TNGenWeb Project
The Goodspeed Publishing Co., History of Tennessee

Pages 906-912

History of Carter County

Also See: Biographical Sketches
Transcribed by Kris L. Martin

       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 Dugger’s 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 District.

       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 O’Brien and William Gott. Later it became the property of John and James O’Brien 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 Hampton’s 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 Carter’s 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 Tipton’s. 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; William 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 jury.

       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 Gap Creek.

       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 practice.

       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 saddler’s shop, while Benjamin Harris ran a hatter’s 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 been held.

       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 Church.

       The following persons have held official positions in Carter County since its organization:

       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 O’Brien, 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. Lewis, 1886.

       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.

Table of Contents Page

Carter County TNGenWeb Genealogy Page

This page last updated on