Oak Hill Cemetery

October 10, 2010

Oak Hill Cemetery is located almost exactly in the middle of Johnson City, Tenn., and contains the graves of several notable Tennesseans.

This cemetery has been around as long as Johnson City has. Johnson City was formally established in 1869 by Henry Johnson. The cemetery was declared the next year. Henry Johnson and his wife are buried there. Johnson established a train depot near what is now downtown Johnson City and the settlement became known as Johnson’s Depot. Prior to that a small village near the site was known as Blue Plum.

Image via Wikipedia

Perhaps the most notable grave in this cemetery is that of Col. LeRoy Reeves, the designer of the Tennessee state flag. According to a historic marker placed in the middle of the graveyard, Reeves’ design was chosen by the state legislature as the official Tennessee flag in 1905. It was first raised in a ceremony dedicating East Tennessee State Normal School – now East Tennessee State University – Oct. 10, 1911. Reeves died in 1960.

For anyone who may not know what Tennessee’s flag looks like, I’ve included an image  below. The three stars represent the three divisions of the state – East, Middle and West.

Many graves in Oak Hill Cemetery date from the 1800s. The cemetery still operates today.


The flag of Tennessee.
Image via Wikipedia

The top picture accompanying this blog was taken by me at the east end of the cemetery looking south, toward Buffalo Mountain. I framed the shot looking through tree trunks. The next picture shows some of the Reeves family graves at the bottom of the picture and other tombstones in the background.

For more information on this cemetery and much more Johnson City’s history, I recommend checking out the Johnson’s Depot website. It covers pretty much the entire history of Johnson City.

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Andrew Johnson

October 10, 2010

President Andrew Johnson, America’s 17th head of state, is buried in Greeneville, Tenn.

He also lived there for most of his life. Today, people can tour his Greeneville home and also see where he is buried – at Andrew Johnson National Cemetery, also in Greeneville.

Johnson became president in 1865, following the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. He was impeached by Congress because of his reluctance to punish the South for the Civil War. He was not removed from office, though.

I have provided a short video that gives a brief tour of the historic site below. Enjoy.

Today, visitors to his home can get tours and, as a fun activity, also participate in a yearly vote to impeach Johnson. These are tallied and published each year.

Tours of the home also  include a display of his tailor shop and a film on the president. A museum on the grounds offers a more in depth account of his impeachment trial and visitors can also see his grave in the national cemetery.

For more information on the historic site click here.

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The Netherland Inn

October 10, 2010

The Netherland Inn is located in Kingsport, Tenn., and has been around since the early 1800s, however, settlers began utilizing the site prior to the Revolutionary War.

The inn we see today was built in 1818 by Richard Netherland,

who purchased a stage coach contract to drive business to his new inn. The road on which the inn sits became the main rout to all areas west, so it probably saw a lot of travelers. We are certain that presidents Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson and James Polk stayed at the inn. I grew up in Kingsport and remember hearing that George Washington stayed there. I can not confirm that right now, but there was certainly activity at the site during his lifetime.

The inn sits along the banks of the Holston River, and in about 1802 a man named William King established a boatyard there to provide transportation for his salt business. This is where Kingsport gets its name.

The boatyard was actually operating by 1768, according to the historic marker on the site. It served as the hub for most commercial and immigration activity on the Holston until about 1850.

In 1979, a local Boy Scout troop erected on the site a replica of a flatboat that would have been commonly used by settlers in the late 1700s. I took this shot of these birds flying while walking near the inn. The shot is not necessarily historic in nature, but you will see this kind of thing if you visit the inn. In fact, you don’t have to visit the inn at all, because a walking trail and park spans a good length of the Holston on either side of the inn. I was walking on the trail when I took this picture of the birds.

The inn is a museum now and is open for tours. Visit the website for more information.

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In Greene County is a state park dedicated to David Crockett, or Davy Crockett as he is commonly referred to.

This man was an influential figure in early American history. He was a state legislator, congressman, soldier and frontiersman, among other things. He was sort of a popular icon during his life and his legend only grew after his death. I’ve included a really informative video on Davy Crockett and his life below.

In fact, Davy Crockett is perhaps best know for dying at the Battle of the Alamo in the Texas Revolution in 1836. This famous battle is where a popular phrase arose – “Remember the Alamo.” You can still hear variations of this phrase today, the most recent being “Remember 9/11,” a reference to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Anyway, Davy Crockett’s birthplace along the banks of the Nolichucky River in Greene County is preserved, for the most part, for everyone to enjoy. This state park includes a museum, campground, picnic area, fishing area and a recreation of the log cabin that Davy Crockett was most likely born in.

I actually have visited this park to write a feature story about a re-enactment held there for the Johnson City Press. Re-enactments are held periodically at this site and visitors are welcome year-round.

Below are directions to and contact information for the park.

1245 Davy Crockett Park Road
Limestone , TN 37681-5825
Office: 423-257-2167
Camp Ground: 423-257-4500
Fax: 423-257-2430

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I promised a podcast on the Overmountain Men and here it is:

View overmountain-men-podcast-mp3

For this podcast I interviewed several people at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area on the 230th anniversary of the muster of Overmountain Men. Many people were there that day and I got some good information. See my previous posting for more information about the Overmountain Men, or simply listen to the podcast.

The guitar piece accompanying the podcast is called Travel Light and was performed by Jason Shaw. I pulled the music from his website at audionautix.com.

I narrated the podcast myself.

A quick note about the pictures on this posting:

The top picture was cropped from a larger image of about a dozen men who crossed the Watauga River at a shallow point known as the shoals. They were recreating the original crossing of 400 Virginians from Abingdon, Va., in 1780 who met another militia at Fort Watauga, which is where Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area is located.

I’ve also included below the route the Overmountain men took. That route is now a historic trail created by Congress in 1980. The trail is actually in the shape of a “Y.” In reality, men from all over this area met up with the Overmountain Men as they marched, so there were many small feeder trails, so to speak. Listen to the podcast for more information on the trail.

Map showing camps of the Overmountain Men, Sep...
Image via Wikipedia
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More historic Jonesborough

September 30, 2010

This weekend in Jonesborough will be the 38th annual National Storytelling Festival.

The small town will be packed with at least 10,000 extra people. And in addition to hearing tales spun from the mouths of professional storytellers, audiences will be privy to some interesting local history, as well.

And you, dear readers, will be privy to that same history today. The first item of interest is the Christopher Taylor House. This house was built by Christopher Taylor in 1777. It now sits on Main Street, Jonesborough, but was actually moved there in the 1970s.

Taylor was an officer in both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Andrew Jackson, the seventh president of the United States lived in Taylor’s home while he practiced law in Jonesborough.

The next point of interest on today’s stop in Jonesborough is the Chester Inn. This Inn has continuously been occupied as a place of lodging since it was built in 1797 by William P. Chester of Lancaster, Penn. President Jackson stayed at the inn, as did James K. Polk and Andrew Johnson, the 11th and 17th presidents, respectively.

One other stop in Jonesborough is the Blair-Moore House Bed & Breakfast. I don’t personally know much about this location, except that, according to the vintage-looking sign attached to the front of the building, it was established in 1832.

I liked the look of the sign and the American flags on the lamp post flapping in the wind when I took this shot you see below. I think the whole scene comes together very nicely.

The first abolitionists?

September 29, 2010

Have you ever felt the need to communicate a really important message?

Some people in Jonesborough did more than 150 years ago with the publication of the Manumission Intelligencer and the Emancipator. These periodicals were published by Elihu Embree and printed by Jacob Howard on the site where the house seen here sits on Main Street Jonesborough. The house here is framed in by a large tree on the front lawn and Jonesborough Presbyterian Church from the previous post.

The Emancipator, an abolitionist newspaper pub...
Image via Wikipedia

What makes this site unique is that these publications were the first such devoted entirely to the abolition of slavery. Embree died in 1820, and so did his publication. However, according to some sources, his publications had a circulation of around 2,000 subscribers. That is a really good number for the time period, for any newspaper.

East Tennessee was largely anti-slavery both prior to and during the Civil War, so it is not surprising that an anti-slavery publication did well here. Despite that sentiment being rather prominent in the area, records of slave holders in the area do exist from the time.

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The Lost State of Franklin

September 24, 2010

Tennessee was not always Tennessee.

Most of the area now known as Northeast Tennessee was once called the State of Franklin, which is where State of Franklin road in Johnson City, Tenn., gets its name.

The State of Franklin (1784-1790). State of Fr...

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John Sevier, the first governor of Tennessee, was one of the founders of the ill-fated State of Franklin. The new state was formed to break away from the state of North Carolina in the year 1785. The founders set up a governing body, courts, opened trade, signed treaties with local Native American tribes and even applied for admission to the Union in that same year but fell two votes short.

John Sevier (23 September 1745 – 25 September ...
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After being denied statehood, the State of Franklin was doomed to failure.

North Carolina eventually moved in troops under the command of Col. John Tipton to re-secure the break-away counties. Sevier’s forces and those of Tipton fought a small skirmish in Washington County in 1788.

Eventually, Sevier was arrested by North Carolina for attempting to cede the State of Franklin to the Spanish. He was pardoned after swearing an oath to North Carolina. As mentioned earlier, Sevier then became the first governor of the state of Tennessee when it was established in 1796.

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Mountain Home

September 24, 2010

The Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Mountain Home, is a unique fixture in the middle of Johnson City, Tenn.

Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth President of th...
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The concept of a health system for veterans was established by President Abraham Lincoln. Johnson City’s VA was established in 1903. The National Home for
Disabled Volunteer Soldiers, as it was called then was brought to Johnson City by then Congressman Walter P. Brownlow

Photography is restricted on the VA campus, hence the lack of art here, but there are many old buildings teeming with immaculate architecture. In fact, one building on the campus of Mountain Home is a museum of early medical history.

Military personnel no longer live on the campus today, but tens of thousands of veterans from across the region visit the campus yearly for medical purposes.

Seal of the United States Department of Vetera...

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In addition to a hospital, the East Tennessee State University colleges of medicine and pharmacy are  located at Mountain Home.

Separate from the hospital but still on the grounds is Mountain Home National Cemetery. This land is the final resting place for thousands of military service men and women and their spouses. More than 10,000 graves are located at Mountain Home. For a list of those buried there, click here.

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Washington College Academy

September 24, 2010

An interesting spot in Washington County, Tenn., is Washington College Academy, 116 Doak Lane, Limestone.

This campus of learning was established in 1780 by a man named Samuel Doak.  Doak was a  preacher and was on his way through the area when, according to various sources, he was asked to stop and preach by some locals.

Doak stayed in the area and taught at the academy, eventually settling in Greeneville, Tenn., and founding what became Tusculum College. He was present at the muster of Overmountain Men I mentioned in the previous post and delivered a fiery sermon prior to their march to King’s Mountain to fight the British in the fall of 1780. I’ll give more on this sermon in a future post.

Interpretive sign recalling the muster of the ...
Image via Wikipedia

Anyway, the site of the academy is certainly historic. It has numerous brick buildings and a Presbyterian church on the campus grounds. Recently, the academy did hold various courses of interest and even offered a GED program to area adults.

At the time of its founding, the school was considered the first educational institution west of the Appalachian Mountains, and, according to the academy’s website, the school has “graduated 22 college presidents, 28 congressional members, 1 congressional chaplain, 3 governors, 16 missionaries, 168 ministers, several career military officers and enlisted men, and countless teachers, judges, lawyers, and legislators.” Washington College Academy was named after George Washington, the nation’s first president. It was supposedly the first institution to bear his name.

I have been to the academy several times over the years as events do happen there from time to time despite degrees no longer being conferred there. Unfortunately I have no picture of the grounds to show you. If I can manage it, I’ll dig up some pictures I know exist from articles I’ve written regarding the school.

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