Table of Contents
County, Tennessee: a Pictorial History
The following is the Introduction to Hamblen County
found in the Hamblen County History of Tennessee.
THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO.
Reprinted 1990 by
PO Box 400
Signal Mountain, TN 37377
HAMBLEN COUNTY is a small county lying along the left bank of the Holston River, and divided into two almost equal parts by the East Tennessee, Virginia & Georgia Railroad. It was formed from fractions of Jefferson, Grainger and Hawkins Counties. The first settlement in this territory was made in 1783 by Robert McFarland and Alexander Outlaw, both of whom located at the "bend of Chucky". Shortly after, Gideon, Daniel and Absalom Morris settled in the vicinity of where Morristown now is. They were brothers and had been among the first settlers on the Watauga. Gideon Morris had three sons; John, Gideon and Shadrach, all of whom after marriage remained In the neighborhood of the old homestead. John lived south of the present town in a house still occupied by one of his descendants and Gideon west of town on what is now known as the Hobb's place, while Shadrach, who subsequently removed to Indiana, located on the site of Rheatown. In 1792-93 a road was laid out through what is now Hamblen County, and extended to the western limits of Jefferson County, where it was met by the road from Knoxville. This road afterward formed the line between the counties of Jefferson and Grainger, and became a section of the great stage route from Knoxville to Abingdon, VA. It was along this road that most of the early settlers located. Beginning at Morristown and going eastward was William Chaney, who lived on the lot now occupied by Joseph Brown's residence; Thomas Daggett, a little less than a mile beyond, and Phelps Read, about two miles east Morristown. In the neighborhood of Read were John Crockett, Richard Thompson and Isaac Martin. Still farther to the east were Isaac Barton, Joseph Shannon and James McGhee. In the vicinity of Russellville and Whitesburg were Samuel Riggs, James Roddye, Caleb Witt, William Pulliam, William B. Roddye and Jesse Hoskins. Daniel Taylor located on the Holston River at Marshall’s Ferry. Sherrod Mayes and James Shields also lived on the Holston. John Evans was one of the first to locate on Panther Creek. Jesse Cheek settled at what is known as Cheek's Cross Roads, where he carried on a store for many years. A store was also opened there some time prior to 1810 by Deaderick & Wendell. About 1835 P. B. Anderson and James W. Deaderick, ex-chief Justice of Tennessee, and G. A. & G. H. Cheek were engaged in business at the same place during the thirties. An early settler just southwest of Morristown was Clisbie Riggs, who ran a still-house, while about three miles northwest were the Noes, David and John.
Of the pioneers of the county, the one in whom the greatest interest centers is David Crockett, the son of John Crockett, but as a sketch of his life appears in another chapter of this work it will not be repeated here. When a lad he came to the county with his father's family, and remained until two or three years after his marriage. The records of Jefferson County show that on October 21, 1805, he was licensed to wed Margaret Elder, and that on August 12, 1806, he received a license to marry Polly Findlay. The first named lady, for reasons not now known, refused to proceed with the marriage after all of the preliminaries had been arranged. Polly Findlay was the daughter of a respectable farmer residing In the vicinity of what has since been known as Findlay's Gap.
James and William Roddye, mentioned above, were both prominent citizens. The former was a member of the convention which formed the constitution of the State of Franklin, and after the fall of the Franklin government, was a representative to the Legislature of North Carolina. Upon the organization of Jefferson County he was elected register, and in 1797 became a member of the State Senate. William Roddye was a member of the Constitutional Convention of 1796 from Jefferson County.
Caleb Witt and Isaac Barton were among the earliest of the pioneer Baptist preachers of East Tennessee. Some time prior to 1794 they organized Bent Creek Church, near Whitesburg. In that year it had a membership of fifty-one, and was represented in the Holston Association by James Roddye, Isaac Barton and Caleb Witt. In 1804 the church known as Bethel South, now the Morristown Baptist Church, was organized by Isaac Barton. The first Methodist Church in the county was probably organized at "Read's Meeting-House," near Phelps Read's. About 1815 a campground called Sulphur Spring was established four miles south of Morristown. Among the original campers were Solomon Wyatt, Francis Daniel, Sherrod Mayes, Benjamin McCarty and Joseph Daniel, with their families. In 1825 a Methodist Church was built at Russellville, which was then just beginning to assume the importance of a village. Among the members were Clisbie Austin, Paul Potter, Henry Stewart, William Pulliam, Jacob Frizzle, Hugh Cain and John Miller. A log house was at first erected, and was used until a short time prior to the civil war, when it was replaced by a brick. In 1832 the Presbyterians organized a church known as Bethesda, a short distance west of Russellville.
For several years Russellville remained the only village in the territory now embraced in Hamblen County. Sometime about 1830 a paper-mill, of extensive proportions for that day, was put into operation by Samuel and Milton Shields, about three miles north-east of Morristown. It, with a store or two, was carried on there for several years.
About 1820 Martin Stubblefield, one of the early settlers of Grainger County, near the old County Line Church, removed to Morristown and built a house near where the depot now is and where he continued to reside until his death. He had several daughters, one of whom married Henry Countz, and another, William Chaney, Jr. Although from the first settlement of the county, the neighborhood was known as Morristown, it was not until 1833 that a post office was established there. At the same time a store was opened by John M. Coffin in the house now occupied by A. H. Gregg as a residence. At a little later date Jehu Morris began business on the opposite side of the street in a building standing upon the lot where D. Pence & Co's. store now is. These merchants were succeeded by Drury Morris & Co., and Read & Noe, afterward Cocke, Read & Co. During the decade preceding the civil war the village developed into a town, and was incorporated. Its growth was greatly promoted by the building of the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad, which was chartered in 1852 and completed In 1858, the last spike having been driven on May 14 of that year. In 1856 or 1857 the construction of the Cincinnati, Cumberland Gap & Charleston Railroad was begun, but no part of it was completed until 1867.
Among the merchants of Morristown from 1855 to 1862, besides these mentioned were J. M. Mims, J. W. Nicodemus, M. Carriger & Bros., Sawyers & Jackson, and J. W. Clyne. During this period a large steam flouring-mill was erected by a stock company composed of several of the leading business men. A steam saw mill and a machine shop were also put into operation.
In 1857 a newspaper, the American Statesman, published by F. M. Wylie and H.C. Craig, was removed to Morristown from Dandridge. They continued its publication about one year. Mr. Wylie then procured the services of Rev. W. C. Graves, as the editor of a paper known as the Religious Intelligencer; it was devoted mainly to religious subjects, but contained a secular department. The first number appeared April 16,1858. Soon after Mr. Wylie was succeeded by W. E. M. Neal and J, De M. Roberts, as publishers, but no change was made in the editorial management. In the early part of 1861 the name was changed to the Holston Intelligencer, and so continued until its suspension the following June. The first school of importance in Morristown was opened about 1850 in the building now occupied by the girl's high school. Among the first teachers were S.D. Miles, John Portrum, Prof. Hodges and John N. Southern.
Since the close of the war Morristown has grown steadily In population and wealth. During the past two or three years the growth has been remarkably rapid, the population having very nearly doubled in that time. The first firms to resume business after the close of hostilities in 1865 were Waggoner & Bewley and Capt. James A.' Bird. Among others who succeeded were P. Smith & Co., W. T. Gill, Brown & Noe and Morris, Kidwell & Co The mercantile interests of the present time are represented by G. B. McCrary & Co., J. N. Hilt & Co., D. Pence & Co., Marsh, McCord & Co., Brown & Stubblefield, Goodson & Legg, Van Hess & Bro., Craig Holley & Craig and S. B. McCrary, general merchandise; W. M. Wilmeth, Allen Davis & Co., C. C. Johnson & Sons, Henry Sanders and W. W. Williams, groceries; Carriger, Roberts & Co. and J. S. Davis, drugs; G E. Spence, hardware; W. T. Rippetoe and A. M. Sanders, stoves and tinware; A. H. Gregg, agricultural implements, and J. N. Shipley saddle and harness.
The manufactories consist of a large steam flouring mill with a capacity of 100 barrels per day, owned and run by G. B. McCrary and R. L. Gaut; a sash, door and blind factory, operated by H. Loop, and a carriage factory conducted by H. L. Witt. A stove foundry is in the process of erection (?) stock company. The town also contains two banks. Lookout Bank, with a capital stock of $50,000, was organized on May 4, 1874, with G. T. Magee as president and John Murphey, cashier. The present president is Judge James G. Rose. In 1885 the First National Bank of Morristown was organized, with a capital stock of $50,000. It is one of the best banking institutions in East Tennessee, being ably and carefully managed. The officers are Maj. G. W. Folsom, president, and G. S. Crouch. cashier.
The first newspaper published at Morristown after the war, was the Morristown Gazette, established by W. W. Neal in 1866. In October of the following year he sold It to L. P. & G. E. Speck, who continued its publication until September, 1873, when it was purchased by the present editor and proprietor, John E. Helms. It is ably edited, and ranks among the best weekly papers In the State. In 1883, the Tennessee Pilot, a Republican paper, was established by C. H. Darlington, who has since successfully continued its publication. On January 11, 1887, the first number of the Semi-weekly Democrat appeared. It is edited and published by -----Jones and -----Hill, and is constantly growing in popularity. Several other papers, among which were the Baptist Reflector and the Holston Methodist have been published at Morristown, but none have continued but for a short time.
The oldest church organization in Morristown is the Baptist, it being a successor of the old Bethel South. The new house of worship was erected in 1868, the prime movers in the work being Drury Morris and Curtis Eames. In 1860 the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South began the erection of their present church, which, however, was not completed until after the close of the war. In 1870 the Presbyterians erected a large and commodious brick church. This was accomplished largely through the efforts of Rev. W. H. Smith, who has since remained the honored pastor of the church. Recently the members of the Lutheran and of the Methodist Episcopal Church edifices have each erected a commodious church edifice.
The act creating a new county to be named Hamblen in honor of Hezekiah Hamblen, of Hawkins County, was passed May 31, 1870, and William Courtney, W. S. Reese, W. C. Witt, and James C. Davis, of Jefferson County, and John C. Tate, C. J. Burnett and Rufus E. Rice of Grainger County, were appointed to organize the county. At the regular election in August, the county officers were elected, and on the 3d of October, 1870, the county court was organized in an old store house in Morristown. The justices present were Samuel P. Hixon, L. D. Milligan, L. F. Leiper, C. L. Gregory, George McFarland, R. M. Hamblen, A. J. Donelson, Alexander Williams, Jonathan Noe, G. W. Carmichael, C. J. Burnett, D. S. Noe, R. P. Sharp, William Felknor, S. M. Heath, James Hale, William B. Ninnie, S. J. Couch, I. P. Haun and Samuel Smith. L. F. Leiper was chosen chairman. No county buildings were erected until 1874, when a handsome and substantial brick courthouse was built at a cost of $21,750. The commissioners appointed to superintend its erection were R. M. Barton, J. C. Tate, J. C. Hodges, John Murphey and Joseph Eckle. In 1877 a jail was completed at a cost of about $3,000, and in 1886 a farm of over 100 acres, located In the Fifth Civil District, was purchased for a poor-asylum, but, notwithstanding these heavy expenditures, the county is entirely free from debt.
The officers of the county since Its organization have been as follows:
Clerks of the county court-James Leftwich, 1870-72; D. W. C. Davis, 1872-78; H. Williams, 1878.
Clerks of the circuit court-T. C. Cain, 1870-78; George S. Crouch, 1878-86; Leon B. Smith, 1886-.
Sherriffs-G. H. Boyd, 1870-76; George Livingston, 1876-78; Harvey L, ------1878-80; W. H. Mays, 1880-86; J. F. Hays, 1886-.
Trustees-Joseph Brown, 1870-72; D. M. P. Newell, 1872-73; J. E. Thompson, 1873-86; John H. Trent, 1886-.
Registers-L. B. Smith, 1870-74 P. T. Moser, 1874-76; S. B. Noe, 1876-78; W. H. Parker, 1878-82; John W. Morgan, 1882-86; C. H. Robertson. 1886.
It should be pointed out that the erection of Hamblen County came as the answer to a specific need of the people. It came at a time when means of transportation and communications were limited, and the geography of the existing counties, Jefferson and Grainger, presented problems for those who had need to attend court in their respective counties. For those living on the north side of Main Street it meant a trip across the Holston River, which might be swollen or frozen. For the residents of the south side the distance to Dandridge was of consideration.
Earliest records indicate the communities of Russellville, Whitesburg, Springvale and Panther Springs were the most progressive and most densely populated. Records in Dandridge for 1858 show the petition of the people of the communities south of the stage road to divide their district into two districts in order that they would have more equitable representation.
In 1855, Morristown had become incorporated. The adjoining counties each had ceded to the city that portion of their land included in the incorporated area. However, there still remained the problem of two county governments to be dealt with, with Main Street the dividing line.
Farsighted men sought a reasonable, workable solution....
There is the story which has been handed down by word of mouth for a hundred years or more in the families of Mark Murrell and I. P. Haun. It is said that these two men, together with a third man, whose identity has been lost, sat under a tree on the lot where the Educational Building of the First Baptist Church now stands, and, in discussing the problems of transportation and communication with their respective county seats, they being Dandridge in Jefferson County and Rutledge in Grainger County, conceived the idea of the formation of a new county. Grandchildren of these men living today testify to the story, though it is unlikely more positive proof can be found. However, an examination of court records verifies the fact that both men served their counties, holding positions of high responsibility.
Much controversy arose as to the naming of the new county, each county having some favorite son whom it wished to honor. William Green, of Hawkins County, was State Senator and to secure his recommendation, was given the privilege of naming the county, and so honored his grandfather, Hezekiah Hamblen.
Hezekiah Hamblen (wife Nancy) was a lawyer, a man of much land and many slaves, and was for many years a member of the County Court of Hawkins County. His will dated January 22, 1854, was made in the 79th year of his age. His home was on Stock Creek, about four miles west of Rogersville, and about a half mile north of the old stage road. The house burned many years ago. Only the family burying ground, neglected and abandoned, remains as silent evidence of where the man lived for whom Hamblen County is named.
An Act to change the line between the counties of Hamblen and Hawkins passed January 20, 1870, approved January 24, 1871. That the line between Hamblen and Hawkins shall be ... so as to run as follows: Beginning on the Holston River where the line between said counties now strikes the river; thence up the river, with the meanders thereof, to a point on said river where the line extended from Mount Sterling north forty-one degrees west, will strike said river; thence with said line forty-one degrees east to Mount Sterling, so as to include all that part of Hawkins County lying south and east of Holston River, and south and west of said line running from Mount Sterling north forty-one degrees west, to the river, in said county of Hamblen.
An old man and his family set out some time after 1783 for a new home. The man was a Baptist preacher and had already helped to organize two congregations his lifetime -- one at Buffalo Ridge in Washington County (1779) and one at Cherokee Creek (1783).
What would motivate an old man such as the Rev. Tidence Lane to move further west? Perhaps he too was a pleasant victim of "west fever".
Be that as it may, the old man, with his grown sons set out some time around 1784-85 for a new land. Did they know where they were going? The answer is not known. But it is known that they soon found the ideal spot to relocate. It was near the Indian Trail and was at a winding creek. An excellent spring on the Lane property about one mile northwest of the present Whitesburg was a prime water source.
Here the Lane family settled. Were they the first to settle on what later became known as Bent Creek? Or were other settlers there fore that? In interviewing descendants of the early settlers of Bent Creek, this writer has come up wit the name of Michael Bacon. In 1779, Bacon erected the first grist mill in what is now Tennessee, according to "Dropped Stitches in Tennessee History". The mill was in Washington County, but its exact location is now known. It is known, however, that Bacon lived in the Bent Creek area, which in 1779, was in Washington County. Whether or not his mill was erected on Bent Creek has not been determined.
Was Michael Bacon the first to settle at Bent Creek, or were there others? This writer believes there were others who settled there before Tidence Lane but has no way to prove it.
Tidence Lane and Elder William Murphy organized Bent Creek Church in June, 1785. While the church did embrace a large area, reaching in its influence and membership as far down as Panther Springs, the fact that the church was organized at Bent Creek suggests that a substantial settlement was there, or at least, near there.
The first preaching place in the area is said to have been under a large tree near the site of the present Bent Creek Cemetery. A log church house was soon constructed near the same spot, about one-half mile from the present Whitesburg.
Lane remained pastor of Bent Creek Church until his death in 1806 at the age of 81. He had served honorably in the capacity of minister of the gospel, being the first pastor of a church in what is now Tennessee.
Bent Creek Church, of course, was the last which he pastored and is of special interest. The log structure continued to be used by the congregation until 1878 after a large brick building was erected in Whitesburg.
After the erection of the brick building in Whitesburg, the old log church at Bent Creek remained in use by a portion of the congregation for a few years. But its members soon disbanded, and the building was moved by the Coffman family to their farm near Russellville where it was used as a barn. An attempt was made in this century to restore the historic structure, and the logs were moved to Whitesburg. The interest did not penetrate the pocket books of Tennessee Baptists, however, and the logs lay exposed to the elements and ultimately rotted away.
One of the more noted church members and early settlers was William Horner. The exact date which he settled around Bent Creek is not known. It is generally agreed that he settled either before or in the year of 1785. The story is told that the first to be buried in what later was known as Bent Creek Cemetery was a traveler on the Indian Trail who had died at Horner's house while spending the night.
Horner owned the land on which the cemetery was located and in 1810 donated one acre of land as a burial ground for the community. The property was also for the use of the Baptist congregation. A deed to the property is on record at the Jefferson County Court House in Dandridge. (The cemetery and church were in Jefferson County after the latter's formation in 1792) The deed was granted to Caleb Witt, Samuel Riggs, and Jacob Coffman, commissioners of the Baptist congregation and their successors in office.
Caleb Witt was one of the first settlers and certainly deserved attention. he was originally from Halifax County, Virginia. Soon after the Revolutionary War, he settled about 15 miles from Bent Creek. Witt and his two brothers, Elijah and Joseph, operated a foundry and machine shop known as Witt's Foundry in what is now the Witt Community. Both Caleb and Elijah had served with the State of North Carolina in the Revolutionary War. Caleb Witt served as pastor of Bent Creek Church after the death of Tidence Lane.
Witt also helped to organize Bethel South of the Holston Church (or Bethel South Church) in 1803. The church was located in what is now Morristown and is not the First Baptist Church at a different location.
Jacob Coffman was likewise an early settler in the Bent Creek area and served as one of the first elders of the church.
Yet another noteworthy member of Bent Creek Church was Isaac Barton who lived where William Murphy had previously lived (now know as Barton Springs). Barton and about 18 members of Bent Creek Church living near Morristown organized the Bethel South Church, and Barton became its first pastor.
Whitesburg, indeed, has a proud heritage. Its worth is not measured in intrinsic terms. The true worth lies in the character of its people.
This is one of the interesting and historic of the early settlements in East Tennessee. In its vicinity ran the famous Boone Trace following the equally well-known Buffalo Trail of the Indians which led from Kentucky through Tennessee to North Carolina, and over this pathway to the west traveled Daniel Boone with a great company of hunters and trappers seeking homes in what was then the frontier.
The first house in what is now Russellville was built by Colonel Roddy after his return from the battle of Kings Mountain, the Continental Congress granting him a large tract of land in recognition of his services in that engagement in which he served with the greatest distinction. This house, built in 1785, was known as the Red Door Tavern, and there distinguished travelers stopped on their way from Washington City to points westward. Colonel Roddy settled here on his vast estate and married a daughter of William Russell. Colonel Roddy was one of the signers of the first constitution of the State of Tennessee. He was a devout Baptist and there being no place of worship in this scattered settlement, he offered his home for this purpose and there, in the big living room, Richard Rice, a colleague of Judson, the first missionary to India, addressed a large audience of pioneers soliciting means of the maintenance of missionaries. During those early days Colonel Roddy would also open his home where classes for the early school could be hold, thus to provide safety from marauding Indians.
The large spring at the foot of the hill, that empties into Fall Creek was found by watching a squaw and her papoose coming and going through the underbrush at the time the house was built.
Colonel Roddy's home and plantation was later sold to Hugh Graham of Tazewell, who presented it to his daughter, Louise, as a wedding present on the occasion of her marriage to Theophilus Rogan. This log house has weathered the years and can still be seen across the way. Mrs. Rogan gave the estate the name of Hayslope. The footsteps of soldiers of many wars have echoed through its doors.
In the bloody days of the Civil War, Russellville, to a man, arose to do battle divided between the Blue and the Gray. General Longstreet, with his staff, had headquarters here in the village at the Nenney home, which still stand on the main highway. General McLaws was in quarters at the old Roddy home, now called Hayslope, while General Kershaw was at Greenwood with his staff.
Another soldier, David Coffman, an officer in the war of the Revolution, was granted 400 acres of land for his services during the war. His house, built of hewn logs more than a century and half ago, still stands one mile above the village by the old stagecoach road. Nearby stood the old log church house which was the second Baptist church to be organized in what is now Tennessee. There was a gallery built in the back for the benefit of slaves of that day. This sturdy old church has long since been torn away.
William Donaldson, also a soldier of the Revolution settled on a land grant adjoining that of Colonel Roddy. Captain William Cocke, Joseph Anderson and many others who had made homes in this settlement fought against the soldiers of the English King. It is not surprising then that sons of these valorous men would follow "Old Hickory" through bloody battles of Horseshoe Bent and New Orleans, nor that in 1846 fifty of Russellville's sons were mobilized on this very ground, following the colors to fight for their country, and marched triumphantly into Mexico City. In this struggle some gave their lives, others won honors.
Russellville was a rendezvous alternately for both Federal and Confederate troops. During the winter of 1862, Major Fairfax granted protection to the cows of Hayslope on condition of receiving a gallon of milk daily, for his eggnogs.
In the conflicts in and around this section many were killed and wounded. The beautiful old brick church here and Bethesda Church were converted into hospitals where the women nursed the sick and cared for the wounded ad used their own linens for winding sheets for the dead. The Russellville women dug the graves and buried friend and foe alike. In the old cemetery above the village lie in peace the men who wore the blue and the men who wore the gray.
During the closing years of the first century of the county, the spotlight of national and international publicity was thrown on the undertaking of central business district of the county seat.
What was originally planned to be a major improvement in the Central Business District of Morristown ended with two-fold results. First was the improvement itself and secondly, part of this improvement turned out to be a major attraction of interest throughout the nation.
This major attraction is an overhead sidewalk which gives complete access to the second floor level of all buildings on Main Street in the heart of the county and serve as a canopy protection to the street-level pedestrians.
The name of the overhead sidewalks has been officially called "Skymart".
The Skymart came into being from a similar idea established some 700 years ago in Chester, England. The Chester, England idea was applied to the Skymart by architect Hubert Bebb, who had visited the old town in England some years prior to the building of those in Hamblen County.
The unique sidewalks in the air have received world-wide publicity and carried many unique features in addition to serving the original purpose.
One of the major features is background music which is installed throughout the three-block area which the sidewalks run and sets a pleasant atmosphere for those who come to the 'sidewalks in the sky'.
A number of events are featured from time to time from the overhead sidewalks ranging from band concerts to rock 'n roll combos. Artists also perform during the Skymart Art Festival, which is held from time to time.
Interest groups from cities across the land have visited the Skymart to incorporate some of its features in their own particular town. Planters filled with shrubbery and flowers throughout its entirety blend with the landscaping of the lower level sidewalks.
After receiving North Carolina land grants for service during the American Revolution and later buying thousands of acres from others, Alexander Outlaw and Robert McFarland were among the first to lay early claim to vast tracts of South Hamblen County land.
The Bend of Chucky domain included almost all of the land up the Nolichucky River to a point near the Greene County line. Included was most of the Bend area on both the north and south sides of the river extending inland to the Springvale community. McFarland and Outlaw were said to have made a corn crop near the Bend in 1782. Leaving Outlaw to tend the crop, McFarland returned to Carolina the following year to bring in both their families. Choosing to live near the Outlaws, the McFarlands built their home "Springvale Plantation", in 1783 near the crossroads on what is now the Estal Hale farm. For many years the Springvale community was called McFarland's Crossroads.
In 1792-93, McFarland, a lieutenant colonel of the militia, took part in an expedition against the Cherokee and Creek Indians. Always a community leader, McFarland was elected as Jefferson County's first sheriff in 1793. By 1818 he was a member and elder in the St. Paul Presbyterian Church in the Lowland community. McFarland died in 1834 and is buried in the family cemetery at Springvale. McFarland Avenue in the city of Morristown was named in honor of the McFarland family.
April 30, 2005
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