The first resident
of prominence were John Kennedy, John A. Aiken, Peter Parsons and John
Blair. Kennedy came to Jonesboro from Pennsylvania soon after
was admitted as a State, and continued to live in the town until the
purchase was made in 1836. He was then appointed one of the
surveyors of that district, and moved to Bradley County. Peter
was the brother of Enoch Parsons, who was a candidate for governor in
He was a resident of Jonesboro for several years and afterward removed
to Alabama. John Blair came to the bar about 1812, and soon
a high reputation as a sound lawyer and an honest man. In 1823 he
defeated John Rhea for Congress, and for twelve consecutive years
he held a seat in that
body. After his retirement from office he engaged in merchandising, and also kept a hotel, which now forms part of the Washington House. Aiken was admitted to the bar about 1810, and practiced at Jonesboro until his death with the exception of a few years when he resided at Maryville. He was a man of rare eloquence, but owning to habits of intemperance he never reached that degree of prominence to which his talents would otherwise have raised him.
Among the other attorneys resident at Jonesboro in 1833, were James V. Anderson, Mark T. Anderson, Seth J. W. Lucky, Nathaniel Kelsey, William K. Blair and Judge Thomas Emmerson. The first named was clerk of the circuit court, and was not actively engaged in the practice of law. Mark T. Anderson, his son, died soon after coming to the bar. Seth J. W. Lucky was admitted to the bar at Jonesboro about 1830, and soon became one of the leading attorneys. In 1836 he became clerk and master of the chancery court, a position he held until 1841, when he was elected by the Legislature judge of the First Judicial Circuit. He filled that position until 1854, when he was chosen chancellor to succeed Judge Thomas L. Williams. He remained upon the bench until his death, which occurred in April, 1869. He was a man of unquestioned integrity, and of high attainments, and his decisions were rarely reversed.
Judge Emmerson was a native of Virginia. He removed to Knoxville about 1800, and to Jonesboro about 1818. In 1807 he was appointed a judge of the superior court, but resigned his position during the same year. In 1818 he was made a judge of the supreme court, and so continued until 1822. After his retirement from the bench he devoted but a portion of his time to the law, having turned his attention to farming and journalism. As a lawyer he is said to have lacked the tact, energy and worldly shrewdness so necessary to success in this profession at that time.
Of the remaining attorneys of Jonesboro prior to the war, were Thomas A.R. Nelson, James W. Deaderick and William H. Maxwell. The first two are mentioned elsewhere. Mr. Maxwell was admitted to practice about 1842, and continued at Jonesboro until about 1870, when he removed to Kansas.
At the close of the war a large number of attorneys located at Jonesboro, but many of them remained but a short time. Among them were A.J. Brown, Felix A. Reeve, William M. Grisham, J.M. Scudden, Newton Hacker, A.W. Howard, Thomas S. Smyth, N. B. Owens. Mr. Brown soon became one of the best lawyers at the bar. He remained at Jonesboro until 1886, when he was elected judge of the First Judicial Circuit. He then removed to Greene County. Mr. Hacker, the predecessor of Judge Brown, began practice in 1866, and the next year was chosen to the Legislature. He then served one term as attorney-general, and in August, 1886, completed his term upon the bench. He has since resumed his practice. The remaining members of the bar at Jonesboro are S. J. Kirkpatrick, for two years a member of the court of referees at Knoxville, Capt. I. E. Reeves, Col. T. H. Reeves, A. S. Deaderick, George N. Grisham, Frank Young and ___Epps.
Of the early history of Jonesboro but little is now known. The site of the town, as before mentioned, was selected in 1778, but from whom the land was obtained could not be ascertained. It is asserted by some citizens, that it was donated by one Jones, but there is no proof to support the statement, and it is probable that this idea arose from the name of the town, which, however, was christened Jonesboro in honor of Willie Jones of Halifax County, N. C. It is the opinion of the writer after investigation that the original owner of the site was James Allison, who, with his brother, Robert, obtained grants to the greater portion of the land near the head of Little Limestone, and extending down that stream for a considerable distance.
In August, 1779, Robert Sevier obtained license to keep an ordinary "at the courthouse." His was doubtless the first house erected after the town was laid off. He was killed at King's Mountain the following year, and in 1781 James Allison and Richard Minton were each licensed to keep an ordinary, as was also Robert Middleton in 1782. In fact, for the first four or five years at least, the town, if such it may be called, consisted of little else than the public buildings, and two or three ordinaries, which in addition to affording food and lodging to travelers, also furnished liquor and a few of the staple articles of merchandise. But Jonesboro soon became the center of political influence for the territory west of the mountains. For the first five years it was the seat of justice for all this region, and subsequently for many years was the place at which the superior courts for the district of Washington were held. In August, 1784, the first Franklin convention was held there, and was followed by the second in November. In March, 1785, the first Legislative Assembly in what is now Tennessee met in Jonesboro, but subsequent proceedings were held at Greeneville, which then became the capital of the State of Franklin.
Besides the persons mentioned other early residents of the town were A. Caldwell, Thomas Rutherford, Francis Baker, George House, James Reed, John Brown, Dr. William P. Chester and David Deaderick, all of whom located prior to 1800. Mr. Deaderick is said to have been the first merchant of Jonesboro, having located there as early as 1788 or 1789. He was the leading business man of the town, from that time until his death, a period of over thirty years. He is yet remembered by the oldest residents as a useful citizen, and an honest, upright, Christian gentleman. He was the father of ex-Chief Justice Deaderick.
In 1794 a new courthouse was built, and James Stuart, David Deaderick, Samuel May, Sr., John Johnston, John Sevier, Sr., William Lovely and James Carmichael were appointed to superintend its construction. This house was log, built two stories high, with the courtroom above, reached by a double flight of steps on the outside. The lower story was fitted up and used, for a time at least, as a jail. This building stood nearly upon the site of the present courthouse. It was used until 1820, when it was town down and a brick building erected. the commissioners appointed to superintend this work were John McAllister, David Deaderick, John Chester, John Kennedy, and John G. Eason.
The residents of Jonesboro in 1815, as remembered by Gen. A. E. Jackson, then a small boy, were James V. Anderson, clerk of the circuit court and cashier of the first bank of Tennessee, a branch of which was located in Jonesboro; Matthew Aiken, a hatter; John C. Harris, an early school teacher, and for many years trustee of the county; Dr. James R. Isbell, who subsequently moved to Greeneville; David G. Vance, the leading hotel keeper of the town from about 1800 to 1819; William K. Vance a saddler; Thomas Whitson, a shoemaker; Edward Macklin, a tanner; Montgomery Stuart, a farmer; John Kennedy and John Blair, attorneys; John McAllister,; David Deaderick and Adam McKee merchants; John Chester, a farmer who lived where the Planters' Hotel now is; and William P. Chester, a physician.
On the 30th of April, was issued the first paper ever established in America for the sole purpose of advocating the abolition of slavery. It was edited and published by Elihu Embree, but printed at the office of the East Tennessee Patriot, a paper which had been established a short time before by Jacob Howard, a printer from Baltimore. Mr.Embree was one of two brothers, Elijah and Elihu Embree, who at that time were operating extensive iron works in Sullivan County. He died on December 4, 1820, and the paper was discontinued to be revived about two years later at Greeneville. How long the Patriot was continued is not known, but it is thought to have been for some eight or ten years. In November, 1832, Judge Thomas Emmerson and S. J. W. Lucky established the Washington Republican and Farmer's Journal, a radical anti-Jackson sheet which, during the campaign of 1836, ardently supported Hugh L. White for the presidency. About 1835 Mr. Lucky withdrew from the paper, and Judge Emmerson continued its publication until March 1837, when he sold it to Mason R. Lyon, who changed the name to the Washington Republican and Advertiser. About the time the paper was established Judge Emmerson also began the publication of a monthly agricultural journal, known as the Tennessee Farmer, which he continued until his death, in 1837. It was then published for a time by his son and J. F. Deaderick. In 1836 Judge Emmerson published a directory of his patrons in the town, which included nearly all of the professional men, with the exception of the attorney and mechanics. It was as follows: Physicians, S. B. Cunningham and J. E. Cosson; merchants, John G. Eason, Greenway & Sackett, J. and W. Blair, James H. Jones, John Keys & Co and A. Anderson; cabinet-makers, Jeremiah Boyd and Hosea Henshaw; hatters, L. A. Markwood and Joseph McLin; saddlers, James Brown and John McCorkle; shoemaker, John B. Estes; tanners, S. G. Chester, Michael Clem and R. J. West; carpenters, Jesse M. Thompson and Henry Stephenson; mason, John Damson; blacksmith, A. G. Mason; silversmith, Wilton Atkinson; tavern keepers, Michael Clem and Thomas Stuart. About 1839 the brick courthouse was burnt and Stuart's tavern, which stood a little to the west of it, was purchased by the county. this was occupied by the courts some seven or eight years, when the present courthouse was completed.
Returning to the newspaper publication, in May, 1836, the Tennessee Sentinel was established as the organ of the Van Buren party, with Gifford & Sparks as publishers. It was edited successively by Lawson Gifford, Thomas Anderson and Landon C. Haynes. About 1843 Brownlow removed his Tennessee Whig from Elizabethton to Jonesboro, and from that time until he went to Knoxville the two papers waged a bitter political and personal warfare, culminating in an altercation between Mr. Haynes and Mrs. Brownlow, in which the latter was shot. Mr. Brownlow remained in Jonesboro until after the campaign of 1849, when he removed to Knoxville. About 1845 the Sentinel was changed to the Washington County Democrat, of which W. H. Smith became editor. Early in 1859 A. G. Graham, an eccentric attorney from the North, established, as the successor of the Democrat, the Jonesboro Union, which he published as a strong Southern paper until compelled to suspend in 1863. Contemporaneous with this publication was the Express, published by John Slack, and subsequently by Slack & Grisham. The last number appeared May 12, 1865, and a week later the first number of the Union Flag was issued by Capt.. G. E. Grisham, who continued its publication until his death in 1873. It represented the radical element of the Republican party, and during the campaign between Senter and Stokes for governor, the Herald and Tribune was established by Wheeler and Mahoney as a Senter organ. In October, 1876, it was purchased by W. P. Brownlow, who conducted it until 1883, when it was transferred to a joint stock company. It has one of the best equipped newspaper offices in Tennessee, and the editorial library is without an equal. It has a cylinder press, several fine job presses, and is equally complete in other respects. Among the other papers published since 1870, were the Echo, established by S. S. Luttrell; the East Tennessee Patriot, edited by Col. T. H. Reeves; the Times, established in 1876 and continued three or four years, and the Journal published by a stock company for about ten years succeeding 1875.
In 1853 the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad was incorporated, and it may be said that to Washington County was due the successful completion of this enterprise. In order that the charter become valid the stock in the road was required to be taken in a certain time. Washington County subscribed $50,000 and $125,000 was raised by individual subscription in the county, but when the day set for the subscription to be made up drew near, about $300,000 remained untaken. To save the charter thirty enterprising citizens, mainly from Washington County, formed a syndicate and took the remaining stock. Among those from Washington County in this syndicate were Dr. Samuel B. Cunningham (the first president of the road), George W. Tilford, Samuel Mitchell, Isaac McPherson, William R. Sevier, William G. Gammon, Jacob Cooper, John F. Deaderick, William Bovell, E. L. Mathes, James F. and Adam Broyles, Robert, John and William K. Blair. The construction of this road was soon begun, and completed as far as Jonesboro in 1856. In 1858 the entire line was put into operation. The whole amount of aid received from the State by this road was $2,202,000. Since the completion of the railroad, Jonesboro has grown in wealth and population, but owing to the establishment of other towns and villages in close proximity her improvement has not been so great as it otherwise would have been. The business interests are now represented as follows: Dosser & Co., R. M. May, J. W. Hoss, John D. Cox, Smith, Peoples & Co., February & Archer, and Russell, general merchandise; J. J. Hunt, J. S. Mathes, Crawford & Murray, J. A. T. Bacon and M. L. Elsea & Son, groceries; A. T. Dosser, clothing; Milton Keen, furniture. The Jonesboro Banking and Trust Company, established in 1886, does a small banking business. J. D. Cox is president, and W. G. Mathes, cashier.
The manufactories of the town consist of a carriage shop by D. C. Aikin & Son, and a machine shop by G. W. Bolinger.
The first church established in Jonesboro was a Presbyterian Church. About 1790 Rev. Samuel Doak and Rev. Hezekiah Balch organized a church by the name of Hebron, four miles east of town. The members numbered from fifteen to twenty. The first ruling elders were Samuel Mitchell, Sr., Samuel Fain and John B. McMahon (**See note below**), to whom in a few years was added Joseph Young. For a time Mr. Doak preached at the houses of Adam Mitchell and Peter Miller, and at the courthouse in town. Soon, however, a meeting-house of logs was built on land then owned by Mr. McMahon, but now owned by ___________. Mr. Adam Mitchell was the chief mover in the work, but was assisted in meeting the cost by Messrs. McMahon, Fain and Miller. this building had disappeared before the memory of the present generation. The next regular place of worship was the old Martin Academy, built in 1816. It is said to have been the place at which the first sacramental meeting was held, but the house was so small that on similar occasions thereafter the services were conducted in the grove near the residence of Gen. A. E. Jackson. In 1831 the third house of worship was erected. It was built in great haste that it might be ready for the meeting of the synod of Tennessee on the 12th of October, of the same year. It was not entirely completed, however, until 1836. The building is still standing and forms a part of the house used by the public schools. It did not prove to be a very suitable church building, and in 1847 the erection of a new house of worship was begun. It was not finished until 1850, and on August 15, of that year it was dedicated by Rev. R. P. Wells. this church was occupied until the civil war by an undivided congregation, and after the war by two congregations, adhering respectively to the Northern and to the Southern General Assembly. About 1881, however, the former congregation sold out its claim to the latter, and the next year completed the handsome and substantial brick structure in which they have since worshiped.
For several years after its organization the church seems to have had no regularly installed pastor, but was served occasionally, or for short times regularly, by Samuel Doak, Samuel Lake, John Cosson, James Witherspoon, Charles Coffin and John W. Doak.
In July 1810, Dr. Charles Coffin renewed his connection with the church and continued to preach regularly once in three weeks for ten years. He confined his preaching mainly to the town, holding services at the residences of David Deaderick, John Adams and others, and at the courthouse until the completion of the church in 1816. He resigned his pastoral charge in 1818, and after an interval of about eighteen months was succeeded by Rev. Robert Glenn, who remained until the summer of 1825. The church was then without any regular supply until the fall of 1826, when Rev. Lancelot G. Bell came to this church. The next year he was installed regularly as pastor, the first instance of the kind in the history of the church. It was during his ministry, on December 29, 1829, that a Sabbath school on union principles was organized, and began its sessions on the following Sabbath. His pastoral relations were dissolved on October 5, 1832. The next minister was Rev. Henry M. Kerr, who filled the pulpit for twelve months succeeding April, 1833. In October, 1834, Rev. J. W. Cunningham began his labors with the church, and from that time until 1845 preached one-half of his time, the remainder of his time being devoted successively to Elizabethton, Bethesda and Mount Lebanon. In September, 1845, Rev. Rufus P. Wells assumed charge of the congregation, and on August 17, 1850, was installed as pastor, a position he continued to hold until October, 1862. During this time 193 persons joined the church on profession of faith, and sixty-six by letter. After the departure of Mr. Wells there was an intermission in the stated preaching until about June, 1863, when J. D. Tadlock began to supply the church, and remained for about two years. For about eighteen months succeeding the pulpit was filled by Calvin Waterbury. On June 9, 1867, Rev. James G. Mason entered upon his labors under a call to the pastorate, and continued with the church until July 28, 1872. On the first of the following December Rev. P. D. Cowan began to supply the pulpit, and continued until 1877, when he was succeeded by Rev. C. A. Duncan, the present pastor.
After the close of the
the United Synod, with which the church had been identified since 1858,
having ceased to exist, the question of church relationship divided the
congregation. A part of the members, a majority it is claimed,
to unite with the Southern General Assembly, while the remainder, who
held control, attached themselves to the Northern Assembly. The
therefore, on the fifth Sunday in March, 1868, organized a separate
held in the basement of the old courthouse by Dr. J. D. Tadlock, until May, 1872. During the following summer the pulpit was supplied by J. P. Gammon. W.W. Morrison then preached to the congregation for two years, during which time a compromise was effected by which the old church was occupied alternately by the two congregations. Meanwhile legal proceedings had been begun by the members of the southern church to obtain possession of the property, but before the case had reached a final determination in the court a second compromise was effected, whereby the members of the northern church relinquished their claim to the church property, and erected the handsome brick structure known as the Second Presbyterian Church. the ministers to the First Presbyterian Church succeeding Rev. Morrison have been Rev. J. albert Wallace, 1874-76; Rev. B. O. Byers, 1876-83; ReV. C. W. Johnson, 1883-85; Rev. J. B. Converse, 1885-87. Since January 1, 1887, the congregation has been without any stated supply.
At what time the Methodists organized a society in Jonesboro is not known, but it must have been early in the century. The first church building stood on the hill beyond where the depot now is. It was a small building built of brick, with a brick floor, while the seats were rough slabs supported on round pins. This building was torn down about 1845, and the present church edifice was erected. At the close of the war the congregation became divided upon the question of church relationship, and for several years the members of the Methodist Episcopal Church held possession of the property. Through process of law, however, they were compelled to transfer the property to the Methodist Episcopal Church South. They then erected a new house, which a few years since was destroyed by fire, and has not been rebuilt.
The Baptist Church in Jonesboro was instituted in 1842 by William Cate, with a membership of about forty-four. Among the first members were J. R. Lacey, Wilton Atkinson, Wilson Bayless, J. B. Estes, J. Pritchett, C. Hill, A. Brown and Isaac Murray. A small church building was erected near the railroad, just above town, and was occupied until the completion of the present church about 1856.
The first school in Jonesboro was taught about 1812, by John C. Harris, in a small house standing on a lot in town.
In 1816 the trustees, in union with the Presbyterian Church, erected a building, a part of which is now occupied by Dr. Warlick as a residence. the trustees at that time were John Kennedy, David Deaderick, John Nelson, William Mitchell, Andrew Steele, Matthew Aiken, Matthew Stephenson, A. M. Nelson and George and Allen Gillespie, to whom the next year were added James V. Anderson, William B. Carter, John G. Eason, D. G. Vance, John C. Harris and Samuel Greer. this school then became the educational center of the town. In 1843 a lot was purchased on the hill south of the present depot, and the large, brick building, which is still standing, was erected. Meanwhile, a female academy had been established, which was taught by a Miss Melville and a Miss Mitchell in the house now occupied by William February. In 1853 the Holston Association of Baptists adopted a female school that had been established by Mr. and Mrs. Keeling as the Holston Baptist Female Institute. A large, brick building was soon after begun on an eminence in the east part of town. It was not completed, however, until about the beginning of the war. The trustees were W. Cate, W.C. Newell, M. V. Kitzmiller, J. A. Davis, W. Keen, E. Martin, J. H. Crouch, Z. A. Burson, J. Vaughn, J. White, W. H. Humpreys, J. West, M. C. Hunter, R. P. Murray, J. Bayless, S. H. Smith, C. Hoss, J. D. Gibson, A. Brown and J. Spurgeon. At the close of the war, Col. Dungan purchased the property, and for nine years conducted a male institute. At the end of that time he transferred the building and grounds to Yeardley Warner in the interest of a society of Friends, and since that time an excellent school for the training of colored youth has been maintained. Contemporaneous with the above school in the beginning, was the Odd Fellows' Institute, which was opened about 1853, in a large building in the western part of town. The first president of the institute was Rev. David Sullins, who was associated with Rev. Rufus Wells. It was continued until 1863 when it was taken for a hospital. After the war the property was sold for debt, and schools of various degrees of excellence were taught there until 1883, when the Jonesboro Educational Society was formed for the establishment of a first-class school for both sexes. Prof. Charles Mason, with an efficient corps of assistant teachers, was employed, and under this management the standard of the schools has been raised to a poisition as high as that of any other town in the State. The society controlling the school is composed of many of the most prominent and enterprising citizens of the town, and while the institution is not precisely a public school, it offers all the advantages of such a system at a merely nominal cost.
Transcribed by Pat Sabin
Please note: In the process of
this history I recognized what I believe are typographical errors in
If you notice a mistake, please contact me. If the mistake is
in the printing, I will make a correction in the form of a postscript.
2006: The correct spelling of John Blair Mc Mahon is actually
John Blair McMachen, who was the son of John McMachen born in Fredrick
County VA who moved to Washington County in 1776 from Guilford County
NC.The elder John McMachen was made a Justice of Washington County on
February 23, 1778. Three of John Blair McMachen sisters married sons of
Nicholas Fain and one married Adonijah Morgan in Washington County.
Rev. Rufus Wells Pastor of the Jonesborough Presbyterian Church in his
Reminiscences some 40 years after John Blair McMachen had moved to
Kentucky misspelled the name in the church record books and it has
caused much difficulty in genealogy research. I have
much documentation to prove that the correct spelling is McMachen. It may be a great help to future generations of researchers to correct the
spelling now. My book Spring House was released March 1, 2006 which is about Adam Mitchell and his Father in Law John McMachen http://www.westwardsagas.com . I am presently working on Adams Daughters about the children of Adam Mitchell growing up in
Jonesbourgh, TN. which will be out in the Spring of 2007. David Bowles