Scott County, Tennessee
FNB Chronicles

This page was created 06 September 2008

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Scott County’s 150th Anniversary

The FNB Chronicle has joined forces with the Scott County Sesquicentennial Committee and the Scott County Historical Society to present this 150th Birthday salute to Scott County

This edition is devoted to the county's colorful past and is filled with stories and photos of local historical significance during this our sesquicentennial year. The publication date of this edition is designed to coincide with the formal observance of the sesquicentennial, which is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Saturday, July 3rd at the gazebo on the Huntsville Mall in the midst of the two-day Firemen's Fourth Festival. And, because it's our 150th birthday, First National Bank of Oneida has printed extra copies of the Chronicle for free distribution at the festival.

The ideas for stories and photos included in this edition of the Chronicle came during a meeting of the Sesquicentennial Committee in Huntsville a few weeks ago, while most of the stories and photographs are from the Scott County Historical Society's publications and archives. First National Bank extends its appreciation to the membership of those two groups for their enthusiasm and support.

The Historical Society's publications (more than 50 in number), and its files of hundreds of old photos, were especially helpful in preparing this edition. For this, our lead story, we have chosen excerpts from the work of two former county historians, H. CLAY SMITH, the author of Dusty Bits of the Forgotten Past A History of Scott County, and ESTHER SHARP SANDERSON, author of several local histories including Scott County, Tennessee And Its Mountainfolk.


By H. CLAY SMITH From His Book Dusty Bits of the Forgotten Past

By 1845 to 1849 there had developed a serious situation confronting the population of the back part of Campbell County and of the northern part of Morgan County, along with the eastern part of Fentress. This last was bordered by the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River, which had become a dangerous and treacherous river to cross when people had to attend court in Jamestown. There was a long period of travel from the back sections of Campbell County, with a mountain to cross and only the Jacksboro-to-Huntsville road and the Buffalo-Paint Rock trail, or road, so-called.

The Buffalo road was so named in the order to DANIEL ACRES to build a road to the meeting house on the head of Buffalo Creek called Bethlehem Church, founded in 1834. Then there was the long, hard travel to Wartburg in Morgan County, a distance of thirty miles or more from the northern part of Scott County.

All of this brought on the demand for a new county. Many stories have been told by the older residents as to just how it all came about and as to how this county was named. Be it remembered that there were settlers on Brimstone Creek who had come from Scott County, Virginia. JULIUS F. SCOTT, legislator in Morgan County who promised the people of the back part of it that, if they would send him to the legislature, he would make them a new county. Then there was the Mexican War hero, Winfield Scott, in whose honor the state says the county was named.

A Legislative Act authorized the appointment of a surveyor and a board to locate the county seat and name it. The Act called for SAMPSON STANFIELD to be the surveyor, he, along with surveyor LABAN ROYSDEN, to help establish the boundary between Morgan and Scott, JONATHAN DOUGLAS to help establish the Fentress-Scott line, and members of the county court in Campbell to help with the Campbell County line. All this was created in the Act of December 17, 1849. The lines on the north were to run with the latitude line, which, however, was never truly established until 1861.

In 1821 WILLIAM STELL, representing Kentucky, and ABLESON LONG, representing Tennessee, surveyed and marked the line every five miles. There the line was to have been permanent, but the part of it that bordered Scott and Kentucky was a seven-mile length that was not permanently established until 1861, when the Kentucky line was moved back the seven miles to its present location.

Before that year, the line went through Oneida at just about the south side of the Scott County Hospital and the Burchfield school and went westwardly. All above had been in Virginia and was now in Kentucky. Winfield, Tennessee, had been in three different states and in five different counties. Oneida, also, had come partly under this same ruling. These places had been, variously, in Virginia, then successively in Knox, Whitley and Wayne Counties, then in North Carolina, in Tennessee and in Campbell and Scott Counties. The nine members named to help with the founding of the County were: WILLIAM CHITWOOD, of Winfield (which was previously known as Chitwood); WILLIAM WHITECOTTON, of southwest Oneida, who lived where ERNEST ROSSER now lives; WILLIAM MASSENGILL, living near the Anderson County line; "Red" DREWEY SMITH, living on Smith Creek; JOHN TIPTON, living in the Straight Fork community; WILLIAM RICH, living in the lower Glenmary com-

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munity; THOMAS LAWSON, in the Brimstone community; and WILLIAM CARNEY and J. W. KERNS, in the Huntsville community.

Carney also lived near where the Burchfield school is located and is buried there in the Will Marcum garden, just above, the Rosser railroad crossing; Drewey Smith is buried in the Terry Creek cemetery in Campbell County; Massengill is buried somewhere near the head of New River; Chitwood is buried near Winfield; and Lawson near Straight Fork. The burial place of Kerns is unknown to the writer, who has searched hard to locate these graves.

This board of nine men appointed the following to fix the site of the county seat: ISAAC REED, who was buried in Joplin, Missouri; JAMES LITTON, buried just north of Oneida on HILLARY MARCUM’s property, a marker having recently been placed to fix the site; RILEY CHAMBERS, buried (the writer believes) in the Straight Fork cemetery; of HENRY MASSENGILL's grave, the author has no knowledge.

All these nine men decided on Huntsville for the county seat for the following reasons:

They had the land given to them by EMANUEL PHILLIPS, who later moved to the headwaters of Paint Rock, which takes its name from the color of soil the Indians used to paint with and from the rocks in the community red in color.

Then, there was the Big Spring where the earlier hunters had found the Indians camping and sharing with the whites arriving before they themselves did and who had traveled the red man's trail that passed by.

This locality, also, was near the center of transportation, and places were easier to reach through it; although there were those who wanted the county seat on Buffalo, just at the mouth of Smith Creek, and maybe, at other places. Finally, however, Huntsville was chosen; and this same group of men named the site "Huntsville," instead of "Hunter's Spring."



Scott County is located on top of the Cumberland Plateau with an elevation of approximately 1400 feet. The highest point in the county is Highpoint with an elevation of 1590 feet. The climate is mild with no extremes of heat and cold. The average temperatures rarely go below 200. With no extremes of heat and cold, it has an invigorating, healthful climate. There is an abundance of rainfall, about 52 inches annually. The growing season is approximately 225 days. It contains 351,360 acres.

The soil was sandy and porous on the mountain slopes, but along the streams and coves it was suitable for farming and grasslands. Hundreds of acres of virgin forests covered the entire section. At the time of the first settlements there were no lumber mills and markets for lumber. The pioneers cut the timber and rolled the logs into piles and burned them to clear the land. The economy was altogether agrarian.

Under the surface was vast coal formations, gas, and oil. Beautiful sandstone suitable for building purposes and a fine quality of fire clay was plentiful. The courthouse, jail, and bank building of Huntsville were made of native stone in 1906.

The land was here with its great natural resources, good climate and scenic beauty; its greatest need was man. There were only 1,905 people living in Scott County when it was first erected, principally Scotch-Irish twice removed from their homeland in Southern Scotland. King JAMES I colonized nine counties in northern Ireland with people from the Scottish Lowlands. They made such rapid progress in Ireland that they became competitive with English industry, and then their initiative was curbed by oppressive English laws. High taxes, extremely cold winters, potato crop failures, and economic repression were factors contributing to the great migration to America. These sturdy, courageous, independent people wanted land where they could be free to carve out their own destiny. It was of historic necessity rather than fondness of migration that brought them to America in the first place.


After the County was organized, and the time was set for the first court, people looked forward to the opening, some with satisfaction, some with awe. Farmers began to arrive at daybreak on the morning of March 2, 1850.

The opening of this court ushered in law and order close to home. Many had never seen a judge, even though they were thirty to forty years old. They crowded around the old log church building that was being used for a court house for points of vantage awaiting the appearance of the judge. This house was located on a bluff overlooking the Town Spring.

One young man whispered to his father, "Paw, he's jist a dood, hain't he?" "He shore looks like them doods I used to see in old Caralinar," said his father, "but be quiet, son, he might have your years cut off."

JOHN LEWALLEN, whose ancestors once ruled Wales and who had had a little brush-off with the King of England, enjoyed his particular role as High Sheriff. He called out, "Hear ye! Hear ye! This honorable court is now in session."

The first trials were held in a temporary log courthouse with Judge E. Alexander and DAVID H. CUMMING presiding. The following served as jurors: R. M. BENRET, JAMES CECIL, AMOS McDONALD, DREWY SMITH, ALFRED BROWN, WILLIAM SMITH, THOMAS CHAMBERS, J. R. PATTERSON, W. W. COTTON, JOHN DUNCAN, JESSE D. LAY, and WILLIAM BUTTRAM.

The first case in court was for assault HENRY COPLEN versus JOSHUA DUNCAN. Another was MARTHA MASSENGALE vs. WILLIAM MASSENGALE, a Petition for Divorce. During the first day of court, one of the LOWEs rode up to the court house on a big stallion swearing and yelling, "I'm a stud horse! I'm a stud horse! Ketch me if you can!" The Sheriff "ketched" him, but what was he to do with him? It was finally decided to put him under an upturned wagon bed until he sobered up. This they did, but a heavy rain came while he was under it. They finally turned him out, wet and shivering, sober as a judge.

The people living on the Upper Cumberland Plateau were a law unto themselves. They did as they pleased and let the chips fall where they may. However, most of them were good law-abiding citizens but not used to

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restraint. During the first term of court, the judge repeatedly admonished a bewhiskered old farmer about talking too loudly in the courtroom, but he continued disturbing the court. The judge fined him a small tine, and the old farmer stroked his long whiskers and said, "Jedge, don't you think you are running your coulter a little too deep fur new ground?"

The first Monday of the Scott County Quarterly Court was a great day in Huntsville. People from all over the county were up before daybreak getting ready for the journey in to "town." All dressed up in their "Sunday go to meeting clothes," men would load their entire families in oxcarts, others would ride horseback with the women on sidesaddles, and the children riding bareback behind the parents. In spite of the weather conditions, people came from miles around.

The women wore long flowing skirts, with tight basque waists buttoned down the front with leg of mutton sleeves. They wore two or three stiffly starched petticoats that rattled as they walked, high buttoned shoes, and split bonnets or gayly bedecked hats. They wore their long hair in buns either on top of their heads or at the back. The children and young women were dressed similar to their mothers, other than that the small girls wore their hair braided so very tight they could hardly close their eyes. In the summer and fall the young women carried wide decorated fans that they could partially hide their faces behind and titter as they were talking to their sweethearts. Most of the men were dressed in brogan shoes and homespun clothes. The boys were dressed like their fathers.

There were great doings going on through the entire day. This meeting gave the people from the remote sections of the county a chance to meet their relatives and old friends and get caught up with the happenings in the various communities during the past three months. The medicine man came with his Punch and Judy shows that amused young and old alike. His elixir was guaranteed to cure every known ailment of your "innards", and his snake oil would cure every known ailment of your "outards." His salve was guaranteed to cure cancer or your money would be refunded. Inasmuch as there were few doctors, his sales were always good; so was his wit and humor. He usually sold cheap, glittering jewelry, the pride and joy of the marriageable young women who out-glittered the sun at the next meeting with their sweethearts.

Those who could not afford to take their large families to the Sharp Hotel, the only one in the town or county, brought lunches from home which they spread out picnic style and all ate together. Some ate at stands where women sold gingerbread and cider. The men folks gathered together at the Town Spring, told raw jokes, and swapped drinks of homemade corn "liker" from their little brown jugs. Sometimes they would have to assist their friends up the steep flight of rock steps or leave them to cool off in the shade of the trees around a waterfall near an old grist mill.

From the Town Spring, they would go back up in town to "santer" around, swap jokes and "nags," have family tintype photographs made, and listen to the speeches of candidates who were running for state and county elections. The fall Quarterly Court was the climax following the stump speaking throughout the county. One woman had taken great pains to make her husband a white ruffled-front shirt to wear to court. He happened to be standing beneath and upstairs window at the courthouse when an old farmer leaned out the window and spit a big cud of homemade twist tobacco that landed "smack dab" on that white ruffled shirt. Looking down at his shirt, the old farmer looked up and yelled, "Confound you dirty rascal, if I was up there I would knock you out of that loft!"

FNB Chronicle, Vol. 10, No. 4 – Summer 1999
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
(pages 1, 9, 10)

This page was created by Timothy N. West and is copyrighted by him. All rights reserved.