a part of the Jellicoe family lived here and gave their name to the creek and mountains. 

     A post office was established here October 29, 1878, under the name of Smithburgh. On August 6, 1883, the name of the office was changed to Jellico.

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