History of Cocke County
Goodspeed Publishing Co., History of Tennessee, 1887
Transcribed by Kris L. Martin
County lies in the shape of a triangle with its base
the Great Smoky Mountain. It is bounded on the north and
Hamblen and Greene Counties, and on the west and southwest by Sevier
and Jefferson. It has an area of about 540 square miles.
traversed by the French Broad and Big Pigeon Rivers which form a
junction a short distance above the mouth of the Nolachucky.
streams, with their tributaries, afford an abundance of water and water
power. The latter is utilized by a large number of excellent flouring
and saw mills, but no other manufactories of importance have as yet
been established. The principal minerals found in the county
baryta, and gold, the first named in great abundance. The
embraced in Cocke County began to be settled in 1783, along the
"Chuckey." The next year several persons located in that
section since known as the "Irish Bottom." One of the
George McNutt, whose daughter was the first white child born south of
the French Broad. Josiah, Benjamin and Alexander Rogers, John
Cornelius McGuinn and Joseph and William Doherty also located in that
neighborhood. A settlement was made north of the French Broad
colony of Pennsylvania Germans, among whom were the Huffs, Boyers, and
Ottingers. This vicinity then took the name of the "Dutch
Peter Fine, who was licensed to keep the first Ferry in the
settled on the river opposite the old town of Newport. In
Gilliland made a crop of corn at the mouth of Big Pigeon, and a year
or two later brought his family, eight of whom were sons. He
active part in organizing the State of Franklin, and was one of the
delegates elected to the convention of 1785, to pass upon the
constitution of the new State. William Lillard, the first
representative of the county in the Legislature, lived on the river
below old Newport. The first settlement on Cosby Creek was
made by Samuel Odell. Daniel Adams lived at War Ford of Big
house stood on the lot now occupied by the residence of Maj. William
road in the county was laid out from this point to the point on the
Nolachucky, where the war path crossed it, in 1784. In 1793
Jefferson county court appointed Peter Huff, Spencer Rice, John McNabb,
William Lillard, Joseph Rutherford, Alexander Rogers, Thomas Christian
and Henry Patton commissioners, to lay off a road from the mouth of
Pigeon up the south side of the French Broad to the War Ford.
the pioneers of Cocke County suffered less from Indian incursions than
some of the more exposed counties, numerous instances of massacres and
other depredations might be detailed. In the latter part of
Indians began to steal the cattle and horses of the few persons who had
that year settled along the French Broad and Nolachucky. They
retreated across the mountains to North Carolina. Maj. Peter
William Lillard raised a company of thirty men and pursued them.
killing one Indian and wounding a second, and having regained the
stolen property, they began their return and encamped. During
the Indians who had followed them made a sudden attack killing Vinet
Fine and wounding Thomas Holland and Mr. Bingham. The savages
in the vicinity until near morning when they took their departure.
members of the company then broke a hole in the ice of a creek upon
which they had encamped, and put body of Vinet Fine in the water of the
stream, which has ever since borne the name of Fine Creek.
men were carried back to their homes, and recovered. During
two years it was necessary to keep scouts continually between Pigeon
and French Broad, and three forts were built. They were
on the French Broad, three miles above old Newport; Whitson’s, on
Pigeon, ten miles above the same place, and Wood’s, five miles below.
Notwithstanding these precautions, Nehemiah and Simeon Odell
killed and scalped, and their guns taken. A boy ten years
Nelson, was killed on Pigeon river, and the horse which he was riding
was stolen. A little son and daughter of Mr. Huff, living on
Broad in what is now the First Civil District, were seized by the
Indians while passing along the wood. The girl was scalped
spot and left for dead, while the boy was taken captive; but the
Indians being quickly pursued, and fearful of being overtaken,
tomahawked him near the War Ford of Pigeon. The girl
recovered. The last depredations were committed in 1793, when
number of horses were stolen from the neighborhood of Cosby Creek.
church in Cocke County was organized by the Baptists at Upper War Ford
some time prior to 1794, as it was represented in the Holston
Association of that year by Joshua Kelly, Peter Fine and John Netherton.
County was created by an Act of the General Assembly, passed in
October, 1797. It was cut off from Jefferson County and was
honor of Gen. William Cocke, one of the most distinguished of the
pioneers of Tennessee. The commissioners appointed to locate
of justice and superintend the erection of county buildings were Henry
Ragan, William Job, John Coffee, Peter Fine, John Keeney, Reps Jones
and John McGlocklen. They chose a site about one and one-half
below the present county seat, at what was known as Fine’s Ferry.
acres of land were donated by John Gilliland, and the town was soon
after laid out. A log courthouse and rock jail were then
latter building was about twenty feet square, substantially built.
courthouse was used until 1828, when a new brick building was erected.
The jail did service about ten years longer. A building was
erected with double walls of hewed logs, the intervening space being
filled with small rock. It was two stories high, with a
above and a dungeon below; the latter was entered through a trap door
in the floor of the room above. This building was torn down
war, and when a new one was built it was erected at the new
seat. It is a small building constructed of rock, and is said
cost $4,000. On December 24, 1867, the Cincinnati, Cumberland
& Charleston Railroad was completed to what is now known as
Newport, and the question of the removal of the county seat to that
place began to be agitated; a long legal controversy then ensued,
pending the settlement of which the seat of justice vibrated between
two places. In 1884 it was finally decided in favor of the
and the following year the erection of the present handsome brick
courthouse was begun, under the supervision of C.F. Boyer, Joseph
Murrell and J.H. Fagala; it was completed in 1886 at a cost of $10,000.
A few years previous the building occupied as a temporary
was destroyed by fire, and the entire records of the county were lost,
nothing can therefore be given concerning the transactions of the
courts. The first lawyers in the county were Thomas Gray and
Garrett, both of whom were licensed to practice in 1796. The
deputy county clerk in Jefferson County before the organization of
Cocke, and for thirty years was clerk of the county court in the latter
county. He was consequently, but little engaged in the
practice of law.
Tilghman A. Howard, who entered the legal profession in Cocke
about 1820, soon removed to Indiana, where he distinguished himself as
general in the Civil War. Gray Garrett was admitted to
1821, and in 1838 was elected attorney-general, a position he held for
eight years. He was a fine speaker and an able lawyer.
About 1825 he
removed to Claiborne County. His successors at Newport were
McNutt and James A. Marshall. Later A. J. Fletcher located at
He was a finely educated man and an able lawyer. He
served one or more
terms in the State Senate, and from 1865 to 1870 filled the office of
Secretary of State. About 1846 W.H.M. Randolph began the
law, and was soon after appointed attorney general vise Gen. Caswell,
then serving in the Mexican war. He was a brilliant young
man, but died
soon after beginning his professional career. His brother,
Randolph, entered the profession in 1848, and soon took a prominent
place at the bar. He represented the county in the
1857-58 and 1861-62 and in 1865 was elected to the State Senate.
1868 he was chosen judge of the judicial circuit, and remained upon the
bench until 1876, when he resigned to become a candidate for Congress.
He was elected and served for one term. Since the
expiration of his
term he has retired from his profession, and is now engaged in
operating a flouring and saw mill.
Maj. William McSween began the practice of law, and has since
continued. He had formerly filled official positions in the
many years, and was a member of the Lower House of the Genera1 Assembly
present bar is composed of the following attorneys: William McSween, M.
W. Langhorn, N. B. Jones and W. J. McSween.
town of Newport was laid out in 1799, but it never attained much
importance except as the seat of justice. In 1830 it was a
only 150 inhabitants, and consisted of but two stores and five or six
shops. Of the first inhabitants but little is known.
One of the first
stores was opened by Charles Lewin. The merchants of a later
William C. Roadman, John and George Stuart, Smith & Siler,
Rankin & Pulliam, James W. Rankin and William McSween.
about 1820 a county academy, known as Anderson Academy, was opened in a
brick building about one mile south of the town. The first
the institution were Isaac Leonard, Abraham McCoy, Peter Fine, Daniel
McPherson and William Lillard, appointed in 1806. Later
Smith, Henry Stephens, Francis J. Carter and Augustis Jenkins were
added. Among the first teachers were Rev. Robert McAlpin and
Hood. About 1840 the Academy was removed to the town, where a
building was erected, and the school continued to be taught until the
years after the town was establisiled it was without a church building.
The Methodists worshiped in a house about one mile below
subsequenty erected a new building in the town. The
services in the academy until about 1837, when they also built a
completion of the railroad to the present Newport. a depot was erected
and a town began to build up on both sides of the road between the
bluff and the river. The site was owned by Thomas S. and
Gorman, the depot having been built upon the line between them.
first store was opened by Thomas Evans who was soon after followed by
C. T. Peterson, Edward Clark and Roadman & Gorman. In
inhabitants of the town numbered 347, but since that time the growth
has been quite rapid, and the population is now about 1,000.
business interests at the present time are represented by the following
firms: Ragan & Kniseley, J. S. Susong, Barr & Burnett,
Clark, Robinson & Co., D. A. Mimms, Jones Bros. & Co..
C. H. Allen and Robinson & Cody, general merchandise; J. J.
O’Neil & Co. and Ramsey & Snoddy, drugs; Hill &
Connelly, stoves and tinware; Denton & Willis, furniture and
undertakers, and Miss Sallie Anderson, books and stationery.
manufacturing establishment now in operation is the Newport Mills,
owned by J. H. Randolph & Son. It consists of a
and a saw and planing mill. A large organ factory will,
is well supplied with schools and churches. Newport Academy
in 1875 by Newport Lodge, No. 234. F & A. M., and opened under
the supervision of Prof. W. R. Manard. The present principal
is D. H.
Howard. In 1885 a Baptist Seminary was opened under the care
of N. E.
prior to the establishment of the town, a Presbyterian Church was
erected, as the successor of the Pisgah Church. The congregation was
first organized in 1823 by Rev. Robert Hardin. The principal
the erection of the new building were A. E. Smith, Abraham Fine, H.H.
Baer and William Jack. In 1875 the Baptists completed a
building, and in 1886 the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church
South erected a fine brick church.
largest town in the county is Parrottsville, situated about six miles
north of Newport. It was established about 1830, on the farm
Parrott. The first store was opened by William C. Roadman.
who were engaged in business there, prior to the war, were Rankin
& Pulliam, McNabb & Faubion and Mims, Faubion &
Co. The present merchants are James C. La Rue and Eisenhour
Horned. The town also has a good school, and a Methodist and
Cumberland Presbyterian Church.
a station on the railroad, south of Newport. is a considerable
shipping-point for lumber and shingles. It was established
upon land owned by Jesse and Jefferson Burnett.
Depot is a small village on the railroad, north of Newport.
newspaper in the county was the Excelsior Star, a little sheet
published by Joseph L. Bible. It was established at Big Creek
In September of the following year the editor moved to
and there published the Reporter until 1877, when he removed to
Newport. He continued at the latter place until 1880, when he
Dandridge. The next paper was the Sentinel, established by A.
Thomas, who continued its publication for three or four years.
short time during 1886 the Newport Ledger was published by a Mr.
Christopher. As accurate a list of the officers of Cocke
County as could
be obtained in the absence of all records:
Thomas Mitchell, Isaac Allen, James Jennings, Benjamin B. Coleman, John
Allen, Abraham Fine, James R. Allen, Thomas S. Gorman, William Johnson;
John D. Smith, 1858-68; Davidson Sprouse, 1868-72; James Netherland,
1872-74; John Bible, 1874-76; C. F. Boyer, 1876-82; John A. Balch,
1882-84; J. I. Waters, 1884--.
William Coleman, Joseph H. Green, Isaac Smith, John Allen, James
Dawson, William Robinson, Sanders McMahan, John Cameron, Robert Ragan,
J. Wood, Joel Wrenn, John Hale, Henry Penland; M. A. Driscoll, 1878-80;
A. M. Stokeley, 1880-84, and B. A. Proffitt, 1884.
the county court - William Garrett, 1798-1828; George M.
1828-36; William MeSween, 1836-39; John F. Stanberry, 1839-44; John
Gorman, 1844-- ; Allen McMahan, L. D. Porter, D. W. Stuart, 1860-62;
James C. La Rue, 1862-66; William H. Wood, 1866-68; P. W. Anderson,
1868-74; William H. Penland, 1874-82, and John T. Jones, 1882.
the circuit court - Henry K. Stephens, 1810--; Daniel C.
--- William D. Rankin, 1830-44; William McSween, 1844-56; D. A.
Crawford, 1856-59; Isaac Allen, 1859-60; H. H. Baer, 1860-70; William
Campbell, 1870-72; H. H. Baer, 1872-74; John F. Stanberry, 1874-82, and
C. F. Boyer, 1882.
masters - David Stuart, 1856--58; William MeSween,
1858-64; M. A.
Roadman, 1864-76, and John D. Smith, 1876.
Alexander Anderson, Alexander Milliken, John H. Penland, William H.
Wood, John P. Taylor, Thomas Bell, Charles Brockway, Addison Ragan,
1866-70; William Cureton, 1870-78; Abraham Weaver, 1878--82, and Samuel