CARTER COUNTY is one of the extreme eastern counties of the State. It is bounded
on the north by Sullivan County, on the northeast and east by Johnson County, on
the south by Unicoi County and the line of North Carolina, and on the west by
Washington County. Its area is about 360 square miles. The surface is
mountainous, the proportion of arable land being comparatively small. The
principal stream in the county is Watauga, which receives Buffalo Creek and Doe
River from the south, and Stony Creek from the north. The mineral resources are
varied and extensive. The iron ores are especially valuable and prior to the war
furnaces and forges were operated with profit.
The vicinity of Watauga River in Carter County is one of the most historic spots
in the state since it was along this stream that the first permanent settlement
was made. The first white men to visit this region and the first to make a
settlement south of the present Virginia line believed to have been Andrew
Greer, an Indian trader, and Julius C. Dugger, who came some time about the year
1766. The former lived on the north side of Watauga River about three miles
above Elizabethton. The later lived and died at a place known as Duggers
Bridge, on the Watauga, near where Allen T. Carriger now resides. James
Robertson came to Watauga in 1770, and the next year settled beyond the bluff
opposite the mouth of Doe River. He remained there until 1779, when he removed
to the Cumberland. Valentine Sevier, Sr., the father of Gen. Sevier, came at
about the same time as Robertson. He located between Sycamore Shoals and
Elizabethton, where he died in 1805. Col. John Carter, about 1770 or 1771, made
a settlement one half mile north of Elizabethton. He was the progenitor of one
of the most illustrious families of the State, and a most striking coincidence
occurs in the political career of himself and his descendants. He was a member
of two constitutional conventions of North Carolina. His son, Gen. Landon
Carter, was prominent in the constitutional Convention of 1796, and his
grandson, Gen. William B. Carter, was the chairman of the convention of 1834,
while his great-grandson, also, William B. Carter, was an active participant in
the constitutional convention of 1870. All of these men represented the same,
constituency, and the last named, a Democrat, was chosen in a strong Republican
The first settler on Gap Creek was Simeon Bundy, whose house stood near the Big
Spring, the head of that stream. Matthew Talbott also lived on Gap Creek, where
he built one first mills in the State. Another was built at about the same time,
perhaps a little before, by Baptist McNabb. It was on Buffalo Creek near where
Alexander Anderson now lives. Charles Robertson lived on Sinking Creek on the
farm now owned by Robert Miller. Michael Ryder settled on Powder Branch, about a
mile from Watauga, on property still owned by his descendants. James Edens
located near Big Spring, on Gap Creek, above Simeon Bundy. Thomas Gourley,
William Boyd and Joseph Ryder also located in that vicinity. Col. John Tipton
located in the present Washington County, but owned a large body of land in what
is now Carter County, extending from Happy Valley to the farm now owned by Dr.
J. M. Cameron. He became involved in debt, and his son, Samuel Tipton, who had
not immigrated from Virginia with his father, purchased the greater part of this
land, and made his home on Doe River, opposite Elizabethton, a little below the
bridge. His brothers, Isaac and Thomas, also obtained a portion of the land
Edmund Williams located on Buffalo Creek, where he entered a large body of land.
He had five sons: George, Archibald, Samuel, John and Joshua. Near him was
located David Pugh, a brother of Jonathan Pugh, one of the sheriffs under the
dual government of Franklin and North Carolina.
The Taylor family also located in the county very early Isaac, Andrew and Abner
Taylor were the first, together with their half brother, Nathaniel. The last
named lived on the Watauga near the mouth of Buffalo. Isaac located on the
Buffalo near where Milligan College now is, and Andrew on the south side of
Watauga, at what is now known as Taylortown. Andrew Taylor built a mill on a
branch of Buffalo which had fallen into disuse as early as 1800, and a second
was built higher up the branch by Nathaniel. The latter was also a pioneer in
the manufacture of iron, and owned and operated works on Roane Creek. The first
forge in the county, however, was built about 1795 by Landon Carter, at the foot
of the mountain at Elizabethton, where he also built a mill. The iron works were
afterward greatly enlarged by his son, Alfred M. Carter. Several years later a
forge and furnace were built about three miles above Elizabethton, and operated
for a time by Joseph OBrien and William Gott. Later it became the property of
John and James OBrien who conducted the business for several years. It had a
capacity of about one ton of merchants bar iron per day, which at that time was
considered a large amount, In addition to the early settlers mentioned above
were Peter, John and Henry Nave, John and William McNabb, and Jeremiah Dunjoin.
One of the first forts built in this section was the Watauga Fort, erected upon
land owned by John S. Thomas, about half a mile northeast of the mouth of Gap
Creek. In 1776 this fort was attacked by a large body of Cherokees. At that time
it contained 150 settlers, including the entire garrison from Gillespie Station
on the Nolachucky below Jonesboro. The attack was made on the 21st of July at
daybreak. The women had gone outside to milk the cows and were fired upon, but
made good their escape to the fort. The Indians were twice repulsed, but
remained before the fort for six days, at the end of which time the approach of
reenforcements from the Holston put them to flight. The fort was defended by
Capt. James Robertson and Lieut. Sevier, with about forty men. Near this fort
was built a rude courthouse and jail, erected by the Watauga Association.
A second fort was built higher up Watauga on the north side, on land then owned
by Valentine Sevier, Sr., but now the property of Solomon and Abraham Hart. A
third fort stood near Hamptons Station in a Cove of Doe River. Carter Womack is
also said to have had a fort near the head of Wataugs. Another fort is said to
have been near the site of Carters depot.
On April 9, 1796, the General Assembly divided Washington County, and erected
the eastern part into Carter County, which then included all of Johnson and part
of Unicoi. The court of pleas and quarter sessions was organized on the 4th of
July, 1796, at the house of Samuel Tipton. The magistrates present were Andrew
Greer, Landon Carter, Nathaniel Taylor, David McNabb, Lochonah Campbell,
Guttredge Garland, John Vaught, Joseph Lands and Reuben Thornton. They qualified
in the following manner: Landon Carter administered the oaths to Andrew Greer,
who in turn administered them to Col. Carter, and the remainder of the court,
The following officers were then elected: Godfrey Carriger, register; Joseph
Lands, ranger; George Williams, clerk; John Macun, trustee Nathaniel Taylor,
sheriff, and Charles Colyer, Aaron Cunningham, Samuel Musgrove, Thomas Whilson,
Solomon Campbell and John Robertson, constables.
The next term of the court was also held at Tiptons. At that time Nathaniel
Taylor and Nathaniel Folsom were allowed $50 for laying off the town for the
seat of justice. The sheriff returned the following venire facias
Dugger, George Ingle, John Stover, John Fentress, Mathias Wagoner, Levi Loyd,
Jeremiah Campbell, William Pugh, William Davis, William Dugger, Jules Dugger,
Joseph Ford, John Worley, Stephen Redman, John Poland, James Range, Michael
Hyder, John Peoples and Robert Lusk. The last ten were constituted the grand
At the April term, 1797, the court met at the house of William Matlock in
Elizabethton and soon after the minutes of the court recoid meetings held in the
courthouse. When this building was completed or of what material it was
constructed is not known, but it was probably of logs and stood on the public
square. In 1820 Jeremiah Campbell. William Carter, James Keys, Johnson Hampton
and Alfred M. Carter were appointed commissioners to sell the old courthouse,
and superintend the building of a new one. The next year an octagonal brick
building, two stories high, with the courtroom below the offices above, was
completed. It stood In the center of the square. It was used the completion of
the present large three-story brick building, in 1852. The commissioners
appointed to erect the latter building were Godfrey Nave, C. W. Nelson, L. W.
Hampton H. C. White, John Wright, Christian Carriger and Albert Tipton. The
contract was let to John Lyle and William M. Fleming for $7,100. The jail was a
log structure until January, 1857, when it was replaced by the present building
erected upon the old site.
The circuit court for Carter County was organized in 1810, but its early minutes
have been destroyed. The chancery business, previous to 1854, was done at
Jonesboro. On November 27 of that year Judge Lucky organized a chancery court at
Elizabethton, and appointed C. W. Nelson as clerk and master. The first lawyer
of any prominence resident in the county was James P. Taylor, the grandfather of
the present governor of Tennessee. He was admitted to practice in 1815, and six
years later was elected attorney general for the First Circuit, a position he
continued to hold until about 1882, when he died. He is said to have been one of
the finest lawyers in East Tennessee at that and as an orator he has never been
excelled by one of his descendants. Alfred W. Taylor a brother of James P.,
began the practice of law in 1825, and continued until his death about 1856. He
was a close student and an excellent counsellor, but as an advocate he was
inferior to his brother. Thomas D. Love, a brother-in-law of the Taylors was
also a lawyer, but died somewhat early in his career. He lived near the mouth of
Thomas A. H. Nelson began his legal career in Elizabethton, in 1828, death of
James P. Taylor was chosen attorney-general. Among the other attorneys prior to
the war were James T. Carter, C. W. Nelson, Nathaniel M. Taylor, and R. Love
began the practice of his profession about 1850, and continued until his death
about nine years later. Mr. Taylor remained at Elizabethton until after the
close of the war, when he removed to Bristol. where he still resides. C. W.
Nelson was a younger brother of Thomas A. H. Nelson. He served as clerk of the
circuit court for about six years, as clerk and master about two years, and
finally was appointed clerk of the supreme court at Knoxville. Later he removed
to Texas. Robert Love was for many years a resident actitioner. but as he had a
competency, and was not dependent upon the profession, he never sought a large
Among the most prominent members of the profession resident in the county since
war. have been H. C. Smith and J. P. Smith, John Simerly. Maj. H.. M. Folsom, C.
C. Collins and George Boren. The first named was clerk and master of the chancery
court from 1862 to 1869, and in June of the latter year was elected
chancellor of the First Division, which position he filled until his death in
January, 1885. Mr. Smith entered the profession a few years before the war, and
from the first was regarded as an excellent lawyer. As a chancellor he has had
few superiors. His term of office was filled out by Judge C. J. St. John, of
Johnson City, and at the succeeding election in August 1886, Judge J. P. Smith
was elected to the office. He began practice at Elizabethton, in 1869, and
continued to reside there until elected assistant United States district
attorney, which office he filled until July. 1885. In March, 1886, he returned
to Elizabethton where he now resides.
The commissioners appointed to locate the seat of justice for Carter County were
Landon Carter, Reuben Thornton, Andrew Greer, Sr., Zachariah Campbell and David
McNabb. They decided upon the place known as the Watauga Old Fields, which
tradition says were once the site of an Indian village. When first discovered
the place showed no trace of the village except that the land was cleared of
everything except grass and low bushes, and it had doubtless been abandoned for
many years. That such a village existed, however, is proven by the existence of
an ancient cemetery on the banks of the Watauga River, a short distance above
the town. Other evidence exists in implements and remains of fires which have
been dug up.
The town was laid off by Samuel Tipton upon his own land, and no part of the
proceeds of the sale of lots was donated to the county. Seventy-seven lots were
laid off, nine of which were reserved for public buildings. To dispose of the
remaining sixty-eight lots Mr. Tipton proposed a lottery, to he drawn on August
6, 1796, under the inspection of Landon Carter, John Carter and Nathaniel
Folsom. Lots were sold for $10 each, and the numbers of the lots were placed in
a box, from which purchasers drew a number for each $10 paid, and in that way
their lots were located. The lots sold at this time were as follows. John
Frances, Nos. 58 and 60; T. Ashe, 73; Robert English, 63; William Crawley, 74;
William Matlock, 38; 5. Peters, 65; Charles Reneau, 25; William Western, 52;
James Lacey, 26; Leonard Bowers, 4; William McNabb, 19. Among others who
purchased lots during the next year were John and Landon Carter, Charles Bailey,
Abraham Bailey, Philemore Lacey and Christian Stover. The first house in the
town was doubtless erected by William Matlock, who in April, 1797, applied for a
license to keep an ordinary. This building now forms a part of what is known as
the Cameron House. Similar houses were opened by John Greer in 1803, and John
Humphreys, in 1807. The first merchants now remembered were David Nelson, whose
store stood just in front of where the courthouse now is; Samuel Jackson & Son
and Benjamin Brewer, who had a store and tavern on the site now occupied by H.
H. Snyder. All of these men were in business between 1825 and 1830. During that
period Jacob Cameron opened a saddlers shop, while Benjamin Harris ran a
hatters shop, and Thomas Singletary a tailor shop. Among the merchants from
this time until 1860 were H. W. & Joseph Powell, Jefferson & John Powell, Folsom
& Burrows, Isaac Tipton & William B. Carter, I. K. Snapp, Jesse J. James,
Rockhold & Wray and Murphy & Sons.
In 1837 the Jonesboro Republican
was purchased by Mason H. Lyon and in
May, following, it was removed to Elizabethton, and published as the
Elizabethton Republican and Manufacturers Advocate
, by Lyon & Gott. It
continued until the office was destroyed by fire about 1844. During about the
same time, beginning in 1859, William G. Brownlow published his Wing
. A small
extra is also said to have been issued for a time by Valentine Garland
(Pompey Smash), a printer in one of the other offices. These were
the only papers published at Elizabethton prior to the war.
The population of the town has never been large. In 1830 it was 136, and by 1850
it had a little more than doubled. It is now about 500, having increased
somewhat since the completion of the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina
Railroad. The present business of the town is as follows: C. P. Toncray & Co.,
H. H. Snyder, W. L. Carriger & Co. and J.J. Edens & Son, general merchandise; W.
E. Carter, drugs; A. R. P. Toncray, Johnson & Walters and H. C. Boyd, groceries.
The manufactories consist of the Doe River Woolen-mills, operated by W. M.
Cameron, David Brummet and E. E. Hunter, the Watauga Woolen-mills, owned and run
by J P. Scott; a tannery owned by William Randolph, owned by C. P. Toncray and
Edward Carter; a furniture factory operated by N. G. McFarland, and a flouring-
mill owned by William B. Carter.
In March, 1875, a newspaper known as The Mountaineer
was established by W. R.
Fitzsimmons, who has since continued its publication.
The date of the organization of the first church in Elizabethton is not known.
The Presbyterian Congregation was constituted about 1825, by Rev. L. G. Bell,
acting under orders from the presbytery of Abingdon. Seventeen members were
enrolled as follows: Alfred M. Carter, William D. Jones and Benjamin Brewer,
ruling elders; and A.L. Jones, Mary C. Taylor, Mary Taylor, Elizabeth Smith,
Mary A. Tipton, Ruth McLeod, William Mitchell, Elizabeth Blair, Margaret Blair,
Evaline B. Carter, Ann L. McLin, Sarah S. Brewer, Isaac Taylor and James Taylor.
From this time for several years Rev. James McLin preached to the congregation
occupying the courthouse for the most part. He was succeeded by Rev. J. G. Ward,
who remained until about 1834. J. W. Cunningham then administered to the
congregation until 1841, during which time the present commodious brick building
was erected. A house was first begun on the lot now owned by Maj. H. M. Folsom,
but the walls when completed were found to be defective, and the contractors
were compelled to take them down. The location was then changed, and the
building completed in 1837. at a cost of $1,500. During this year three
additional elders were ordained. They were James C. Simpson, William R. Rhea and
William Gott, to whom, in 1840, were added David Nelson, Jacob Cameron and D. W.
Carter. From 1841 to 1846 the pulpit was filled by William A. Taylor and James
McLin. A. G. Taylor, then preached to the congregation from November, 1846, to
January, 1848, Rev. Ira Morey succeeded him continuing a year or longer. From
December 1, 1850, Rev. A. A. Doak a member of the old school branch, preached
one Sunday a month for one year. From that time for several years the church
seems to have been without a regular stated supply, but about 1859 Rev. J. M.
Huffmeister was installed as pastor and continued until 1863. From this time
until about 1877 the church was again without a stated supply, although, the
pulpit was frequently filled by various ministers. Since that time the
congregation has been served by Rev. H. C. Atwater, Rev. C. A. Duncan, Rev. J.
G. McFerrin and __ Wallace successively.
In 1887 the church edifice was thoroughly repaired and is now one of the
handsomest old buildings of the kind in the State. This work was superintended
and largely aided by Dr. J. M. Cameron. Besides those before mentioned the
elders of this church have been William S. Thomas, John Miner, William P.
Brewer, Samuel M. Stover, James M. Cameron and C. C. Collins.
The Methodist Church at Elizabethton, was undoubtedly formed prior to the
Presbyterian, and like the latter, they at first held services in the courthouse
and in the academy. About 1886 a small frame building was erected at the lower
end of Main Street, opposite where Mr. Wilcox now lives. It was occupied until
about 1859, when the present house was begun and completed a year or two later.
Among the first members of the church were John Singletary, Mrs. John Wilcox and
family, Joseph Taylor, John Stephens and David Adams, a local preacher.
At the close of the war the church property was sold to satisfy creditors, and
was bought by a representation of that part of the membership, adhering to the
Methodist Episcopal Church. The members of the Methodist Episcopal Church South
then organized a congregation which has since worshiped in the Presbyterian
Church. In 1842 a Baptist Church was constituted by Rev. William Cate. Among its
first members were Elijah Hardin, Mason H. Lyon, Abraham Tipton, Thomas Johnson,
James Renfro and J. Crouch. A house which bad been occupied by a ComInon school,
and by a female academy, was purchased and fitted up as a house of worship. It
stood on a lot now occupied by the new store house of H. H. Snyder. After the
war the church did not flourish, and for several years no regular services have
The first church of this denomination in the county was constituted on Sinking
Creek in 1798 It was represented in the association the next year by William
Wall, William Randolph, Owen Owens and James Davidson. A second church was
organized on Gap Creek in 1800, and a third on Stoney Creek in 1822.
The academy incorporated for Carter County under the act of 1806 was denominated
Duffield Academy and George Duffield, Nathaniel Taylor, George Williams,
Alexander Doran, John Greer, Andrew Taylor, Abraham Henry and Reuben Thornton
were appointed trustees of the institution. At what time a building was erected
and the school put into operation is not known, but is was some time about 1820.
In 1888 the old building was torn down, and a contract for the erection of a new
one upon the same foundation was let to P. Q. Satterfield, and Solomon Q.
Sherfy. It was not, however, until 1841 that the building, which is still
standing was completed. Meanwhile a school had been taught in the Methodist
Church. In October, 1841, James McLin was elected teacher. He continued in that
position about two years, during which time the institution experienced its
greatest prosperity. Since then schools of varying degrees of excellence, and of
varying duration have been maintained. From the close of the war until 1881, the
institution was under the management of Capt. J. I. H. Boyd, an experienced
teacher and an excellent disciplinarian. At present the building is in a very
dilapidated condition, and but little can be said in praise of the school
facilities of Elizabethton.
The only school of high grade in the county is Milligan College, which was
incorporated in 1869 as Buffalo Institute, and received its present charter in
1881. For a time previous to 1875 the institution was not prosperous. In that
year Josephus Hopwood, A. M., assumed the presidency, and, assisted by an able
corps of teachers, has placed the college in the forefront of the educational
institutions of East Tennessee. The large college building is located on an
eminence on Buffalo Creek, about one miles from the railroad. The school
receives pupils of both sexes, and is under the auspices of the Christian
The following persons have held official positions in Carter County since its
Clerks of the county court-George Williams, 1796-1836; M. N. Folson; 1836-40; J.
L. Bradley, 1840-78; George T. Williams, 1878-86: J. G. Emmert, 1886.
Clerks of the circuit court-A. M. Carter; 1810-36; George C.Williams 1836-40;
Carrick W. Nelson, 1840-46; Isaac P. Tipton, 1846-54; John Singletary; 1854-61;
James A. Burrow, 1861-62; C. P. Toncray, 1862-66; R. C. White, 1866-70; G. W.
Emmert, 1870-82; J. F. Griudstaff, 1882.
Registers-Godfrey Carriger, 1796-1827; Benjamin Brewer, 1827-36; Solomon Hendrix,
1836-40; M. N. Folson, 1840-44; Isaac H. Brown, 1844-50; W. Williams 1850-51; J.
G. Fellers, 1851-60; Joseph Taylor 1860-70; A. L. Hilton, 1870-71; G. O. Collins,
1871-72; Joseph Taylor, 1872-79; W. B. C. Smith, 1879-80; E. D. Oliver, 1880-82;
W. L. Carriger, 1882.
Sheriffs-Nathaniel Taylor. 1796-99; Abraham Byler, 1799-1805, Archibald Williams,
1805-18; Andrew Taylor, 1813-21; William B. Carter 1821-23; William Carter, 1823-29;
William Gott, 1829-16; Abraham Tipton; 1836-40; Elijah D. Harden 1840-42; Edmond
Williams. 1842-48; Albert Tipton, 1848-54; Elijah Simerly, 1854-60; John K. Miller,
1860-63; Jacob Vandeventer, 1864-65; P. A. J. Crockett, 1865-66; J. W. Orr, 1866-72;
E. W. Heaton, 1872-74; J. D. Pierce, 1874-77 John M. Simerly, 1877-80; James Nave,
1880-86; Isaac Griudstaff, 1886.
Trustees-John Maclin, 1796-; William Peoples, Jr., 1811-18; David McNabb, 1813-17;
Willie W. Williams, 1817-19; David McNabb, 1819-25; Ezekiel Smith, 1825-36; Joseph
OBrien, 1886-40; Samuel Drake, 1836-44; George Emmert, 1844-46; J. W. Ryder,
1846-52; Isaac H. Brown, 1852- 56; John Carriger, 1856-62; William Cass, 1862-65;
William. J. Folsom, 1865-66; J. P. Vanhuss, 1866-72; Archibald Williams, 1872-74;
J. D. Carriger, 1874-78; T. C. White, 1878-81; J. J. McCorckle, 1881-86; James L.
Clerks and masters--Carrick W. Nelson, 1854-56; H. M. Folsom, 1856-62; H. C.
Smith 1862-69; John P. Smith, 1869-70; John C. Smith, 1870-86.