Passing the torch: Alliance’s Montanti set to retire

Deborah Montanti stands on the upper porch of one of her favorite buildings in town, The Chester Inn on Main Street.



On that first day, 17 years ago, when Deborah Montanti stepped through the doors of the Duncan House ready for her new position as Heritage Alliance education director, she still remembers how quiet the rooms were, empty of staff already chasing down the business of the town.

This week, as Montanti prepares for her last day as the Alliance’s executive director, those same rooms are anything but silent.

Like the town she has worked to preserve, the walls within which she has labored are now overflowing with the stories she has fought so hard to save.

“This is not a job you can easily walk away from,” Montanti admitted, looking around at what will soon be her old office in the Duncan House. “And I am sure there will be days where I am sitting on my front porch going ‘what did I do?’”

But she is also sure of one other thing.

“It’s the right time,” Montanti said. “And I know the Heritage Alliance is going to be well cared for.”

Montanti first came to the Heritage Alliance in 2002. At that time, she was already living in Jonesborough and working as director of Rocky Mount Historic Site in Piney Flats. She was thinking about lightening her workload to be able to spend more time with her family when she heard about the job opening.

“The thing that attracted me the most to the Heritage Alliance was Oak Hill School,” Montanti recalled. “It was that program that I wanted to be part of. That’s why when I heard that job was open, I kind of jumped at it.”

Montanti was met that first day with a welcome note and a stack of materials to read, including two History of Washington County books, Paul Fink’s book on Jonesborough and the “Architectural History of Jonesborough.”

“I read as much as I could read in one setting and then I went out and started walking around and talking to people,” Montanti said. “And I quickly discovered — and this lasted for many months — that trying to find my way around this little town was really hard work, because nobody knows the addresses of anyone.”

Instead, she said, there was lots of “It’s by the Haws house or go up to the this-and-that or the other thing house.”

Just navigating and trying to learn the history of Jonesborough’s houses would keep her busy for months.

“I spent a lot of time with old walking tour brochures, just walking the streets of Jonesborough,” Montanti recalled, laughing. “Steve Cook called me Jonesborough’s least expensive street walker.”

It was during those walks that Jonesborough began to weave its magic.

“I was already magically in love with Oak Hill School,” Montanti said. “I don’t remember how long it was, but it was sometime during that first year, when it happened.

“I came into town really early one morning, and walked around and ended up back here sitting on the porch, just watching the sun come over and thinking, ‘This is a job? How lucky am I that this is where I work.’ ”

Not long after, Montanti found herself stepping in to replace Randy Sanders as the Heritage Alliance’s executive director.

While her title changed, her commitment had not. And, for the next 15 years, Montanti would help bring in a new era for the Heritage Alliance, expanding its role and broadening its impact.

Throughout her work, Montanti has found many favorite places throughout town, but two, she said, stand out.

“The Chester Inn and the Warner Institute,” she said. “The Warner Institute speaks to me in so many ways, but I hear the footsteps of every student who ever dreamed of a better life in that building. The story of the Warner Institute gives me cold chills today.

“The Chester Inn wraps me in a feather bed and makes me feel at home. It’s a weary traveler coming off the road and finding warmth and comfort and companionship.”

One of her brightest moments as executive director, in fact, has been the opening of the Chester Inn to the public. But it is the people with whom she has worked that have given her the greatest sense of accomplishment.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about what am I most proud,” Montanti said. “In all honesty, Anne Mason, Joe Spiker and Jacob Simpson, even though Jacob had to leave us. Anne and Joe, they have both grown so much and it’s been just such an honor to watch them grow in their careers and to watch them fall in love with this town the way I have to fall in love and honor the work.”

They were also the ones who have given her the freedom to retire.

“It’s been something I’ve been thinking of doing for maybe a year now,” Montanti admitted. “I went out on medical leave, and while I was out, it became really clear that Anne was ready.”

As she recovered from the knee surgery that prompted the medical leave, she said she was watching closely.

“When it became so apparent that Anne was really ready, I just felt this huge weight lift off my shoulders. I just knew this is the right time. This is the perfect time.”

“Anne will be named acting director upon my leaving,” Montanti continued. “And there will be a search conducted. There is a procedure that they have to go through. It will be advertised. And I am hoping Anne applies and that she gets it.”

Of course, retirement from the Heritage Alliance doesn’t mean Montanti is leaving the town. It continues to work its spell, and she doesn’t see that as ever changing.

“Jonesborough has its ups and down like any small town,” Montanti said, looking back. “And the organization has had its ups and down. And I’ve fallen in and out of love so many times, like we all do in any long-term relationship.

“It still remains one of the most privileged things I have ever been able to do, to serve this town, to serve these buildings. To be the voice of these buildings. To be able to honor the stories and the lives of the people who have come before. This is just a magical place.”

Montanti pauses for a moment and looks out the window.

“Bob Browning calls it ‘Brigadoon’ and we’ve all kind of thought that that was funny.  But he’s not wrong,” she said. “He’s not wrong.”

As for the future?

“I’m looking forward to falling in love with Jonesborough all over again.”

Ruritan plans ‘Touch-A-Truck’ event


Telford Ruritan plans on showing off a bit of their history while honoring first responders at their upcoming October event.


Staff Writer

The Telford Ruritan is offering the community the chance to meet local first responders at its first “Touch-A-Truck” event.

The ruritan will host the event on Saturday, Oct. 12, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and will give adults and kids of all ages the opportunity to look inside fire trucks, police vehicles, ambulances and more all while in the presence of first responders and emergency personnel.

“Kids love to come and see these things,” ruritan member Dan Westbrook said. “Parents have to bring them so we kind of meet all ages and get to introduce them to the ruritan and the building with this function.”

The ruritan will also welcome visitors to the building that used to be the Telford School building long before it was the location of the now defunct Washington County Canning College. Now the club is hoping to make the building more of a community space all while honoring first responders.

“We are looking for functions now to reintroduce the ruritan and the building to the telford community and indeed have it as a community center for kids,” Westbrook said. “It’s a place to have various events. We want to re-purpose the building. This is just one way we thought we would do this.”

Ruritan members also hope the event will introduce the community to first responders in a positive way.

“It is so important (bringing first responders and the community together). Typically the average citizen doesn’t meet a fire personnel or a paramedic or a sheriff’s officer unless it’s under dire circumstances,” Westbrook said. “But they are members of our communities and in many instances they are our neighbors. You see them in the parades and they throw out candies to the kids, so there should be a good relationship and no fear of law enforcement and a sense of cooperation. The best way to establish that is meeting them one-on-one.”

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Jonesborough eyes 5-cent tax adjustment



Jonesborough Board of Mayor & Aldermen are considering a 5-cent property tax increase to offset a shortfall resulting from 2019’s Washington County tax reappraisal.

The BMA voted at the Thursday morning called meeting to consider readjusting the town’s property tax rate, which last year was 1.305 and this year was set by the state at $1.1328, to accommodate the change.

“We can’t take a financial loss because of reappraisal,” Mayor Chuck Vest told the board. “Our burden is to fix it, so we will fix it.”

At issue is the current challenges going on in Washington County from property owners who believe the 2019 property appraisals were much too high. A Washington County appeal assessment committee has been given the authority to hold hearings and make adjustments, according to Browning. Hearings are held in 15 minute intervals.

“They listen to what you say and they tell you within 45 days or so of their decision,” explained Alderman Virginia Causey, who was one of the Washington County property owners to challenge her assessment this year.

The problem arises because the tax rate — based on that new assessment on Washington County property — comes out in early June, while challenges are accepted to September, Browning said. That means the tax revenue number town staff have to work with in establishing the budget can change remarkably as properties are reassessed.

“I’m sure nobody appeals for their property tax to go up,” Browning pointed out.

According to Town Recorder Abby Miller, revenue was down $23,000 as of Friday and reassessments were still going on.

In anticipation of making the tax rate adjustment, the board approved the $1.13 rate, with plans to make the change to $1.20 at the next BMA meeting, set for Sept. 9. Current law requires the town to advertise the change for 10 days prior to the meeting.

Vest stressed that while some may call the plan an increase, it’s simply the town working to meet the needs of its citizens.

“The state with this rate. . .. and then when you go through a reappraisal process, you can come out in the negative,” Vest said. “And it’s really left us, the municipalities, to find that balance.

“We can’t provide less services for our growing population, so to make our town whole we probably need to be in the $1.20,” he said.

Vest believes the town is still maintaining a good balance by pairing a lean budget with appropriate needs provided.

“In my eyes, the rate is going down and the property tax the town receives will be the same,” he said, citing last year’s rate of $1.31.

In other business, the town voted to maintain most other town rates but to increase the garbage collection establishment rate by $10, from a $40 one-time fee to $50. The garbage pickup rate would remain the same.

O’ brethren where art thou? County road sees spelling change

A challenge of similar names is causing confusion in the county.


Staff Writer

The confusion between Brethren Church Drive and the incorrectly spelled Brethern Church Road has plagued the community for decades. Now the Washington County Commission hopes it has officially taken the first step to decrease the problem.

At the Monday, Aug. 26, meeting, the Washington County Commission voted to correct the spelling of “Brethern,” but to keep “Road” instead of “Valley” (as suggested in the original resolution.) The resolution passed in 14-0 vote with Chairman Greg Matherly abstaining.

“I know this has been an ongoing discussion on this for several years,” said Matherly, who is also the county’s 911 director.

The road names have been confusing more people than just those driving through Jonesborough over the years. Washington County Emergency Communications District’s geographical information system coordinator, Lesley Music, told the commission there have been numerous misdirected emergency vehicles because of the confusion between the road names.

“We just keep having calls and we need to fix it,” Musick said. “Getting the location right the first time is the most important thing a dispatcher can do. We can dispatch a call in 30 seconds, but if we send them in the wrong direction, 30 seconds doesn’t matter. It may take 10, 20 or 30 minutes to correct that situation. If it’s your loved one that’s hurt or in distress or has a prowler at their door, who are you going to blame if we don’t get there in time because we sent them to the wrong location? We don’t take this lightly.”

Musick said multiple residents have called 911 and misspelled the road name, sending first responders to the wrong end of the county. She said in one instance, it took about 20 minutes for first responders to arrive, which is roughly how long it takes to get to the other road.

Musick wasn’t the only one who came to the commission with concerns; Freddie Jones, a Brethern Church Road resident, spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting in hopes of keeping the current road name. He also said the confusion has left him with lost drivers on his property.

“Traffic started coming through on my road and I got to stopping people and asking them what’s the problem. They said, ‘the GPS said this is a shortcut,’” Jones said. “I just don’t think it’s right that we have to change our road where Brethern Church Road was established in 1853. It’s been that ever since.”

Musick said the community was adamant about keeping the road name during a February community meeting on the subject. She also said that’s when the suggestion to change the name to Brethren Church Valley came up.

Musick also said the two roads are in Jonesborough and only two homes on Brethern Church Road are in the Gray community. The two roads are also both home to similarly named churches; Pleasant Valley Church of the Brethren was built around 1898 on Brethern Church Road while Pleasant View Church of the Brethren was built in 1878 on Brethren Church Drive.

Matherly said he felt correcting the spelling of the road in the northern half of the county along with changing the block ranges, which would be up to the Washington County Communications District, is the best solution to help alleviate the confusion.

“I think it’s critical that you do both of them,” Matherly said. “If you just go out and change the block range, then you still have the problem with Brethern Church Road being misspelled and you have two spellings of Brethren. I don’t feel like that’s sufficient for 911 to just change the block ranges. With 911 we can’t change the spelling of Brethren Church Road, so we really gotta have a partnership here and work together.”

Commissioners also said they hoped to see the block range changed. Currently Brethern Church Road goes from 100 to 869 while Brethren Church Drive goes from 100 to 385, Musick said. Making Brethern Church Road a four-digit block range rather than a three-digit range could help, officials said.

“We decided (we wanted to) correct the spelling of the road name, change the block ranges to four-digit numbers and re-address the road,” Musick said, thinking back to the community meeting. “There are many duplications of road names in the county, but this one just keeps on coming up.”

New School? Town’s school plan creates new questions

The audience applauds the new school proposal.

Update: On Thursday, Aug. 22, the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Alderman passed a resolution in support of the Town of Jonesborough’s proposal to build and lease a new Jonesborough K-8 school to Washington County and any association preliminary documents involved. The Washington County Board of Education will hold a called meeting on Thursday, Aug. 29, at 5 p.m. to discuss the Jonesborough School building proposal.


Staff Writer

It’s been more than two years of looking over plans for the Jonesborough School project. But after Thursday’s joint meeting between the Washington County Commission, the Washington County Board of Education and the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen — when town officials presented a design plan for the project — it’s clear there are now even more pieces in the Jonesborough School project puzzle.

The plans for a potential Jonesborough School was unveiled by the town.

During the joint meeting at the McKinney Center, Jonesborough Mayor Chuck Vest proposed a plan for a “joint community school and recreation center” that would include a new Jonesborough School with recreation facilities on a 48-acre site on North Cherokee Street in Jonesborough.

“There are so many kids that need this,” Vest said. “We’ve done a lot of leg work to get us to this point. There’s no reason our three boards can’t come through and expedite this, approve this and get it going in short order.”

The plan calls for a $2,362,000 annual lease payment from the county over 20 years. At the end of that lease, the school board would own the building. Jim Wheeler, who is the town attorney and a county commissioner, said $2,637,000 would be available in the capital fund to make those annual payments, leaving $275,000 in the capital improvements fund to be used for other needs.

Mayor Chuck Vest unveils the proposal.

“We talked about thinking outside the box and getting creative (at the county’s previous budget meetings),” Wheeler said. “It kept coming to my mind that we needed to do something else other than just doing renovations to the school. I wasn’t the only one.”

So how would the plan work?

In the proposal, the county would lease the grounds for the recreational facilities —which include a baseball field, a softball field, two youth soccer fields, a track, soccer field and football field and a walking trail — from the town.

The town would secure the property, the financing, the selection of the architect and engineer and final approval of the final cost and design of the school.

As for the school board, it would operate and maintain the school building upon completion. The proposal also calls for them to sell the front of the Jonesborough Elementary property as well as the Midway property to a “tax paying individual or entity” after the new school is built. The money from the sale of those properties would then go to the county to “reimburse” the county capital improvements fund.

How does the school board and county commission feel about the town’s Jonesborough School proposal?

BOE Chairman Keith Ervin said he’s in favor of the plan, but there’s a lot to still be worked out.

“I’ve got mixed emotions about it,” Ervin said. “I feel like the board needs to be the one that’s designing the school and (choosing) the architect and everything. I just feel like we’ve been left out. It’s just taken a lot of decisions out of the board’s hand.”

As for the commission, Chairman Greg Matherly praised the town’s proposal saying he looked forward to seeing if a request for the plan comes to the commission from the BOE. Until then, he’s hoping to get more clarity on how the BOE and community feels about what many officials have called a “hopeful” plan.

“I told (the community) to bring a plan,” Matherly said, thinking back to the July commission meeting. “And that’s what they did. I’m encouraged. I really am.”

The proposed site, which sets on North Cherokee Street just past Thompson Meadow Lane behind the justice center in Jonesborough, is owned by Curtis Lynn. Town Administrator Bob Browning said the 48-acre tract is in a location that would get the school off of Highway 11-E, would be large enough for the school and recreational facilities — which also include an additional baseball and softball fields — and could also create growth in Jonesborough.

“The idea that you create a new school in a location that generates additional growth is certainly a factor,” Browning said. “When you improve access to the school, then you’re also improving access to inlets and areas with vacant property that could be developed. That was certainly a consideration that the county used in making a determination on locating the Boones Creek School where they did.”

This isn’t the first time the town has come up with a plan and a possible new location for the Jonesborough School; in 2015 plans for a community school on Boones Creek Road, which Browning said connects to the recently proposed Lynn property, was presented when the county and school board were still considering a renovation project for Jonesborough Elementary and Jonesborough Middle and a new K-8 school for Boones Creek.

“For quite a while we have been concerned about the Jonesborough School and whether a new one was going to get built or whether it was going to remain on the existing property,” Browning recalled. “We have supported any kind of consideration of moving the Jonesborough School off of that site because of the major congestion created every day the school is open in its existing location.”

Ervin said the school board plans to have a called meeting to discuss the proposal in the next week or so. Meanwhile, the Jonesborough BMA will meet on Thursday, Aug. 22 at 8 a.m. in the Town Hall board room to discuss the proposal.

“(The meeting will) give our BMA an opportunity to take a formal position in offering this opportunity to the county and the school board,” Browning said. “Individually, they have received updates on what we’re doing, but it becomes an opportunity for them to take a look at it and take a formal position for the Town of Jonesborough.”

Keeping to it: Group steps in to beautify school

Above, Ben Marshall (left) takes a break while Joseph Harless (right) continues the work on the school.


Staff Writer

When you drive by Jonesborough Elementary School, you might notice it’s recently been “beautified” by a team of hard working community members, parents and teachers.

The folks at WoodmenLife, a not-for-profit insurance company, chose Jonesborough Elementary as the location of its community beautification project. WoodmenLife Recruiting Sales Manager James Gilbert and three sales representatives — along with some hardworking volunteers — have since been putting the effort in to improve the entrance of the school by removing the overgrown trees and shrubs growing out front and improving the overall look of the building.

From left to right, Ben Marshall, James Gilbert, Scott Hyatt, Joseph Harless made up the WoodmenLife crew that worked to “beautify” the entrance of Jonesborough Elementary.

“We love taking care of the community,” Gilbert said. “(WoodmenLife) does this all over the United States. They gave us $500 bucks (to make improvements to the school) and it’s going to look good when we finish up. We just enjoy doing it because we just don’t advertise. We build relationships. That’s where we get our business.”

Gilbert, along with Joseph Harless, Scott Hyatt and Ben Marshall, were joined by Jim Lang, who plans to bring a Girl Scout Troop back to the school when the bushes are ready to be planted out front, and Jonesborough Elementary School art teacher Jan Allen who used her planning period to help clean up the front entrance.

“I got an email this morning from Jan Allen,” Principal Matt Combs said, “and she says, ‘I’m wearing jeans and a t-shirt today so I can get out there and help those guys on my planning period.’ I said, That’s fine. You go right ahead.’ When I told (the teachers) what the plans were, it was, ‘wow’ all across the room. I think there’s been some excitement leading up to today.”

WoodmenLife chose Jonesborough Elementary as its beautification project due to the recent stirrings in the news and continued discussions about the future of a Jonesborough School project that has yet to reach a conclusion.

“I said ‘that’s the one I’ve been hearing a lot on the news.’,” Gilbert said. “I was actually sitting in Cootie Browns and someone behind me at the table was furious that this school was not getting any help but they’re building a new (school in Boones Creek). So I made the final decision.”

For Gilbert, these sort of projects are about getting his crew out in the community. And for Combs, it’s important because the people in the building deserve it.

“We have a great school,” Combs said. “We have a great faculty, we have awesome kids. The teachers come in this building come in here and they work really hard every day to give the best education possible to the kids we serve. The building is a building. It’s not the school. Could we use new walls? Yeah. Could we use windows in our building? Absolutely. But are we still going to come in here and give our students the best education we possibly can? Yes.”

Long before the beautification project began, Combs said teachers have continued to put work into keeping the building looking its best and plan to keep it up.

“Our teachers take pride in this building even though it is outdated,” Combs said. “Walk through and look at the classrooms. Look at the work they’ve put in on their own time this past summer painting walls, painting countertops, painting cabinets — the money they’ve spent to make this building look good and they do it because our kids deserve it.”

Combs said they also do it because they realize that even with yet another meeting set for Thursday to discuss the Jonesborough School project — this time with the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen — the current round building will still be home for students, teachers and staff until further notice.

“If they say ‘yes’ (to a plan for the school) on Thursday night, it’s going to be a minimum two or three years (before something is done). This is our building,” Combs said. “This is our school for the next two years, three years, 10 years, 20 years — however long they decide they want to be in it.

“Regardless of whether they say we’re getting a new school or whether they say we’re not, we’re going to take care of this building as long as we possible can, as long as it’s ours to take care of.”

Until something is decided, flowers will be planted, a fresh coat of orange paint will be placed on the paw prints leading to the front doors — and the people inside those doors will still be doing their best.

“If they put tents out there in front of the building and said, ‘this is where you’re going to have your classes,’ that’s fine.” Combs said. “We’d go out there and do what we need to do. And we’ll still do the good job that we always do.”

Crockett heating repair declared an ‘emergency’

Todd Ganger, Chad Fleenor and Jason Day discuss the boiler at Crockett.


Staff Writer

Replacing the heating system at David Crockett High School has now become an “emergency” for the Washington County Board of Education.

The board opted to take no more than $200,000 from its fund balance to replace the boiler at Crockett at the board’s monthly meeting held on Thursday, Aug. 1. Flanary said the Purchasing Act of 1957, which the county operates under, requires that public bids have to be let out though public advertisements and “that didn’t happen.”

“There is a very good possibility that if it had to go back all the way through the bid process, it would be way way into cold weather before this thing’s back on,” Flanary said to the board. “We think it qualifies as an emergency. (The schools’ finance director, Brad Hale) says we will probably get written up anyway because there’s so much money involved. But we’ve got to heat Crockett. If the school decides to close for three or four days because they decide it’s too cold, with 1,100 students a day and that funding loss, $200,000 all the sudden isn’t that much money.”

Because the boiler replacement will also be a part of Energy Savings Group’s savings package for the school board to consider, board member Chad Fleenor suggested the school board postpone the boiler conversation until the board’s meeting to discuss the ESG proposal. Fleenor’s motion to postpone failed in a 3-5 vote with Fleenor, Jason Day and Annette Buchanan in favor and Todd Ganger, Mitch Meredith, David Hammond, Mary Beth Dellinger and Keith Ervin in opposition.

“The reason I (want to) postpone it is I want Washington County government to pay for it instead of our fund balance, which is dwindling,” Fleenor said. “It’s ironic we talked about cost-cutting measures tonight on one hand and now we’re pulling $200,000 out of our fund balance. I just thought it’d be better if it came out of the capital money.”

However, the school system’s maintenance supervisor, Phillip Patrick, said the school system won’t get the invoice for the project until the job’s complete, at which time the ESG proposal could be approved by the school board and the county commission.

The county’s Health, Education and Welfare Committee also approved the school system’s request for a cooling tower at Jonesborough Elementary School for $225,000 and for HVAC controls at Jonesborough Middle School for $63,229 at the committee’s Aug. 1 meeting. Should the commission approve those requests at its meeting this month, board members said those Jonesborough School requests and the boiler replacement cost could nearly balance each other out.

In addition to cost concerns, board members also said they were concerned about calling the boiler replacement an “emergency.”

“The only thing I worry about is it’s an emergency because we did it wrong,” Day said. “It’s not an emergency because it’s an emergency … we did the bid process wrong. We made that mistake. Is someone going to come back and say, ‘That really wasn’t an emergency, you just didn’t handle it right.’?”

Other board members felt it was still a necessary step in order to replace the boiler.

“That’s better than closing school because we don’t have heat for the kids,” Ganger said. “You can approve it tonight and regardless of what happens Thursday (at the ESG meeting), it’s not going to effect anything. You approve ESG and it’s in the scope of work anyway. We have to do it. It’s an emergency thing. We have got to get this fixed.”

The board will meet on Thursday, Aug. 8, to discuss the ESG proposal and the lease of driver’s education cars for the system. That meeting will be held at 5 p.m. at the central office located at  405 W College St., Jonesborough.

Boones Creek School celebrates opening

Left to right, school board members David Hammond, Mitch Meredith, Mary Beth Dellinger, Annette Buchanan, Chad Fleenor and former member Mary Lo Silvers cut the ribbon. Note: Boones Creek Principal Jordan Hughes squeezes in to take part.


Staff Writer

The time had come. Parents, community members, teachers, and students of the Boones Creek community finally got the chance to walk through the doors of the brand new Boones Creek School on Saturday.

The Boones Creek K-8 School opened with a ribbon-cutting celebration and tour through the new building off of Highland Church Road. As folks weaved in and out of the brand-new library and 1,100-student gym with a giant paw print in the center of the hardwood, it was clear it was more than just a celebration of a new school year for the community. It was a celebration of new memories to be made.

“I know that this school is going to be a source of great pride for this community and the school will serve all of our students. We will be a family-centered school that creates that Boones Creek family that will last for years,” Principal Jordan Hughes said. “The building is a gorgeous building. I would go so far as to say it’s the prettiest school in East Tennessee.”

The over 1,300 square-foot school has a current student population of about 800 students — all housed in one building. In Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary’s opinion, that sets the school apart — not only as the county’s largest school — but as one of the largest in the area. (So large in fact, he gifted Hughes with her own skate board to get across the large school in record time.)

“Just south of here is Tennessee’s seventh largest high school and that’s Science Hill High School. It’s about 180,000 square feet over several buildings,” Flanary said. “The building behind me is over 130,000 square feet under one roof. It will be Washington County’s single largest school — bigger than Daniel Boone, bigger than David Crockett.”

The ribbon cutting also offered a chance to look back on the planning process for the Boones Creek School.

The school board started its planning process for the county system in 2012 and thus the combining of Boones Creek Elementary and Middle School was placed as the top priority. Then after over a year of searching for the site, the board of education decided on the Highland Church property with construction beginning for the school in the summer of 2017.

Principal Jordan Hughes shows off her skateboard courtesy of Director of Schools Bill Flanary.

“I was asked several times as I walked up to this building if I thought I’d ever see this day,” Tony Street, the school project’s architect said at the ribbon cutting. “I told them when I got up this morning, I didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or run. It has been quite a journey. It’s quite an honor to be here this morning.”

Just miles from where American historical figure Daniel Boone carved his name in a tree telling of his infamous slaying of a bear, or a “bar”, the new school will honor Boones Creek history as well.

“We should take care not to forget our beautiful history — Boones Creek High School, Boones Creek Middle School, Boones Creek Elementary School,” Hughes said. “Boones Creek has roots and we today are going to replant those roots here. We don’t want to forget where we came from. We want to embrace our history as we look toward the future.”

Replanting that history is now becoming a reality to families, community members and also those teachers who made the move from the old school to the new.

For eighth grade English and language arts teacher Katy Hancock, the reality of the school had finally set in during the ribbon cutting — and so has the opportunity for her students.

“I felt like the closer we got to the end of last year, the more excited everyone was as we were packing boxes and getting everything together,” Hancock said standing outside of her new classroom. “I’m most excited about being all in the same building as preK-8. I think it will create a lot of opportunities for our older kids to connect with a younger generation and be mentors.”

Though a brand new building and updated learning environment stood before the community on Saturday, it was clear the facility wasn’t the entire focus; for so many donning their red and black “Bar” t-shirts outside of the new school, the celebration was about the community and those who would be coming together in the newly constructed building.

“It is a state-of-the-art facility. It’s energy efficient, it’s safe, it’s collaboratively focused … you name it we have it,” Hughes said. “However, it’s not the building that makes the school. It’s the people that make the building. The teachers, using the best instructional practices and insuring that students learn, building relationships, challenging them to reach their full potential. It is Mrs. Brenda in the cafeteria cooking the food, serving your children daily with a smile on her face and love in her heart. It’s the ladies at the front office ready to help you in any way.

“It’s the students, the heartbeat of the school, the reason for our existence. It is them. They are the reason that this building is here and why we give our best every day. They’re the reason we strive for success and perfection. They’re our future.”

‘Safety over ballfields’: Parents’ frustration over Jonesborough school spills out during new athletic facility discussion

Kerrie Aistrop and Jamie Freeman display the difference between outside spaces for the new Boones Creek School and Jonesborough Elementary to the Washington County Commission.


Staff Writer

Update: A joint meeting to discuss a “Jonesborough School building proposal” between the county commission, the Washington County Board of Education and the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen has been scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 15, at 6 p.m. at the McKinney Center located at 103 Franklin Ave., Jonesborough.

The poster-sized photos depicting the difference between the future Boones Creek School’s outdoor space and that of Jonesborough Elementary’s seemed huge as parent Kerrie Aistrop and local teacher Jamie Freeman held them in front of commissioners.

But somehow, those images and their impact only grew larger as commissioners considered the county athletic facility project versus the student needs in Jonesborough.

“Is it too much to ask that you say, ‘Okay, let’s get our priorities straight — children’s safety first and then let’s build those ballfields,’? Aistrop asked the commission. “I don’t think that’s a very unfair thing to ask.”

The Jonesborough School project, which last saw a “Scheme 6” design plan voted down by the county commission in May, came to the forefront during Monday’s meeting when commissioners considered phase one of the county’s sports facility project behind the new Boones Creek School. Phase one of the project for no more than $800,000 was approved in a 9-5 vote, with Steve Light, Kent Harris, Jerome Fitzgerald, Danny Edens and Mike Ford voting against (Robbie Tester abstained from the vote).

To parents and community members at the meeting, it was less about the dirt being used for the athletic project and more about putting funds towards upgrading Jonesborough Elementary and Middle Schools.

“If we have the money to open this brand new (Boones Creek) school and build ballfields, how can we possibly not have $800,000 that could remove the asbestos? Let’s spend the money to put in a fire system. I’m asking you all to prioritize the absolute needs in this county before we go and get extras,” Aistrop said.

“Think about the decisions that us Jonesborough parents are going through seeing this great school being built and this great idea of ballfields … But this is what we have,” she said as she tapped on the Jonesborough Elementary School photo. “And y’all are going to vote for $800,000 and then a $3 to $5 million sports complex down the road when we can’t even do anything to fix this.”

Aistrop and another parent, Josh Ledford, spoke at the meeting after parents received a letter that day saying the water in the cafeteria at Jonesborough Middle School had too much lead in its water supply according to state standards.

The news of the excess amount of lead in the cafeteria’s water, in addition to the commission’s decision to vote on the next step in the athletic facility project, were enough to bring Ledford back to the podium after two years of grid lock and a project standstill in regards to the elementary and middle schools in Jonesborough.

“I’m glad, genuinely, honest-to-God glad that the kids at Boones Creek are getting this school because those kids deserve it,” Ledford said. “I want my money that I pay for my taxes to go to our local government and straight to our kids. But when I see on one hand that my kid doesn’t have safe drinking water in the lunchroom and then there’s a meeting for a $5 million ball field, it hurts me. I grew up behind that middle school. I’ve lived here my whole life. I’m proud of this community. I’m glad to be a part of it and I want my children to be proud of it too. My kids can’t be proud of what they have.”

The budget for the athletic facilities project is $3.2 million. The Jonesborough School was originally set to be a renovation project for $10 million, and eventually had a $20,750,000 budget for a Jonesborough K-8 School renovation and addition project at the current elementary school site and the creation of a academic magnet at the middle school site. However, county officials maintained those dollars were not allocated and is no longer budgeted for a Jonesborough School project.

As for the future of the Jonesborough School project, Chairman Greg Matherly resulted back to that former plan to use $10 million for a Jonesborough renovation.

After coming down from the chairman’s bench in the courtroom to the commission floor, Matherly requested the school system “bring the plans” for that next step.

“Even up until the last few months, the last few (financial) proposals we had, (county financial director Mitch Meredith) told us we had $10 million to spend there at Jonesborough,” Matherly said. “Let’s get the plan together and bring it to this county commission. Let’s bring it to Jonesborough if that’s what we want to do. I’m for it, 100 percent. Let’s put the plan together. We’re just waiting for it.

“If it requires a tax increase to build a new school, this commission needs to consider that. It will take the support of the parents to do that. It will take support of the teachers, (the director of schools) Dr. Flanary. It will take so much support. But I think it’s very important.”

In consideration of the athletic facility project, commissioners expressed concern in approving the next step in the sports project while a solution has yet to be found for the schools in Jonesborough.

“When we can’t put the necessities out there for them, I don’t think we’re at the point where we can build four fields,” Ford said. “I just don’t feel like we’re there.”

As for Washington County’s other schools, Danny Edens said he felt those other schools also had athletic facility needs.

“We’ve got other county schools, not just Jonesborough,” Edens said. “South Central School, they bus their kids to a ruritan building too play baseball and softball. Jonesborough, among with all their other problems, they bus their kids to Persimmon Ridge to play softball, baseball and soccer. And they have to work their practices and their games around a whole entire age group of little leaguers because they have to share the field.

“So they don’t just have the drinking water problems and the asbestos problems and the mold problems and the roaches that are crawling out of the wall problems — because I’ve seen them. They’ve got other issues with their ball fields because they don’t have ball fields.

“And we’ve got a brand new school sitting out there for Boones Creek.”

Market to launch new cookbook

Pat Sheets shows off the new “Grow & Cook Book,” a community effort by Jonesborough.



“This is what a whole community can do,” said Pat Sheets, proudly holding up the new Jonesborough Locally Grown cookbook to be released Saturday.

Jonesborough Locally Grown is the umbrella organization for the Jonesborough Farmers Market and year-round Boone Street Market.

Shoppers visit the Farmers Market.

Sheets is sitting in Boones Street Market surrounded by fresh, local produce as well as shelves, baskets and bins filled with locally prepared food products. The book, titled “Grow & Cook Book, ” features these products and more in the 200-plus recipes found within its covers.

“This book reflects what happens when you come to the Farmers Market,” explained Sheets, who is considered by many to be the genius behind the cookbook.

But Sheets is quick to discount her importance. The recipes, the stories, the photographs, the designs and more, she said, are all the contributions of an amazing group of 70-plus local volunteers who were determined to bring this project to a successful conclusion.

“Honestly, a whole community did this,” she stressed. “Everybody was in on it. They wanted to do it. They were willing. They volunteered their time.

“I had proofreaders, people that spent a lot of time. All I did was collect the stuff.”

Other key collaborators that brought the project to completion include graphic designer Lise Cutshaw and several financial supporters: individual donors, the Pick TN program of the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, and Interstate Graphics for printing.   

The idea for the cookbook began to form about four years ago when market supporters met to brainstorm.

“It was in the summer of 2015,” Sheets said. “I was on the board at the time, and it was like what kind of fun events can we do?

“It seemed like an obvious given. You got food. So how do you cook it?”

A cookbook project may have seemed an obvious one, but that didn’t mean it was easy. Sheets and fellow volunteers spent more than 36 months gatherings recipes from local farmers, chefs and a community of cooks in Jonesborough and surrounding areas.

Sheets also thought it was important to introduce readers to the farmers who were necessary in providing the ingredients. Their stories are at the front of the new cookbook.

“These are the farmers. This is what makes it possible,” Sheets said. “They had to be first in the story because they are what it’s all about.”

Chapters throughout the book are organized to mimic Farmers Market schedules. In the chapter “Spring Harvest,” for example, cooks can find recipes featuring early greens like Brussel sprouts and kale. In “Summer Harvest,” you can find ideas for beans, beets and turnips.

The full-color, spiral-bound book also includes a chapter on preserving the harvest with instructions on drying herbs, pickling, fermenting, making jellies and jams, canning, freezing and making broth at home.

There are even yellow-highlighted sections that provide guidance on how to plant the crops or cultivate bees.

“That’s the ‘grow’ part of the ‘Grow & Cook Book.’” Sheets said with a happy smile.

“I wanted our book to be extra special, because that’s how I see the market and all our farmer friends,” she added.

Such a special book deserves a special launch, Sheets believes. So this Saturday, July 20, at the downtown Jonesborough Farmers Market,  the new “Grow and Cook Books” will be available for purchase – for the first time – and samples will be on hand at the Saturday market to showcase a few of the recipes that can be found in the cookbook. Then, on Tuesday, July 23, from 6 to 8 p.m., the public is also invited to sample recipes at a reception honoring the cookbook contributors at Boone Street Market, 101 Boone Street.

From then on, the cookbooks will also be available for purchase at Boone Street Market, the Jonesborough Visitor’s Center, the International Storytelling Center, the Makers Market and Mauk’s of Jonesborough. Cookbooks cost $25 and all proceeds go to support Jonesborough Locally Grown.

Three-day festival ends with spectacular show

Jonesborough’s festival culminated in fireworks downtown. (photo by Cameo Waters)


H&T Correspondent

Hundreds turn out to celebrate the 49th Annual of Jonesborough Days on Saturday, July 6.

The festival began July 4 and ended Saturday starting at 10 a.m. and ending at 10 p.m. Each day had a main event.

Thursday’s big event was the was the Fourth of July parade that began at 10 a.m., Friday’s was a low country boil at 5:30 p.m. and Saturday’s was a firework display at 10 p.m.

The parade is a part of the annual festival that is a highly anticipated event by attendees. It traveled down the middle of Main Street and had 60 different floats.

According to Melinda Copp, Jonesborough’s events coordinator and owner of Makers Market, the event had a great turn out. She said that the low country shrimp boil also went well.

“We sold over 250 tickets to the boil,” Copp said.

The shrimp boil took place at the International Storytelling Center, and attendees enjoyed entertainment by the Ozone Rangers as they ate. 

Copp said they were hoping for an equally great turn out for Saturday’s events, but they had a slow start due to rain that morning.   

The rain stopped around 11:30 a.m. and people began arriving in larger and larger groups. 

On Saturday, there were more than 80 craftsmen booths set up on both sides of main street. The first booths were the “I Made It Market” where items were made and sold by young artists and were open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

The first booth belonged to Josh and Christopher Tomko. Josh sold coasters and other items that he painted. Christopher built things like magazine racks, towel bars and birdhouses from pallet wood.

The Tomkos are originally from Jonesborough but now live in West Jefferson North Carolina. They came back for a visit and to participate in the festival. Though they no longer live in Jonesborough, they said that the town is still very important to them.

Christopher said that when he was thinking of what to make for the festival, the idea to make things out of pallet wood just came to him.

“It’s great because the material is inexpensive and since it’s wood it’s recyclable,” Christopher said.

Josh said that doing the booth was really fun and that the thing he hoped for most was that people enjoyed his art.

“It’s a great way for the kids to make crafts and helps them learn about business and how it works,” said Allison Tomko, Josh and Christopher’s mother.

The booth directly beside the Tomkos belonged to Ella and Lily Thompson. The name of their booth was Sister’s Soap and Scripture.

The idea to sell homemade soaps came from Ella. She also thought of putting a slip of paper with a Bible verse on it in the bag with the soap.

Each bar of soap was in a different shape and scent. There was rose, orange, vanilla, and peppermint sold for a dollar each.

They also had homemade jewelry for sale.

“It helps kids learn about business in a fun way,” Ella said.

Ella and Lily’s father, Ben Thompson, said that he was really proud of his daughters’ accomplishments.

“They always want to make people smile,” said Thompson. “They are truly a light to the world, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Two booths down from the sisters was John Chapman, a young artist whose work has been published eight times on the celebrity art website. His work was also on display at the General Morgan Inn in Greeneville in July of last year.

John was a little shy, but clearly proud of the unique cards, bookmarks, and other items that he hand painted.

“We were on a trip to Nashville when we saw a boy John’s age at a booth selling his art, and he thought it would be fun to sell his work too,” said John’s father.

In front of the “I Made It Market” on the corner of East Main Street and Fox Street there was a children’s train. It ran from 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.

Children could ride the train for free. It went down the middle of town, to the end of Main Street and back.

Tory Street, who is from Jonesborough, brought her two children to the festival.

Street has been attending Jonesborough Days for the last 15 to 20 years and does her best to attend at least one day of the festival each year.

“It’s so much fun. It’s great for the town because it brings people in and they will like what they experience and come back,” said Street.

Her 5-year-old Daughter Sawyer and 2-year-old son Bo were yelling with excitement while riding the train and impatiently waited in line to be able to ride again. 

“The train ride was the thing the kids anticipated the most,” Street said.

Street said that going to Jonesborough Days is a family tradition especially the parade that took place Thursday.

Street was also interested in seeing what the vendors had to offer.

The vendors sold a variety of items. Some sold homemade jewelry, decorations, and other items that can be used around the house. There was even a booth set up where people could get a caricature done.

Paws in Blue, who had a fundraiser on June 15, had a booth and gave out pamphlets and cards detailing what their origination is and does. Loki and his handler Dustin Fleming, from the Jonesborough Police Department, were there to greet people.

Jonesborough Presbyterian Church had a booth set up to the side of the church selling jewelry donated by the congregation. There was more being sold inside the church.

The booth was maned by Kathy Scheu, Ida Shurr, and Shurr’s granddaughter, Sydney Sheehan.

Sheehan was visiting from Colorado. She loved being apart of the churches annual fundraiser and seeing all the people.

Both Shurr and Scheu said that Sheehan was their best salesman and that people just loved talking to her.

“Jonesborough Days is the ideal time to hold the fundraiser because so many people come out to be a part of the fun,” said Scheu.

The money raised by the fundraiser goes to several local charities.

“We raised $1,000 last year and hope to get the same, but if we don’t reach our goal, we are still grateful for whatever we’re blessed with,” said Shurr.

The shop owners in Downtown Jonesborough also got involved in the festivities by having sales.

Marty Glasgow who owns Noelle in downtown was one of them.

She had marked down several of her spring and summer items.

“Jonesborough Days is always great,” said Glasgow.

“It’s wonderful to see so many people come to town and all the things that the craftsmen sale.”

As the day progressed, more people could be seen walking down Main Street and crowding vender booths.

Dan and Becky Reece, along with their granddaughter Daisy, were visiting family. They heard about the festival and thought it would be fun to attend.

“We live in Raleigh, North Carolina, but we’re originally from Jonesborough,” said Dan. “We went to Jonesborough Days years ago and enjoyed it.”

Other visitors had the same idea to come out and see what the festival had to offer, but staid for the food.

Jessica and Adam Byrd from Unicoi wanted to walk around, see what vendors were selling, listen to the music, and to enjoy the fries at the food stands set up along side one of the side streets along Main Street.

Aside from the multiple food options, from Philly cheese steak, Polish sausage, blooming onion, and crazy fries, visitors had the opportunity to enjoy some Moon Pies by participating in the Moon Pie Eating Contest.

The contest was set up in front of the courthouse and started at 2 p.m. Sign ups began at 1:30 pm. The contest had eight participants for three categories.

The first category was for those eight and younger, the second was for nine to fifteen, and the last for sixteen and up.

The winner of the contest was decided by who could eat and keep down the most Moon Pies within three minutes and was given a free t-shirt and a year’s worth of Moon Pies.

Throughout the day people could sit and enjoy live music performance in front of the Internal Story Center. Such as Harlen Country Grass, Blue Railroad, Teller in Residence

In ISC, Bluebirds and Larry and Gayleen Kelley.

One of the main music events of the day began at 5:30 p.m. with a mixed tape ‘80s party lead by DJ Robbie Britton. Those that had on the best 80s ensemble was picked from the crowd and won the costume contest.

The main music event for Saturday began at 7:30. It was a live performance by the Breakfast Club, the top ‘80s tribute band in the country.

According to Copp they have been providing live ‘80s pop since 1993 and are most recognized ‘80s tribute band in the US.

There were several other events for visitors to enjoy throughout the day. Such as the Beer Garden where people could enjoy locally brewed beer, tour of the Chester Inn and photo taken in historical fashion, town tour, and the presentation of Mamma Mia! by the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre.

The morning rain shower caused some of the days events to be cancel, such as the Old Jonesborough Cemetery Tour. It was canceled because mud made the tour a little too perilous.

The children’s events, which were set up at Discovery Park behind the Storytelling Center, were also affected by the rain.

The McKinney Center, who came up with the idea of the “I Made it Market,” had a kids crafts and hands-on-learning booth set up.

The Heritage Alliance had a version of an early 1900s classroom set up with quill pen writing lessons from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. They also had several toys from that era that that allow children to play with.

According to Joe Spiker, head docent of the Chester Inn Museum, who was helping with the school and demonstrating how the toys worked said that there had not been a lot of children come through due to rain, but that he expected more to show up as the day progressed.

The American Heritage Girls/ Trail Life USA had a booth set up beside McKinney Center. Pamphlets and cards were available for the boys or girls who would like to become a part of the Christian based organization. 

The day’s events ended with a spectacular fireworks display set off in the Washington County Library’s parking lot.

Books on wheels: Bus keeps summer reading rolling

Washington County’s new “library bus” can be seen in Thursday’s Jonesborough Days parade.


Staff Writer

It’s not unusual for the Washington County School System to cycle out a few buses each year. But it is unusual when one of those buses is transformed into a library — that is, until now.

The school system recently morphed a big yellow school bus into a rolling library complete with wooden book shelves filled with thousands of books waiting for eager hands to turn the pages. This new bus wasn’t just the brain child of Washington County Director of Schools Bill Flanary and the school system’s special project manager, Jarrod Adams; they leave the credit to Zephaniah Wells, the Eagle Scout who first brought the idea to the school system.

Hundreds of books donated by the Washington County Library await students.

“We have been chewing on (the library bus idea) for five years,” Flanary said. “What really put it over the top was we had a meeting one day with a home-schooled student that’s trying to get his Eagle Scout badge. He came up with the idea and he didn’t know we had been talking about it. I thought, ‘This is a sign. We’ve got to get after this.’”

Wells said in addition to earning his badge, he wanted to work on a project that focused on bringing opportunities for reading to students.

“My mom told me about the bookmobile in her hometown and suggested that I could try and put one together for my Eagle Scout project,” Wells said. “I chose this project so that I could share my love of reading with the community by addressing problems like illiteracy, summer learning loss and a lack of transportation.”

Throughout the summer, students in the county school system’s summer program have seen the big blue bus roll up to the elementary schools to offer a chance to browse through the books donated by the Washington County library.

“The plan was to bring this out during the summer to communities where maybe they don’t have access to the public library,” Adams explained. “We’ve got the public library in Jonesborough, one in Johnson City and one in Gray. Other than that, we don’t have access to books for our kids. We take it out to West View and Fall Branch and those kids have an opportunity during the summer to read books and take them home that are more on their level.

Lynn Archer, Jarrod Adams and Tony Roberts smile with the finished library bus project.

“When you’ve got a second or third grade kid, to be able to get on a bus and find a book he’s interested in and take it home, I think that promotes the reading we’re looking for from our students.”

Learning through reading isn’t the only education the bus has provided; once the transportation department checked on the mechanics and removed the seats to make room for the book shelves, it was up to David Crockett High School’s auto body, art, and woodworking students to do much of the work.

“The teachers led (the project) in that they would help give ideas and suggestions, but the kids are the ones who really built it all, which is just really cool to see,” Adams said. “We had the auto body kids paint part of the hood and they painted the roof of it. The auto mechanic teacher and his group checked out some of the mechanical issues on it, the art teacher had all that work that her kids did to design it, the librarian at Crockett had some ideas for us on how to do the books — it was a full-court press and we got a lot of people involved to do it.”

For many Crockett students, it’s more than a library on wheels — it serves as a source of pride and offers the feeling of a job well done.

“I’d say half of the kids at Crockett had something to do with it, the design, the build,” Flanary said. “I remember walking in to check on it one day at Crockett and this student said he’d show it to me. He walked me through step by step what they had done. This is a 16-year-old in auto body, not an honor student, but he was so proud of the work they’d done. He was so tuned in to what they were doing. The students in took a lot of pride in it. I think it’s just pride and satisfaction in seeing a big project that is so unique get out there.”

To show off that work, Flanary said the book bus will be featured in the Jonesborough Days parade set for Thursday.

“I really wanted it in the parade to showcase what the students can do as much as the bus itself,” Flanary said. “(We want to show) what the school system is capable of doing in-house. We are proud of it.”

Now that summer school has wrapped, the school system is already thinking of ways to use the bus during the school year and incorporate curriculum standards in an exciting way.

“We’ve had talks about using it as a traveling library for social studies so that if it goes out to Gray for a week or two, they can get sections of the library that are focused on a specific content standards,” Adams said. “The kids and teachers can come out and use the library as another resource to help work with their kids on content. We’ve involved instructional coaches on that concept as well as the librarians. That’s in its infancy, but that’s what we’re going to do with it this school year.”

Adams said they are also considering using the bus, or potentially another cycled-out bus, as a traveling bus to showcase the Career Technical Education options the high schools offer.

“Some of the people at the high school are floating the idea of a CTE traveling bus and putting stations on there to show kids what it’d be like to work on a small engine or maybe build a small wooden object, whatever they would design,” Adams said. “They could travel around and these middle school kids would get an idea of the type of programs we offer at the high school level.”

Family steps into the next chapter of historic home

Andrea and Shaffon Finley and their daughter Selah stand outside their new historic Jonesborough home.


Staff Writer

On the side of Tavern Hill Road, a two story farmhouse sets at the foot of a hillside surrounded by a mountain silhouette. The farmhouse is believed to have been built around the turn of the century and comes with its own set of history. But for the Finley family, who moved into the home in November, it offers the family of three a place they plan to build their own history on a backroad in Jonesborough.

“We fell in love with the surroundings,” Andrea Finley said, standing in the middle of the open area that joins the kitchen, dining and living area — along with a view of rolling hills through the large windows on either side of the house. “It was between this and a newer remodel. We knew this one needed work, but I cried when I saw it (laughs) because the other one just didn’t have the charm and the outdoors here. I mean, look out that back window. It just won my heart.”

The house was said to have been the first stagecoach stop in East Tennessee and later served as a tavern. But the Finleys are hard at work to find more details about the farmhouse’s beginnings after a man with a metal detector and a bit of history showed up at their door.

“After we lived here for about a month, there was a guy who stopped and said, ‘Hey, I’d like to metal detect around your house. Do you know the history of it?’” Andrea’s husband, Shaffon Finley, said. “I told him we knew just what was in the listing. He said people used to come from Hales Chapel and they would come down and on their way to Jonesborough they would stop here. It’s pretty close to Jonesborough.”

Even without knowing the full history of the farmhouse, it’s not hard to imagine the stories of the people who once roamed through the house, like the long gone strangers who might have once stopped in for a cold drink in the 19th century on the dusty road between Boones Creek and Jonesborough or bygone travelers who likely gathered to share the warmth around the aged fireplace still setting in the center of the open living area of the house.

Though the Finleys said a good amount of work had already been done to the farmhouse when they bought it, they’re dedicated to honoring the history of the old homestead. A staircase adorned with a mosaic made of broken china leads you to the upstairs bedrooms that also serve homage to the home decor techniques of the past — the floors in the upstairs bedrooms are painted just as they would have been in previous centuries.

“The reason the floors are painted is in old farmhouses they would put spare wood, whatever was left, in the floor,” Andrea said.

“It didn’t all match up, so they painted it. We tried to keep it true to that,” Shaffon added. “They were already painted up here.”

As if hand-stenciled tiles in the upstairs bathroom (which will sadly have to be removed after a shower leak) and painted floors aren’t enough to give the farmhouse personality, Andrea and Shaffon have made sure to put their own personal touches in and around the house to honor their own history.

In the upstairs hallway, a small wooden letter board that was once used at the church Andrea grew up in hangs on the wall between pages from old hymnal books. And next to the old red water spigot on the side of the house rests a concrete slab embossed with odd shapes and is believed to be an old doll mold.

“As a kid I thought it was the coolest thing,” Andrea said looking at the piece she used to ogle over as a child. “At my grandmother’s house it laid up against the house. I always thought it was an angel as a kid. I finally asked when my grandmother passed if I could have it. It just mesmerized me.”

The Finleys would tell you the house is a work-in-progress, but Andrea and Shaffon, along with their daughter, Selah, are also considering another project: turning the shed that was said to have once served as a smoke house into an Airbnb.

But for now, the ground has been leveled for a future fire pit overlooking the hills behind the farmhouse, a small garden filled with tomatoes, small pumpkins, cucumber and other vegetables is well on its way and the family’s two goats, Honey and Sugar, stand nearby hoping for a piece of bread from Selah. And that’s precisely what Andrea and Shaffon pictured when choosing between the farmhouse and another remodeled home — a farm for their daughter to enjoy.

“When it was between the two houses,” Andrea said standing on the porch just in front of the newly stripped front door that took a week to refinish, “I wanted her to have the same type of childhood that I had where you could just run the fields and just enjoy being outside instead of worrying about your crazy neighbors.”

To capture all the farmhouse magic that goes on, Andrea has created “The Finley Farm” instagram account complete with pictures of goats peaking through the fence and various decor throughout the house.

“I think the reason you see all the posts you do with her is because she truly loves it,” Shaffon said. “Like I love playing the bass, she loves decorating. Just everything about farmhouse decorating. And she used to be a photographer as a side-gig so she loves taking pictures of it.”

Andrea may love taking pictures of the farmhouse and the picturesque front porch, but Shaffon had reservations in taking on an older home after the Finleys left their last house which required a lot of upkeep.

“I think what he was most nervous about was the first house that we had had a lot of leaks in the ceilings,” Andrea said. “He was just over home improvement.”

“I was tired of fixing stuff,” Shaffon added. “It’s just something that’s ongoing. This house hasn’t been that bad. I think (the previous owners) worked on it quite a bit. I just know what goes into the upkeep.

It seems the work of getting a historic farmhouse like you want it is never truly finished. But the Finleys are taking it one day at a time and spending each day taking in the East Tennessee surroundings in the home they knew was meant for them.

“I just like character of farmhouses instead of cookie cutter houses,” Andrea said, thinking back to the moment she first fell in love with the farmhouse. “I like something with charm that’s different.

“I could just see life being good here.”


Celebration planned at Christopher Taylor House

The Christopher Taylor House was built in the 1700s and relocated to downtown Jonesborough in 1974.


At last week’s meeting of the Jonesborough Board of Mayor and Aldermen, Mayor Chuck Vest designated Saturday, June 22, as Christopher Taylor House Day. And everyone is ready to celebrate.

The event, “Raise the Roof Celebration,” is set to begin at 6 p.m. and will not only provide the chance to revel in the historic building’s distinction, but also mark the recent addition of its new roof.

The log house is an important icon of Jonesborough’s historic preservation movement and is one of the few remaining examples of v-notch log house construction that was popular during the 1700s.

Christopher Taylor fought at the Battle of King’s Mountain during the Revolutionary War and was an important presence in early Washington County. His log house was open to travelers as they headed west. One of the boarders who reportedly spent time at the Taylor residence was a young lawyer by the name of Andrew Jackson. When the Town of Jonesborough moved the home to its current location in 1974, the building became a central piece of Main Street’s restoration.

This past year, the Heritage Alliance obtained a grant from the State of Franklin Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR) to replace the building’s worn out roof with cedar shakes. This new roof allowed the doors to be reopened on the Christopher Taylor House, and the building is now being used for all sorts of activities, including weaving, storytelling, music, rug hooking, and more.

Join the Heritage Alliance, the Town of Jonesborough, and the State of Franklin Chapter of the NSDAR  for the evening event and ceremony on the Taylor House’s front lawn. The log house will also be open for tours. Parking is available around the Washington County Courthouse.

The Heritage Alliance is dedicated to the preservation of the architectural, historical, and cultural heritage of our region and to providing educational experiences related to history and heritage for a wide range of audiences.  For more information, please call our office at (423) 753-9580, or contact the organization via email at

Maintenance needs stack up at Jonesborough schools

The school system’s maintenance supervisor said Jonesborough Elementary’s cooling tower and Jonesborough Middle’s HVAC controls are the latest maintenance needs at the two schools.


Staff Writer

The Washington County Board of Education might not have a plan for a Jonesborough K-8 School after the county commission voted down the latest design for the project last month, but that hasn’t stopped the ongoing maintenance needs from popping up at Jonesborough Elementary and Jonesborough Middle.

In a 5-4 vote on Thursday, June 6, the board tabled a decision to replace the cooling tower at Jonesborough Elementary School for an estimated $225,000. The board also tabled a decision to replace HVAC controls at Jonesborough Middle School for an estimated $63,329. Board members Annette Buchanan, David Hammond, Mary Beth Dellinger, Chad Fleenor and Keith Ervin were in favor of tabling both decisions. Phillip McLain, Mitch Meredith, Todd Ganger and Jason Day were opposed.

Maintenance Supervisor Phillip Patrick said his team had to “do a little rigging” on the cooling tower to make it last through next fall, but that it would need to be replaced before next summer. He also explained that Jonesborough Middle was let out three days before the last official day of school this year due to a HVAC control malfunction that set the school to a default mode, turning the air off.

“After some long searches, we found enough parts and an old control board that could communicate with the old equipment we have,” Patrick said. “We kind of got that rigged in there to where it’s working. It’s not working perfectly. We can’t see part of the building, some of the rooms. But we can verify we do have cooling (at the middle school).”

Fleenor asked if these items were on the school system’s list of maintenance needs submitted to the county commission. Patrick said they were not due to the anticipated Jonesborough School project that instead has been stuck in limbo for over two years.

“About five years ago we started talking about renovating Jonesborough,” Patrick said. “They said, ‘Can you make (the equipment at the Jonesborough schools) last a couple of years, Mr. Patrick?’ I said, ‘Yes sir, I believe I can.’ That was five years ago.”

Chairman Ervin made the motion to table the two recommendations from the facility committee until the board could meet for a called meeting to discuss the future of the Jonesborough School project.

The “Scheme 6” plan was voted down unanimously by the county commission at its May 20 meeting. This was the first design plan to make it to the commission floor after numerous designs were turned down by the Health Education and Welfare committees over the past two years. The Scheme 6 plan came to the commission with no recommendation from the HEW committee or the budget committee.

Because the Jonesborough School project boasts even more uncertainty following the commission’s recent disapproval of the plan, board members said they felt it is imperative to make maintenance improvements until a new plan is approved.

“You’re going to have kids in this school for three years,” Meredith said.

Before the board’s meeting on Thursday, the county’s HEW Committee unanimously voted to extend the McCoy property land option once again. The option has been extended more than seven times.

The property sets next to Jonesborough Elementary School and was part of the Scheme 6 plan. Despite numerous commissioners previously saying they felt the $777,900 price tag was too high for the property, commissioners and HEW committee members said they felt the county should extend the option regardless of the project’s current uncertainty.

“If we do nothing, it ends,” Commissioner Danny Edens said. “Then it’s just gone. If we don’t extend it, we’re going to lose our option on it.”

At the school board meeting, board members questioned if a meeting to discuss the Jonesborough School project is needed in the midst of the still unclear financial situation for the project.

“How can you schedule to make a decision on Jonesborough,” McLain said, “when we’ve voted for three different schemes and they’ve all been voted down — even after we were told what (money was available) to spend time and time again. Until (the commission) comes back and tells us what we have available to spend, how can we do anything?”

A meeting to discuss the project is yet to be scheduled. Thursday night, Ervin adjourned the meeting before a date could be set.

“Nope,” he said just before hitting the gavel. “I’m done.”

Studying Storytelling: student learns to rewrite her story


Harshadha Balasubramanian explored town and the world of storytelling during her stay in Jonesborough.


Staff Writer

It’s not unusual for people to flock to Jonesborough to listen as storytellers weave a tale so vivid it feels as if you’ve been transported to another place entirely. But for Harshadha Balasubramanian, a graduate student from the United Kingdom, her trip to Jonesborough was more about listening, learning and considering her own story in the storytelling capital of the world.

Harshadha, or “Harsha” for short, is working on her master’s degree at University College London with a thesis on storytellers’ use of movement. While storytelling was clearly the main reason for her trip, for the UK student, coming to Jonesborough was also about finding adventure in a place not too far outside of her comfort zone.

Harsha said fascination trumped any fears she might have had about coming to America for the first time. Most of her interest, she said, focused on how she’d fit in a small Southern town.

“I was perplexed as to how people would react to me because I’m not someone you can box up easily in the sense that I look Asian and I am Asian. I was born in South India and that’s where most of my family hail from,” she said. “But I’ve got a British accent. And there’s also the fact that I’m visually impaired.

“I don’t fit the stereotypes — at least I don’t think I fit the stereotypes. I was quite keen to make sure that I would be able to make people comfortable in my presence.”

Harsha lost her vision as a child after a tumor had spread to her eyes, forcing doctors to remove them in order to save her life.

“I’ve had most of my life to get used to being blind, which is a real convenience because it means that you don’t have conflicting perceptions of the world that you’ve kind of got to deal with,” Harsha said. “Some of my friends lost their sight much later on in life and so they still know what certain things look like … whereas I only have people’s descriptions in terms of the visual world to try to contend with and try to understand.

“You don’t feel like you’re missing out on anything because you don’t know what you’re missing out on.”

Though some might see it as an obstacle, Harsha sees it as a small part of who she is. She laughs when she retells the story of causing a small ruckus in downtown Jonesborough prompting a driver to get out and help.

“One of the drivers got out, came up to me and was like, ‘I’ll help you.’ And she was telling off the other driver for not getting out of his car to come and get me. She was like, ‘Some people just don’t want to help!’,” Harsha recalled, laughing at the woman’s reply. “I was like, ‘I’m sorry I’ve been the instigator of an argument.’”

Harsha spent time with various Jonesborough locals, such as Jules Corriere.

She said she didn’t realize just how much she relied on sidewalks until her trip to Jonesborough, which lacks them in places, but Harsha was also surprised at the acceptance and kindness she received while in town.

“I’ve just been really warmly surprised by how people are so happy to give me their time. It’s a blessing when people have that kind of time to make of you,” she said.

The way others have perceived her has at times been misconstrued in the past; when an article was published about Harsha’s acceptance to Cambridge, it became clear to the British student that the world wasn’t seeing her and her story in its entirety.

“It was like, ‘Blind girl goes to Cambridge’. I was thrilled that I was getting into the institution that I wanted to go to and so was my school, but the way that they put it was literally like the news story there was ‘she’s overcome her disability to go to Cambridge.’ It wasn’t ‘she’s going to Cambridge.’ My most difficult battles in life have nothing to do with being blind. For me, my biggest challenge was overcoming that I was rubbish at English and the fact that I had a problem with time management and self discipline. I think (focusing on a disability) is very one dimensional and it does leave out all these other things.”

Dona Lewis and Harshadha Balasubramanian visit the Chuckey Depot in Jonesborough.

It seems that Harsha has been accepted in her entirety during her stay in Jonesborough; she also took up with Jonesborough locals such as innkeeper Dona Lewis and her husband Chuck who hosted Harsha during her stay. Others such as local artist Deb Burger, who taught Harsha to knit, and Deborah Kruse, the owner of the Corner Cup who was fascinated by some of Harsha’s favorite British lingo, made the trip more than she expected.

“They’ve really taken me under their wing here,” she said. “The merchants, the guys at the Corner Cup, the people at the storytelling center, the people I live with, Dona and Chuck, they’ve really taken me under their wing. I feel like I’m part of their family which is really nice.”

During her stay, she also took time to cross items off her bucket list such as hiking part of the Appalachian Trail and trying Moonpies and gravy and biscuits. But Harsha made sure to also feed her fascination with various storytelling events.

Her thesis focuses on how storytellers use movement and the senses to compel listeners and transport them to an imaginary world. For the graduate student, that involves using audio descriptions, which provide detail on stage actions during a performance. And sometimes, studying those movements also takes a hands-on approach.

“What I do is I get storytellers to describe what they’re doing. If they’re like, ‘I use really rigid gestures in my storytelling.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, can you show me how to do that with my hands?’ It’s a really exciting approach because for me what it does is I get their perception of what they think about their technique and what vision is according to them. I use these sort of alternative senses to kind of tap into the visual that I’m missing out on.”

After studying the art form so closely, it’s difficult not to connect storytelling to one’s own life. While Harsha says she is yet to tell her own stories and plans to continue studying storytelling instead, she feels there’s a real value in telling your own narrative and rewriting what others might think of you.

“One thing I have learned about storytelling is not so much the performance aspect of storytelling, but the broader question of how you as a person portray yourself,” Harsha said. “How do you tell your own narrative to the world? And for me, it’s been revealing because I’ve been really quite confused as to how to portray myself. It’s very tempting for people to look at me and think, ‘Right, vision-impaired girl.’ That seems to be the most defining characteristic of my narrative.

“What I feel that does is it kind of smothers and leaves out other things that contribute to my identity. The fact that I’m Indian, the fact that I’m 5’1, the fact that I’m a woman — all those things do kind of get neglected when you’ve got this little cute narrative of ‘blind girl gets great opportunities and overcomes barriers.’”

Following her trip, Harsha plans to continue working on her doctorate at the University College London, keep up with her new American pals from Jonesborough and keep telling her own story, not unlike the way in which the storytellers she studies do on stage.

“I think the reason I’m so interested in storytelling strategies is because I really want to learn how you perceive those narratives when they’re being projected on to you and how you can rewrite them and retell them,” she said. “I think that’s a really important thing for us to learn as a society and also as individuals. We need to learn how to rewrite our own stories and have the liberty and the right to tell our own stories.”

Town recognizes veterans, their families

Dr. Christian Zembower and The Johnson City Community Concert Band demonstrates their patriotism through music.


H&T Correspondent

Jonesborough’s Memorial concert was held at the Jonesborough Visitors Center on Sunday, May 26, to honor the sacrifices of U.S. soldiers.

The event took place from 2:30 to 3:30 with a reception afterwards. It was the 20th Memorial Day concert to take place in Jonesborough.

The concert was hosted by the Jonesborough’s Board of Mayor and Alderman and the Veterans Affairs committee.

Marion Light, chair of the Veterans Affairs Committee and the emcee of the event, said that the concert was not just to recognize the veterans who’ve devoted their lives to their country, but also for their families

“Every person who enters the military understands that death could be the result,” said Light, who served 12 years in the Army.

The concert began with the Tennessee Highway Patrol Honor Guard and the Daniel Boone High Junior ROTC Honor Guard to forward the colors.

The Honor Guard presented the U.S. and state flags, which were donated by the Jonesborough Civitan Club.

Craig Ford gave the opening prayer and comments.

Before giving a heartfelt prayer asking for the Lord to be with those in the military and their families and to give them courage for what they face, he told several stories focusing on the fact that life is precious and should be cherished.

Mayor Chuck Vest was the next to speak and welcomed everyone to the event.

“It’s a celebration of the fallen that is never ending,” said Vest.

Vest requested those present to take the time to look at the flags flying throughout the community and remember the veterans who laid down their lives so that everyone in this country could live free. He also asked for the families to be remembered because the death of a soldier impacts their loved ones in ways many don’t understand.

“We must all feel blessed to have our veterans serving and protecting our country and our freedom,” Vest said before introducing the band.

The musical guest for the event was the Johnson City Community Concert Band, directed by Christian Zembower.

The band performed seven patriotic songs, one of which was conducted by Torey Hart, a member of the band.

Before each song Zembower told background information about the individual song, it’s composer and what inspired the composition.

The songs were Commando March; Duty, Honor, Country; Flag of Stars; American Flourish; Hail to the Spirit of Liberty; America the Beautiful; and the Armed Forces Salute.

Josh Smith, WJHL news anchor, narrated the speech by Gen. Douglas MacArthur that inspired the song as the band performed Duty, Honor, Country.

Zembower called each military branch to stand as the band played Armed Forces Salute.

Light then read the Roll Call of Sacrifices, giving the killed in action dates for each purchased brick at Veterans Park.   

As Light read the names and dates, sniffling could be heard from around the packed room, mostly occupied by veterans from the Vietnam and Korean Wars and their families. 

The Honor Guard retired the colors and Light concluded the event by asking for a round of applause for the band, ROTC and Honor Guard. 

The reception was hosted by Patti Blackwell, Lacey D’Avella and Kathleen Cook, from the Visitors Center.

Food was donated by Bojangles, Food City, Pals and Rocky’s Pizza.

Meet our neighborhood bomb dog

Hannah Fleming poses with Cygan, a 2-year-old specially trained Jonesborough K-9.


Staff Writer

As the president of Jonesborough’s “Paws in Blue” charity, which raises funds to acquire and support the police department’s K-9 units, Ruth Verhegge knows how much work goes into training and caring for one of the canines.

“(The handlers) all stepped up. There’s a fair amount of extra work involved, being a K-9 officer. The dogs stay with them 24-7. So they’re responsible for their care. But the dogs get continual training, as well.”

She also believes they are game changers for the police, and may have changed the outcome of the recent shooting onn 11-E in Jonesborough.

“Several of us are so convinced the shooting would have been prevented had we had an appropriately trained K-9,” she said. “I really think it would have.”

With the arrival of Cygan and his handler, Hannah Fleming, her wishes have been granted.

A 2-year old Belgian Malinois and Shepherd mix, Cygan is specially trained in apprehension and explosives detection.

Fleming, who is approaching the one-year anniversary of her partnership with Cygan, was on the force for two years before switching to the K-9 unit.

She recently recalled her first meeting with her partner.

“We showed up at (FM K-9) school the night before it started. We woke up early and went to the kennels. Basically they just handed him to me and said ‘Here’s your dog’. Then I took him outside and the first thing, and he still does it, he nibbled on my pockets. I don’t know why he does it. He likes his pockets.”

As Jonesborough’s only trained explosives detection K-9, Cygan and Fleming’s job is crucial for a place that hosts numerous events with crowds of attendees all over the town.

Fleming urges folks who encounter the duo to make sure they ask permission before getting friendly.

“I think the biggest thing is asking if it’s okay to do something. A lot of people, they’ll just run up and touch the dog and half the time when they do that we’re trying to work the dog.

“For Cygan, we were running the tents at Storytelling, looking for explosives. Well, once you start touching and talking to the dog, it could mess him up. He’ll get distracted while we’re trying to focus on the task. It was a problem big-time at Storytelling.”

Fleming said she always knew what path she wanted to follow, and now that she is traveling that path, she is enjoying the trip.

“Being a handler is awesome. Police work is interesting. I enjoy it. I wouldn’t want to do anything else, for sure.”

Jonesborough to kick off Third Thursdays

The Town of Jonesborough is prepared to introduce a brand new event series to downtown. Third Thursdays will begin Thursday, May 16.


Main Street Jonesborough is set to kick-off a brand new series, Third Thursdays. This event will take place on the third Thursday of every month where you’ll discover unique finds at the many shops, explore museums and grab dinner or a tasty treat from one of the eateries or confectioneries. This family-friendly and open-to-the-public event takes place from 5 to 8 p.m. throughout downtown Jonesborough.

Jonesborough’s Third Thursdays will begin May 16 with a special kick-off in addition to extended shop hours. The festivities will include History Happy Hour at the Chester Inn Museum from 6:30 to 8 p.m., Boone Street Market’s Thursday Burger Night, live music, and extended hours until 8 p.m. for both shopping and dining.

For more information, please call The Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423)753-1010 or visit Main Street Jonesborough on Facebook.

Alliance gets ready for Digitization Day

Anne Mason and Jacob Simpson at work in the archives.



The call has gone out.

The Heritage Alliance needs your old photographs to help them tell the story of Washington County.

And they’re planning a special digitization day to help them do it.

On Saturday, May 18, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.,  the Alliance will launch Washington County  Digitization Day to help local residents capture, preserve and share their historic photos.

According to Anne Mason with the Heritage Alliance, this is an important way to help fill in current archival gaps in local history.

This old archival photo shows downtown Jonesborough and the early Herald & Tribune building on Courthouse Square.

For example, she said, “we kind of roughly know what town looked like (during particular historical periods), but how about the rest of the county during that period?”

In addition, whole groups of individuals who didn’t fit the stereotype of mainstream America are also woefully represented, she said.

“Any images that help us tell the story of (the African American community), of the Latino community, any communities that are not typical of what you see when you walk into a museum,” Mason said. “We want to tell the whole story of Washington County.”

Digitization was recently made possible by a grant the Alliance received in late 2018 from the National Historical Publications & Records Commission — a division of the National Archives, and administered by the Tennessee Historical Records Advisory Board, as well as the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

“It was actually our second grant,” Mason said with a smile. “The first one provided the shelves that helped us organize our archives.”

Digitization, she said, is helping to preserve the archives, which already includes an extensive collection of local historic photos.

As the collection grows, it will also hopefully lead to easier access by the community into these historic records.

To take part in Digitization Day, participants are asked to bring old photographs and/or negatives along with a flash drive to the Jonesborough/Washington County Historia Museum located at the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Staff will scan the image and return the original to the owner, along with the digital copy transferred to the flash drive.

That way, Mason said, the photo is not only preserved in the archive, but also for the family.

Mason and Jacob Simpson, also with the Alliance, both stress that participants may need to toss aside any preconceived notions of what constitutes historical photos.

For example, Mason said, the Alliance would be thrilled to see anything form the 1920s to the 1960s, a noticeable gap in their records. Even later photos with early town events or key individuals can be valuable.

“There are things even going on now that are worth preserving,” Simpson said.

And that is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Alliance’s wish list.

“We have very few photographs of the Chester Inn during the time period post World War II…” Simpson said. “We also have no pictures of the interior of the Chester Inn.”

Churches, clubs and organizational gatherings are also important.

“There is one picture that we have that is the Oddfellows parade and it’s actually the African-American Oddfellows group,” Simpson said, adding that it provided another important element often ignored in local history.

Family photos can also be valuable, both for the period trappings, the background and the individuals, as well as photos that capture any of the many communities surrounding Jonesborough, from Telford to Garber to Bowmantown.

The most important thing to remember, Mason said, is that while these photos tell their own stories, any extra details about when, where and who go a long way in helping in the preservation efforts.

“They all have some sort of educational value, but it does help when we know something about the people,” Mason said.

For more information, the Heritage Alliance at (423) 753-9580, or contact the organization via email at  Additional information can also be found online at