Scott County, Tennessee
FNB Chronicles

This page was created 06 Sep 2008

Huntsville: emergence of the county seat

(EDITOR’S NOTE — The following are excerpts from Dusty Bits of the Forgotten Past, a narrative history of Scott County, Tennessee, which was compiled over a 40-year period by H. Clay Smith of Oneida, and published 20 years after his death by the Scott County Historical Society. These excerpts deal with his research on the Town of Huntsville, county seat of Scott County, and are taken from Chapter 14. Readers should keep in mind that several references by the writer to buildings and people in the following article that may no longer be around, since some 40 to 60 years have elapsed since the transcripts were written. The hardback book and a companion index of several thousand entries, is available from Scott County Historical Society, P.O. Box 7, Huntsville, TN 37756, at a cost of $22. Tennessee residents should add $1.76 sales tax and all mail orders should be accompanied by $4 for shipping and handling).

Huntsville. . . That patriotic, little county seat was laid out into 47 town lots, beginning around the courthouse, which sat where the Huntsville Supply Company building is now located. It was plotted by WAYNE WHITE-COTTON in 1850; and, in 1904, the county hired engineer JOHN TERRY to re-establish those lots.

He replotted the town and filed his map in the county court’s office. It is laid out south and north, south from near the river to the foothills of the sleepy, little mountain town that drifts toward Paint Rock community.

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As stated, the engineer of this plot was WAYNE WHITE-COTTON. The following were the designers and plotters: Circuit Court Clerk JOHN L. SMITH; County Court Clerk ALLEN McDONALD; Sheriff JOHN LEWALLEN; Trustee ISAAC REED and Registrar RILEY CHAMBERS, who were the committee appointed to bargain for and buy 25 acres of land for GEORGE McDONALD and EMANUEL PHILLIPS.

It was March 16, 1850. This committee, too, named the little village "Huntsville," in honor of those early-settling hunters; though some say there was a hunter by the name of "Hunt" who first settled in the place; and he, his wife and their children are buried just back of Judge BUTTRAM’s office.

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When the legislature admitted Scott County, it appointed a committee composed of: WILLIAM CHITWOOD, WAYNE WHITECOTTON, WILLIAM MASSENGILL, DREW SMITH, JOHN TIPTON, WILLIAM RICH and THOMAS LAWSON to look after the organization of the county in general. These men were named as commissioners, met and employed the following citizens to divide the county into districts: ISAAC REED, BAILEY BUTTRAM, JAMES LITTON, RILEY CHAMBERS and HENRY MASSENGALE.

This committee of five reported that they had divided the county into seven civil districts, therefore on March 4th the polls opened; and Scott County’s first election was held. The following candidates were elected: JOHN L. SMITH, Circuit Court Clerk; ALLEN McDONALD, County Court Clerk; JOHN LEWALLEN, Sheriff; ISAAC REED, Trustee; and RILEY CHAMBERS, Registrar. We don’t have all the names of their opponents.

We did find that there were, in 1850, 350 taxpayers and that the valuation of the county that year was $35,000. By 1860 the county still showed 350 taxpayers, but the valuation had gone up to $110,340; quite a rise in the value of property. However, by 1870 there were 728 taxpayers — a good increase in the number of people coming to Scott County; and the valuation had gone up to $239,670. By 1880 there were 1,340 taxpayers, and the valuation had risen to $343,169.

Oldest known picture of Huntsville. The photographer may have stood on the hill behind the Huntsville Middle School, near TOMMY THOMPSON’S property. The second Courthouse (see photo below) is the three-story wooden structure near the church at right.

This was all after the completion of the Southern Railroad; for that was what brought on the rise in population and the increase in the value of property. Now Old Homestead and South Homestead had become Helenwood and New River.

By 1890 the county had a population of over 9,000 and a property valuation of $833,000; by 1900 the population was

11,000, property valuation $1,381,180, and by 1920 the population had reached 12,411 and property valuation had sprung to $7,595,842. We know the story from there on; a decline in valuation, a rise in rates and the population going up and down.

By 1920 Huntsville had just about reached its peak as a lively little town. Its first, old brick courthouse had come and gone; then the second one, a frame building, came and went; the third of stone also went, destroyed by fire, to be replaced by the present one of brick.

In 1916 the first County "Fair" was held. This took place in the school and consisted mostly of contests between this and other schools. There were also singing contests and some prizes were given in athletics.

Of course, by that time Huntsville had two churches, the Baptist and the Presbyterian, organized, as already described, by the early settlers. There were also three hotels, four large stores, and one feed and seed store, two blacksmith shops, a woodworking shop, a meat market, a large lumberyard, a bank, an electric lighting system and a small public park; a physician and nine lawyers.

The third Scott County Courthouse. Notice the stone work matches that of jail and the First National Bank buildings.

We would say that the town then was about its best. Much of the old town had given way to the newer business houses; and there had been one public auction of lots to townsmen and to others.

Huntsville had come a long way in its first seventy years. There were new-corners arriving to take the place of several old-timers leaving there after the Civil War. HENRY C. SMITH left in 1873 for Grinnell, Iowa; he was the nephew of JOHN L. SMITH. ONVIE SMITH never returned to Huntsville after the Civil War, in which he served in the Confederate army, settling, instead, in Kansas.

Among the newcomers in town were the SHARPs. We will quote from the 1955 history of the

The second Scott County Courthouse, which replaced the first Courthouse of brick structure, according to H. Clay Smith’s writings.

SHARPs as it appeared in the Monticello, Kentucky newspaper. This history was written by WILL SHARP of Monticello:

"NICK SHARP raised his family in Virginia 17--. He and his wife were both Germans. His son, JIM, came to Campbell County, Tenn., the last part of 1700 or the first part of 1800. He settled near Old Buckeye, Tenn., now Pioneer, Tenn., where he lived and died. He married a Pennsylvania Dutch. He and his son WASH and wife are buried in the Sharp cemetery at Royal Blue, Tenn., in Campbell County.

"WASH SHARP was born in 1812; his wife MARGERETE LEIGH SHARP was born in 1816. JIM SHARP, the son of NICK SHARP, had at least two more sons, NICK and JIM, better known as Jimper, and one girl, who married DUG HILL , better known as R. D. HILL, a lawyer who lived at Williamsburg, Ky.

"JIM SHARP’s son, Jimper, was the father of three sons, WILLIAM SHARP, NICK SHARP and ISAAC SHARP. His wife was MOLLEY COX SHARP, then he married MARY GIBSON SMITH SHARP, she was the daughter of JOHN L. SMITH and KIZZY GIBSON SMITH. They had ten children, five of them born at Old Buckeye, Tenn., BETTY DOBBS SHARP, KIZZY SHARP, EWELL SHARP, GEORGE SHARP, CAL SHARP and JIMMIE SHARP. JAMES SHARP, Sr. was born on November 15th, 1810 and died in 1893, his wife MARY G. SHARP was born August 9th (year not stated) and died in 1916. She was the daughter of JOHN L. SMITH and KIZZIE SHARP. And he was a Historian who got or obtained this history from his parents and parents of the SHARP family.

"Now it is of this branch of SHARPs that Uncle BILLY SHARP, the well known character of Huntsville, originated."

He had the first hotel in Huntsville, and it was located on the corner of the lot near the present jailhouse. "Uncle BILLY" experienced many things from the day he entered Huntsville, though probably none more exciting than the JAMES brothers —the-famous Jesse and Frank.

Let it be remembered that they were not too far from home when they were in Scott County, as their people had originated in and around High Bridge, Kentucky, country; and they had folks in this county, too, from there. But they were as "shy" with their own people as they tried to be with "Uncle BILLY" when they first showed up in Huntsville, in the fall of the year, so writes JAMES W. BAKER, a native Huntsvillian. Mr. BAKER has furnished the writer with the following story:

"They came to Huntsville about two years after the Civil War; four strangers rode into the county seat town of Huntsville, Tennessee. They boarded at the Sharp Hotel on the southeast corner of the Court Square and told people they were buyers and traders of livestock. They soon rented a small building next to the Hotel from Uncle BILLY SHARP and opened a small general store. Two of the group ran the business while the other two made frequent horseback trips presumably to locate and inspect cattle, hogs, horses and sheep that might be bought and driven to market the following summer. All four of the men were owners of exceptionally fine quality saddle horses.

"All dealings with people in Huntsville and nearby area were open and in no way of a suspicious nature. They paid all their obligations in hard money; that is, gold or silver coin. At about this time there was a good deal of counterfeit money in circulation and paper money was suspected especially when offered by strangers.

"After staying some six months they closed their store and left no notice to local persons with whom they had been dealing. They just rode off.

"Uncle BILLY SHARP became better acquainted with them, and, years later, he told people he was sure that two of the men were the JAMES boys, JESSE and FRANK.

"Some twenty-five years later FRANK JAMES came to the town of Hustonville in southeastern Kentucky to visit the Weatherford brothers, the JAMESes and the WEATHERFORD family having been neighbors near St. Joseph, Missouri, years before when all four had been young boys.

"In the meantime, JESSE had been killed and FRANK had surrendered to the law, been sent to the penitentiary and, later, been given a full pardon by the governor of Missouri.

"The WEATHERFORDS were merchants and, during FRANK JAMES’ visit with them, they told him that a partner of their business was a JAMES F. BAKER, of Huntsville, Tennessee.

"FRANK JAMES then told them that he was well acquainted with Huntsville, Tennessee, that he and JESSE had stayed in Huntsville several months under assumed names while "scouting" or "laying low" from officers of the law. He described the town and several persons whom he remembered well. Two of them were "Uncle BILLY" SHARP and "RUBE" HURTT. The

The second Courthouse is being placed on rollers to be moved. Note the building on the left. It’s the county’s third Courthouse which has apparently just been completed and ready for occupancy. The new Courthouse was apparently used for other purposes once the move was made into the new Courthouse.

WEATHERFORDS related the conversation to JAMES F. BAKER upon his next visit to their place of business in Hustonville; and he was convinced that it was authentic."

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"Uncle Billy’s" hotel was sold, successively, to a Mr. WILLIS, to "Bob" BAKER, to FREEMAN AB PHILLIPS and his wife, ROSA KEETON PHILLIPS running it for the two last named. Later, BOB BAKER moved into it, using it as a residence.

NEWTON McDONALD and his wife, FERBA, had, the second hotel, which burned. It was located where McDonald’s restaurant now is.

The operators of the third hotel were Dr. BRASFIELD and his wife POLLY before it was sold to DAN CHAMBERS. This inn was a very popular place in Huntsville during the first two decades of the 1900s.

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BRANCH ROYSDON conducted Huntsville’s fourth hotel, later turned over to BAILEY STANLEY and last run by Mr. LOW.

First National Bank on the Huntsville Square. The house at right is believed to have been last occupied by the PAUL DYER Family. The house was razed fro expansion of the Baker, Worthington, Crossley, Stansberry, and Woolf Law Office. Although the actual date this photograph was taken is not known, the presence of the old car and wagon should give you some indication.

Among the first restaurants in Huntsville was that of EZEKIEL HEMBREE, who also ran a store and was trustee of Scott County. He, his wife and their two children are buried in the old Huntsville cemetery.

Among Huntsville’s first postmasters were: JOHN L. SMITH, "Jim" PARKER, "Jim" KEEN, HUGH PHILLIPS and NEWTON McDONALD. ISAAC BOSHEARS was the first postmaster of the town of Huntsville.

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Among the town’s earliest stores, there is a close "first and second" between Mr. KEEN’s first and Mr. J. HUGH PHILLIPS’ second. Mr. KEEN may have had many things that Mr. PHILLIPS did not have; but there was one thing for sure: Mr. PHILLIPS had a way and a wit with customers never to be forgotten by those who have ever known or heard of him.

On an occasion during the Civil War, people were allotted rations very much like they were during World War II. The customers were lined up at daylight at Mr. PHILLIPS’ store, as he was the "examiner" for the government. If he thought you were in need, he would deal with you accordingly.

On this occasion a strange woman appeared in the line and made her way to the head of it three times, only to be taken away from it each time by the examiner. The last time, she wanted to know of Mr. PHILLIPS why? He told her to step aside until all the others were served, remarking, "I have been told you are a ‘furriner’ and besides a lewd woman. Now when I am through I am going to ‘zamine’ you and see about those charges."

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Like the citizens of Oneida, Huntsville’s also saw the need of a bank, so, in 1908, businessmen organized the Scott County National Bank of Huntsville. Some of the members of this bank were:

Dr. J. I. FOSTER, JOHN TOOMEY, E. S. BOSHEARS, E. J. FOSTER and JOHN HATFIELD of Norma, Tennessee. The first cashier was THOMAS N. SCATES (1909 to 1910). He was followed by a Mr. STRATTON when the name changed to "First National Bank"; and STRATTON was followed by BERRY DANIELS. This was in 1911. In 1920, A. J. DANIELS was cashier and LONNIE GIBSON assistant cashier.

In 1920 this bank had resources in the amount of $228,180 and deposits in the amount of $164,228.62; but by January 9, 1934 it cleared through correspondent banks in Knoxville, Nashville and Cincinnati. Those closed; and that closed the Huntsville bank. It later, was liquidated.

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From the time THOMAS and PRICE had first published the old Scott County Call, people had looked forward to a county paper. But the Call, as it was sometimes referred to, called no more on the good people of the county.

Mr. JAMES F. BAKER soon saw that there was an eagerness in the people for the news, so in 1892, he established the Cumberland Chronicle. For 25 years it was the leading newspaper, giving Scott Countians all the news that was fit to print and letting the outside world know about the folks back home; as, by this time, many Scott Countians had scattered to all parts of the U.S.A.

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Sometime during the year 1902 the town was incorporated. The following were Aldermen: BAILEY STANLEY, "Big Jim" GRIFFITH, DAN CHAMBERS and Dr. McDONALD. STERLING ADKINS was the policeman.

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JOHN BUTTRAM and FRAZIER McDONALD took three Delco light plants, combined them to make on giant plant and supplied lights to the town. They ran them into the new schoolhouse and many business houses. Among those being so serviced were: The People’s Store, FRANK COKER’s Feed and Seed Store, JOHN BUTTRAM’s Real Estate Office, WILLARD KEEN’s Insurance Office and FRAZIER McDONALD’s Automobile Shop.

McDONALD continued in business in Huntsville until the early part of 1924, when he moved his shop to Oneida.

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Going back to the earlier automobile companies of Scott County: the Byrd Bros. business in Huntsville has been in existence since 1929 and, for several years, was the agency for Plymouth and Dodge cars and trucks. It has long furnished employment to many and has been of great service to the town and to the surrounding territory, and is now conducted under the able management of CARL BYRD.

The C. R. Lewallen and Co. Store, last owned and operated by FRANK TIGHE. The village Workshop is now located on the site.

FNB Chronicle, Vol. 2 No. 1 – Fall 1990
First National Bank
P.O. Box 4699
Oneida, TN 37841
(p1, 4, 9-10)

Scott Co, TN Homepage

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