Goodspeed's Biographies of Roane
County - 1886
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Roane County occupies the territory and the junction of the Clinch
and Tennessee, and
Clinch and Emory Rivers, and embraces an area of --- square miles. The surface is
generally broken or rolling, but while much of the land is broken and untillable, there is
also a large area of fertile river bottoms. Iron and coal of the best quality abound in
inexhaustible quantities, and lie in close proximity to each other. Limestone and marble
are also abundant. The transportation facilities are the best of any county in East
Tennessee. The Cincinnati Southern Railroad transverses it from northeast to southwest,
while the rivers are open for navigation from eight to ten months in the year.
The Indian title to the territory now included in Roane County was extinguished by three
different treaties. The line fixed by the treaty of 1794 extended to within one mile of
Southwest Point. In 1805 all the territory north of the Tennessee and Holston Rivers to
opposite the mouth of the Hiwassee, with the exception of two or three small reservations,
was ceded by the Indians in a treaty made at Tellico. After the purchase of the Hiwassee
District in 1819, the county was extended south of the river.
The first improvement made in the county was the wood road running from the Clinch
River to the Cumberland settlements, which was cut out in 1785. After the founding of
Knoxville, in 1792, it was extended to that place. This road became the most important
thoroughfare in the State, and over it for more half a century passed nearly all the travel
between East Tennessee and the west. About 1822 it was made a stage route, the stages
passing both ways twice a week. It ran through what is now the main street of Kingston.
In 1792 a fort was established at Southwest Point, and a detachment of United States
troops, under Capt. McCLELLAND, were stationed there to prevent incursions from the
Cherokee Indians into the settlements above. The garrison was maintained at that place
until about 1806 or 1807, when it was removed to a point on the right bank of the
Tennessee River, about six miles from the present town of Dayton. On October 23, 1799,
the Legislature passed an act for the establishment of a town to be known as Kingston, on
lands owned by Robert KING, David MILLER, Alexander CARMICHAEL, George
PRESTON, John SMITH T., William L. LOVELY, M. SMITH and Thomas M. CLARK
were appointed its commissioners. KING lived in a small cabin standing about where
FRENCH'S Hotel now is. The first merchant was probably John McEWEN. Samuel
MARTIN & Co., Gideon MORGAN, Thomas N. CLARK, Sr., White & Cox and Nelson,
Smith & King also opened stores during the first eight or ten years after the town was laid
out. Cotton was at that time an important crop and Hugh BEATTY and john STONE both
operated cotton-gins. The latter also filled the office of cotton inspector. Matthew
NELSON opened a tavern in 1809. He was a carpenter by trade, but subsequently was
elected treasurer of East Tennessee, a position he held for many years. His brother
William D. NELSON, was also an early settler of the town. Henry LIGGETT had a
hatter's shop, and supplied a large section of country with hats. Among other pioneers of
the town may be mentioned Dr. Daniel RATHER, Thomas C. CHILDRESS, William
FRENCH, William LEA, David PATTON and John PURRIS.
Among the most prominent of the early settlers of the county were the
BROWNS--Thomas, John, and William. Thomas BROWN was the quartermaster for the
garrison at the fort, and a politician of considerable reputation. He served several terms in
the Legislature, and on one occasion was a candidate for the United States Senate. Gen.
John BROWN was the owner of a large tract of land, including the present site of
Rockwood, and for twenty-three years was the sheriff of the county. William BROWN
became a lawyer and removed to Knoxville. Perhaps the person who enjoyed the greatest
notoriety among the pioneers of this section was John SMITH T., who lived about two
miles southeast of Kingston. He obtained possession of a 50,000-acre grant of land which
he held in defiance of all other claimants, and was the owner of a large number of slaves.
He was an excellent shot, had fought several duels, and had the unpleasant habit of killing
people on the slightest provocation. The restraint of advancing civilization, however, soon
became distasteful to him and removed to Missouri.
Kingston, from its position on the river and on the main road from Knoxville to Nashville,
soon attained considerable importance, and in 1805, the Legislature voted to hold its next
session there. It assembled on September 21, 1807, but two days later adjourned to
Knoxville. About 1835 the regular steamboat navigation of the river was begun, and from
that time until the war the town continued to prosper. Among the business men of the
thirties were H.H. WILEY, James McCAMPBELL, John PAYNE, George L. GILLESPIE,
Nathaniel HEWITT, James BERRY, Edward McDUFFIE, J.J. MUNGER, W.S.
McEWEN and Henry LIGGETT. Since the civil war the town has been somewhat on the
decline, but its favorable location for iron furnaces and manufactories will undoubtedly, in
time, attract a much large population than it has ever known. The present business
interests of the town are represented by the following firms: S.J. D'ARMOND & Son,
Childress & Martin, Butler & Co., Hartley & Melton and Joseph A. MUECKE, general
stores; C.F. BRAUSE and BROWN Bros., drugs, and M.B. EVERETT, confectionery.
The manufactories consist of a saw mill, operated by C.B. FRENCH; a grist-mill by
William RATHER, and a tannery by John A. FERGUSON.
The first newspaper in Kingston was established in 1855 or 1856 by N.A. PATTERSON. It
was published as the Gazette and the Register until the beginning of the war. In the fall of
1865 the East Tennessean was established with F.M. WILEY as editor. After about six
months it was suspended, but in November, 1866, its publication was resumed by W.B.
REED, who has since continued it as a non-political paper. In 1873 C.F. BRAUSE began
the publication of the Valley News which he continued for about eighteen months, when he
sold it to Rev. G.W. COLEMAN, who, after changing the name to the Indexpendent, moved
it to Maryville. The press was subsequently returned and used in the publication of the
Herald. In 1880 John J. LITTLETON established the Cyclone, a Democratic paper. He
subsequently sold to HOOD & HAGGARD, who changed it to a Republican paper under
the name of the Patriot. It has been published as the Republican, and is now under the
editorial management of S.E. FRANKLIN.
As early as 1806 an act was passed by the Legislature providing for the establishment of
Rittenhouse Academy, and appointing Thomas J. VAN DYKE, Samuel ESKRIDGE, Jacob
JONES, Zachariah AYER and Jesse BYRD, as trustees. To this board were added, in
1809, John PURRIS, M. SMITH, T.N. CLARK, Thomas BROWN, John BROWN,
Matthew NELSON and Samuel MARTIN. There is no evidence, however, to show that
the school was put into operation until 1822, when Rev. William EAGLETON was installed
as principal. His successors up to 1828 were A.G. GALLAHER, John A. HOOPS, Jacob
K. SPOONER, John G. LACKINS. The institution soon gained a wide reputation, and the
attendance, was large. The first building was a log structure, standing in the same lot with
the First Presbyterian Church. In 1832 the main part of the present house was completed,
and in 1853 the wing was added. Among the subsequent principals prior to the war were
George S. RICH, B.F. SMITH, John WYATT, Benjamin V. IRVIN, H.W. VON
ALDEHOFF and William G. LLOYD. For several years after the close of the war the
building was occupied by schools of varying degrees of excellence. Recently the institution
was reincorporated, and is now one of the best schools of the kind in East Tennessee.
The first Church in Kingston was a brick building, erected by the Presbyterians about 1820
upon the hill now occupied by the cemetery. It was used until about 1858 or 1859 when the
present frame house was erected.
About 1831 the Methodists erected a frame building on the hill southeast of the
courthouse. This was replaced by the present house in 1855, and is now occupied by the
Methodist Episcopal Church South. About 1870 the Methodist Episcopal Church in
co-operation with Union Lodge, No. 30, A.F. & A.M., erected a two-story frame building
which is occupied jointly by them.
In March, 1877, a congregation of Baptists was organized, and the following year they
erected a house of worship.
The largest town in Roane County is Rockwood, situated at the base of Walden's Ridge,
on the Cincinnati Southern Railroad, about five miles from the southern boundary line of
the county. The population numbers about 3,000, the greater portion of whom are
employed by the Roane Iron Company in their mines and furnaces. This company began
the erection of their first furnaces in 1867 upon land purchased from John BROWN, and
until within the past six or eight years the town consisted almost exclusively of their
employees. They now operate two furnaces and 180 coke ovens. They also conduct a
large store. The remaining business firms are S.B. LEEPER & Co., EBLEN &
MORRISON, James UNDERWOOD, John SWOFFORD, L.M. WALSH, W.J. OWENS
& Co., and J.F. TARWATER. General stores: G.W. BRANT, Richard RECTOR, John G.
IRVINE, and Arch LEE, groceries and J.E. GEORGE & Co., drugs and groceries.
In 1880 D.M. COFFMAN established the newspaper called the Roane County Republican,
which he published until 1884, when his office was destroyed by fire. He then removed to
Kingston, where he resumed the publication of his paper, but in 1886 returned to
Rockwood. On October 30 issued the first number of the Times, which has already
obtained a large circulation. Soon after the establishment of their furnace the Roane Iron
Company built two churches, one for white and another for the colored congregations. In
1873 or 1874 the Methodist Episcopal Church South erected a brick building, and in 1886
the Church of Christ completed a house of worship. An excellent brick building has also
been erected for the use of the public school, which was put into operation in 1885. In this
school a principal and three assistant teachers are employed.
The act of the Legislature establishing Roane County was passed November 6, 1801, Hugh
NELSON, John SMITH T., Alexander CARMICHAEL, William BARNETT, Paul
HARLSON and Zacheus AYER were appointed commissioners to superintend the erection
of a courthouse prison and stocks at Kingston. The court of pleas and quarter sessions
was organized in December following at the house of Hugh BEATTY, at which time William
WHITE, Samuel MILLER, Hugh NELSON, Paul HARLSON, Zacheus AYER, George
PRESTON, William CAMPBELL, James PRESTON, Isham COX, William BARNETT,
George McPHERSON and Abraham McCLELLAND were present and qualified as
justices of the peace. Thomas BROWN was elected collector of direct tax; Zacheus
AYER, entry taker; Jacob JONES, surveyor; George McPHERSON, ranger; Francis
LEA, Patrick BURRUS and Robert KIRKPATRICK, constables. The county at that time
extended from Anderson and Knox Counties to the southern boundary of the State, but did
not include any territory south of the Holston and Tennessee Rivers. For militia and civil
purposes it was divided into six companies commanded respectively by Capts. Thomas
COULTER, Richard OLIVER, Gray SYMS, George INGRAM, James WALKER and ----
FRANCIS. The taxes for 1802 were raised on 100,491 acres of land, 27 town lots, 275
white polls and 137 black polls, amounting in the aggregate to $673.83. The courthouse, a
brick structure, was completed in the fall of 1803, and was occupied until the erection of the
present building, which was received by the county in 1856. The first jail was a log
structure surrounded by a stockade, and stood upon the site of the present jail. It was used
until about 1828, when it was superseded by a brick building lined with timbers. The third
jail was built of stone just previous to the war, and was used until 1884, when the present
brick structure was erected at a cost of about $13,000.
The circuit court was organized on the first Monday in March, 1811, by James TRIMBLE,
judge of the Second Judicial Circuit. The first grand jury was empaneled at the next term,
and was composed of John GIVENS, James TODD, Jesse WHITE, William WALLER,
Samuel HAYS, Thomas RAYBURN, Jacob WARREN, Joseph ROBINSON, Nicholas
NAIL, John McKINNEY, Thomas ODEN, Asa COBB, John RECTOR, H. McPHERSON
and George CROSS. The first indictment was against William SMALL for the murder of
William AILS. He was convicted of manslaughter, and being asked why sentence of death
should not be pronounced upon him plead the "benefit of clergy," which was granted. He
was then sentenced to be branded on the thumb against Leonard VANDAGRIFF for horse
stealing, who, upon conviction, was branded, whipped, pilloried and imprisoned for six
months. The first person sent to the penitentiary was William SEXTON, who was
sentenced at the September term, 1831 to three years' imprisonment for horse stealing.
A chancery court for the district composed of Knox, Anderson, Morgan, Roane, Rhea,
Hamilton, Campbell, McMinn, Monroe and Blount, was organized at Kingston October 21,
1824, by John CATRON, one of the judges of the supreme court.
It was presided over by Jacob PECK and other judges of the supreme court from that time
until 1828, when Nathan GREENE, the first regularly elected chancellor took his seat.
Among the first resident attorneys at Kingston were John PURRIS, admitted to practice in
1807; James McCAMPBELL, in 1810; W.C. DUNLAP and J.M.W. BREAZEALE, in
1820; and J.Y. SMITH and I. HOPE, in 1823. PURRIS did not practice very much, but
was looked upon as a sound lawyer, and a safe, conservative counselor. His son Henry S.
PURRIS was also a lawyer, but was engaged the greater portion of his life in filling some
official position. He died in 1844. James McCAMPBELL was a good lawyer of thorough
education, but was addicted to the habits of intemperance. He had two brothers, John and
Andrew, also lawyers. The former resided at Knoxville, and the latter, in 1836, became
chancellor of the Western District of Tennessee. They were the sons of a widow, who
settled in the county early in the century. John and James married daughters of Thomas
N. CLARK, as did also Judge James TRIMBLE, who resided at Kingston for a short time
about 1816. William C. DUNLAP was one of a large family of sons, all lawyers. The
father, Hugh DUNLAP, was one of the first merchants in Knoxville. After the
establishment of the fort at Southwest Point, he located upon a 5,000 acres of land in the
vicinity of Post Oak Springs. His sons, Richard G., William C., Hugh, James P., Deveraux
and John, all attained more or less distinction. J.W.M. BREAZEALE was the son of the
first clerk of the county court. He practiced his profession at Kingston for a time, but
subsequently located at Athens. John Y. SMITH continued as one of the leading members
of the bar until his death in 1861, a period of nearly forty years. For several years he was
a partner of Thomas N. CLARK. Among the other lawyers who resided at Kingston
previous to the war were Samuel L. CHILDRESS, W.B. STALEY, N.A. PATTERSON,
D.M. KEY and Albert G. WELCKER, the last two of whom remained but a short time.
PATTERSON was appointed judge of a circuit in Middle Tennessee by Gov.
BROWNLOW in 1865, and is now a resident of Johnson City. W.B. STALEY continued to
practice at Kingston until 1878, when he was elected chancellor. He now resides at
Knoxville. Judge CHILDRESS died at Kingston. The present members of the bar are
James SEVIER, George W. HENDERSON, E.E. YOUNG, S.C. CLARK, George L.
BURKE and W.H. DIETZ.
The following persons have filled official positions in Roane County since its organization:
Clerks of the county court--Henry BREAZEALE, 1802-36; H.H. WILEY, 1836-40; Austin
L. GREENE, 1840-60; James T. SHELLY, 1860-61; J.M. STURGES, 1864-1878; J.C.
Clerks of the circuit court--William BROWN, 1811-33; Elbridge G. SEVIER, 1833-36;
Henry S. PURRIS, 1836-44; Thomas A. BROWN, 1844-48; John A. PATTON, 1848-54;
W.S. PATTON, 1854-74; E.E. YOUNG, 1874-82; J.F. CORMANY, 1882.
Sheriffs--John BROWN, 1802-25; Roberts S. GILLILAND, 1825-32; Joseph BYRD,
1832-38; Lewis BURRIS, 1838-44; Ed. McDUFFIE 1844-50; Sterling T. TURNER,
1850-56; Rufus MARNEY, 1856-58; D.G. TAYLOR, 1858-64; Isham YOUNG, 1864-66;
S.P. EVANS, 1866-70; John MARNEY, 1870-74; D.G. TAYLOR, 1874-80; John
MARNEY, 1880-82; S.P. SPARKS, 1882-86; J.J. BOWERS, 1886.
Trustees--Isham COX, 1802-20; W.C. McKAMEY, 1820-32; William GALBRAITH,
1832-36; Thomas McCONNELL, 1836-42; William M. WORK, 1842-50; George YOST,
1850-60; Robert K. BYRD, 1860-61; W.S. CENTER, 1862-64; W.C. TURNER, 1864-66;
Robert MARNEY, 1866-70; J.W. McNUTT, 1870-72; William ELLIS, 1872-78; G.A.
GUENTHER, 1878-84; Joseph A. MUECKE, 1884-86; Samuel HARVEY, 1886.
Registers--John STONE, 1802-07; John McEWEN, 1807-21; H.S. PURRIS, 1821-33; H.H.
WILEY, 1833-36; Robert D. DUNCAN, 1836-44; John A. PATTON, 1844-48; John H.
TAYLOR, 1848-52; R.M. ALLISON, 1852-64; W.H. KING, 1864-70; J.C. CLARK,
1870-71; G.A. GUENTHER, 1872-1874; R.M. ALLISON, 1874-78; S.D. STANFIELD,
1878-86; Thomas CHILDRESS, 1886 (deceased).
Clerks and masters--Thomas N. CLARK, Jr., 1824-34; Thomas BROWN, 1834-48;
Thomas N. CLARK, 1848-64; James T. SHELLY, 1864-70; H. CRUMBLISS, 1870-82;
Isaac A. CLARK, 1882
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