Namaste y’all

Kiran Singh Sirah

Contributed by JEFF RUBY, Photography by IAN CURCIO

Editor’s Note: This story is reprinted with permission from The Rotarian, Feb. 2019 publication.

In August 2017, a small group of white supremacists planned to stage a Confederate rally in Knoxville, Tennessee. It had been two weeks since violence erupted at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, and people’s anger had not cooled.

When Kiran Singh Sirah checked his Facebook feed, he found much boasting about going to the rally to “beat up Nazis.” Unimpressed, he posted a long and persuasive comment urging a different kind of action. “Channel that anger and figure out your own best alternative-non-violent means, skill set, talent to contribute to a better world,” he wrote. “Activism also means writing, telling or collecting stories, mobilizing, working on policy, offering a service, writing a letter, getting educated, educating oneself, being part of a community garden.”

In the blustery, knee-jerk world of Facebook, this proposal sounded a lot less sexy. It also sounded like a lot more work. One commenter snapped, “Well, if you don’t want to go, we’ll fight your fight for you.”

Sirah, who has 26 stitches on his face from multiple attacks during his childhood in southern England — the earliest at age five when a neo-Nazi knocked him from his bike — did not much care for that response. “I can defend myself,” he told the commenter. “And if you’re willing to take an oath of non-violence, I will stand on the frontline with you. Even if they beat you up, I will join you.” His words did not appear to sway anyone.

A few days later, Sirah made the 107-mile trek from his home in Johnson City, Tennessee, to Knoxville. But while 3,000 protesters amassed to counter a group of roughly 35 nationalists at a Confederate memorial, Sirah attended an alternative interfaith rally that celebrated diversity.

“It was a great event,” he said, “the perfect response to the other rally,” at which, it turns out, there was not a single act of violence. “At the very least, you’ve got to know you’ve done the right thing yourself.”

Ask Kiran Singh Sirah how he’s doing, and he will tell you. Honestly. Deeply. Lengthily. Every human interaction is a sacred thing to him, a chance to know another person on this earth. To hear their story. And his insatiable curiosity draws people in. “Kiran doesn’t do small talk,” says one friend. “He comes up to you and says, ‘How’s your soul?’ And he really wants to know.”

As president of the nonprofit International Storytelling Center in the small Appalachian town of Jonesborough, Tennessee, Sirah, 42, is constantly talking. Whether at the Library of Congress, at the Kennedy Center, or in a bar over a couple of beers, the goal is always the same: to get people to listen, not necessarily to him, but to one another. Because in Sirah’s world, listening — really, honestly listening — leads to understanding, understanding leads to connection, and connection leads to peace. “Storytelling is not meant to be a sound bite,” he says. “It’s not 140 characters. It’s about filling the completeness of who we were and what we can be, and it can help us to change the world.”

When Sirah talks about storytelling, he doesn’t just mean Grandma spinning yarns from her rocking chair. Nor is it necessarily the open mics, slam poetry competitions, and slew of spoken-word podcasts. It’s all of the above and everything else. To Sirah, storytelling encompasses everything about who we are, what we believe, where we’ve been, and where we want to go.

Take Sirah’s story. The son of a Kenyan-born mother and an Indian-born father, he grew up in the coastal town of Eastbourne, England, where his family landed after being forced at gunpoint to flee their home in Uganda. As a member of the only Sikh family in Eastbourne, Sirah immersed himself in the cultures of other religions. His mother — who took him to synagogues, mosques, and churches of all denominations — once made him clean the hundreds of pairs of shoes congregants had left outside a Sikh temple in London. “She was teaching me the act of seva, which is community service,” he says. “I learned that as long as you are serving society, then you are doing good.”

When the 9/11 terrorist attacks happened, Sirah was a student and slam poet living in a hippie commune in Edinburgh, Scotland. “That was the moment I woke up and realized I was a citizen of the world,” he says. He began to organize festivals, including a diverse, faith-based gathering for 6,000 people at the National Museum of Scotland. He wrote in his blog: “Coptic Christians sang songs of resurrection in Arabic. Sikhs wore the Scottish Sikh tartan and performed traditional bhangra with bagpipes. Jewish Scots performed music that combined the Scottish Celtic and klezmer traditions.” In other words, each group told its stories.

After graduating from Wolverhampton and Newcastle universities with multiple degrees, Sirah spent nearly seven years as the learning and access curator at the St. Mungo Museum of Religious Life and Art in Glasgow, where he created programs on human rights and led an African-based exhibition/community partnership. He also hosted anti-sectarian debates with gang members and former members of paramilitary groups. His résumé lists numerous acts of social justice and conflict resolution, painting the picture of an indefatigable global humanitarian. In 2011, Sirah moved to North Carolina, where he attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s department of American studies folklore program through a Rotary Peace Fellowship. His master’s thesis, “A Stone in the Brook,” explored notions of home as expressed in the life stories of men he met at a local shelter.

On Nov. 3, 2012, Sirah was slated to speak at Rotary Day at the United Nations. Days earlier, Hurricane Sandy had flooded New York. Much of Manhattan had gone dark, but as Sirah wandered the city the night before his appearance, he saw cafés welcoming people of all cultures, who talked through the night by candlelight. He incorporated their tales into his speech, “Telling Stories That Matter.”

“Many people are of the belief that discrimination against people is wrong,” he told a crowd of 1,300 at the UN. “However, discriminating between people, looking at how we are all different and belong to unique stories, is an intelligent approach to developing … a world based on mutual respect and discourse — and one without conflict.”

Around that time, the International Storytelling Center was in transition. A modest nonprofit organization, ISC had evolved over five decades from a grassroots organization into a genuine cultural movement that hosted folklorists at a 3-acre campus devoted solely to the art of storytelling. Its annual National Storytelling Festival, which began in 1973 with a wagon and a bunch of hay bales parked beside the Jonesborough courthouse, had ballooned into an enormous three-day celebration that drew visitors from all 50 states and several continents. The festival, which doubled the town’s population every October, had basically revived Jonesborough, which renamed itself the “storytelling capital of the world.” Despite those successes, ISC had filed for

Heritage Fair to remind us of who we are

Washington County’s history can help connect us to our roots.

From the desk of CHAD BOGART

Celebrations come and go in Washington County, from birthdays to anniversaries to weddings and engagements. It seems at times, we can find any number of reasons to celebrate.

The year 2019, itself, seems to be a year of events. Johnson City leaders and community members are celebrating all year for the sesquicentennial of the city’s first charter in 1869.

Many churches in Johnson City are also celebrating turning 150.

In Jonesborough, the Herald and Tribune is celebrating the 150th year of the publishing of their newspaper.

Yet, Washington County itself has many significant event anniversaries in its history as well.

The county will turn 242 this year. The county seat, Jonesborough, turns 240. The Battle of Kings Mountain will have taken place 239 years ago in October.

It’s been 235 years since that Battle of Franklin took place at the end of the lost state at the end of February.

The state of Tennessee itself will turn 223 years old. The Emancipator was first published in 1820, and is almost at its 200th anniversary.

By the 1860s, schools were already established and some’s memory are becoming quite old as well. Washington College Academy turns 239, while Langston High School would be 126 years old this year. The remaining WPA schools will also turn 80 this year.

I could go on an on about historical events, social sites, and cultural memories that connect the county to its roots.  As I said at the beginning, we can always find something to celebrate. So why not?

The Washington County, Tennessee Heritage Fair scheduled for Friday, May 17, in the town of Jonesborough is no different.

In essences, it is a celebration of who we are, what we were, and how we have always overcome. It’s a celebration of our cultural and heritage selves as we look back, but most important take it forward to the next generation.

The Heritage Fair began as an idea of the Jonesborough Genealogical Society board in 2018, but has inevitably become a partnership of organizations to bring heritage and cultural meaning to the next generation.

With that in might, the event has become a three-part event with a 5th-8th grade poster competition, individual/organization exhibitions, and a living history timeline.

Each part has its own meaning and connection to the next, but most of all it brings students face-to-face with the county’s past, present, and future. It shows them that they have a place and a meaning here in this county and region. That we need their ideas, questions, and expertise to advance our county as we move forward into the future.

I, myself, have taken on that passion and ideology that the next generation should see the county through their own eyes as I have at times, through the expert eyes of those who have come before to mentor and teach me about my own surroundings. Many may not have ever heard of me or my story, which is ok. I don’t care for the limelight or even being put in front of people, but my passions always seem to bring me with a big idea that takes me back to my roots. 

I grew up here in Washington County, in what I later learned was called May Day or Mayberry Community, which is a subset of a larger district called Lamar. Not a mile from where I grew up and still live, is Jacob Brown’s grave. Still not a mile the other direction is the site of the Old Dutch Meeting House and a little further is the site of Cherokee Meeting House or Cherokee Baptist Church. Yet growing up I knew these sites were important, but did not know why. I went to Lamar School from K-8th grade, yet still didn’t know much about my area. Yes, I knew a lot of older people in my community because they knew my parents, but yet old buildings, old tales, and sites were not always my favorite thing. I even remember being on the playground at Lamar when the old Lamar School was torn down and bats filled the sky. But to move forward in time, I had a teacher who had us do a little book in my 6th grade year. I did mine on my family, which spark a little bit of an interest in learning who I am. Asking family members about our family I got a lot of different responses and some very wrong information. Yet, by 7th and 8th grade, another teacher had taught a genealogy project, which got me interested in research. I went on to David Crockett High, and graduated from there in 2009. Still I didn’t care much about my surroundings. I would go on to East Tennessee State University, but as I grew older, things began to mean more to me, so in 2010, I went to a genealogy workshop hosted by the JGS. Yet, it took my grandmother’s death to really get connected in what really mattered most. After which, I went to a Washington County Historical Association meeting, where I met a mentor named Elaine Scott Cantrell, which has become more than that in my genealogical and historical endeavors.

A lady who had known the region and its past, Cantrell was born in 1928. She lived through the depression, she knew many of the oldest generations and yet she also was researching the same family I was. The Huffines… my mother’s family. If you have ever been on Huffine Road, you know where they lived. Yet, on April Fool’s Day in 2011, I went with another genealogist and friend, Barbara Hilton, to Cantrell’s home. After letting us into her home, Cantrell took us upstairs and pulled down book 10 of her Huffine research. Turning through the book, I could see hours of research, time, and love put together to present a story of people and generations that seem to have passed, but their presences still remained all over a county that surrounded us. Finally, I got about half way through the book and I get to my family and thought well she won’t have much, yet I was very surprised. There laying in front of me, was my mother’s picture in her wedding dress. Elaine had the newspaper clipping of when my parents got married. Just think, here I am sitting in her living room 22 years later, after the event and she already knew about me. Yet, she didn’t know me. See my parent’s DNA are in my veins and their parents before them. Those people’s work ethic connects me to a story of a past of community, of a county and of a region.

After that meeting, I began to learn more about my roots here in this county, my grandmother’s family, the Hughes dates back to 1776, even owning property in the town of Jonesborough. I’ve learned how they go here, where they lived, and how their influence brought about everything set before me. Still, just doing genealogy was a hobby, but Cantrell took me all over the county. Seeing old buildings, cemeteries, and places of meaning that have a story, play into a story, and when weaved together create a story, provide a realm of history, culture, and heritage that creates meaning in each of us.

Still, I went on to complete two bachelor’s degree at ETSU, not wanting to go into history, until I met a professor who convinced me to do a history degree. Yet, I did, going even a step further to complete a Master’s degree in Archival Studies because of my passions for this county and wanting those who are here to also know what I know, that we have a rich story to tell here in Washington County, and the next generation needs to hear it as well. Because of this passion and experiences, I don’t want to go anywhere else because of my ancestors’ influence, can also be mine and many others who see a future where kids know their story and place in this county as well.


I was very interested in the article and illustration in (the Jan. 9 paper, titled “Searching the Map.” My great-grandfather, James Tennessee Adams, born 1833 or 1835 in Carter County, was at various times throughout his life a miller.

In the 1850 census of Washington County, he is shown living with the Wm Duncan family in the Knob Creek area as a student. I believe the “student” part was him learning the miller’s trade at the Bashor mill on Knob Creek. (See photo above.) He also obviously had some regular education as well. For certain, he was a miller in Virginia for 10 years in the Stickleyville area. He returned to the Johnson City area in the early 1880s and lived a number of places in Washington and Carter County before and after that date. I have copies of the deeds to his properties and am having trouble finding the exact locations, due to being unable tospecifically ID the metes and bounds.

One I can identify is a lot on the Watauga River adjacent to the St John’s mill. In fact. both he and one of his sons purchased property from Mr. St John. Tennessee, as he preferred to be called, may have worked part time at the mill.

I believe that he also either operated or worked at a mill in the Milligan vicinity. He did purchase a property on Kings Spring Road (from Mrs. King) along Sinking Creek. I believe the house is still standing and was a mill, although the wheel has long since disappeared.

I would like to get a close look at the map featured in your article. Would you please tell me where it is located and how I can gain access?

Dear Mr. Stroupe,

From your letter to the H&T, I did some “Digging” based on the information you provided. I did not find a complete answer, but hope to give you at least some hints that might bring about an answer. First, Henry Bashor owned many mills in Washington and Carter Counties including Dungan-St. John’s Mill in Watauga, Knob Creek Mill (or Bashor-Denny Mill), Pleasant Valley Mill, Dungan Mill (or the Blue Springs Mill) in Siam, and many others. It seemed throughout history, the Bashor Family were the milling family of the county. The Bashor family, originally from Germany, came to Washington County from Brock’s Gap area of Rockingham County, Virginia, and were of the Brethren faith – hints where many of the county’s brethren churches are also located are around a mill owned by the Bashor family. My great great great grandfather Isaac Bashor was a nephew of Henry Bashor making this family a very interesting one to study.

Second, you mentioned Tennessee Adams living on or near Kings Springs Road in Johnson City, so I looked up the 1860 Census and searched for neighbors of Tennessee Adams. A rule we always try to encourage genealogists to use frequently. In 1860, a Tennessee Adams is listed just below Joseph Wolf on the same page. A Captain Joseph Wolf(e) built his home along Kings Springs Road in 1856, this home still stands at 1506 Valley View Drive, Johnson City, and has been restored and modernized. Wolfe is mentioned in one court case held in September 1870, between D. W. Carter and Wolfe, over debts owed by James T. Carter, who died in 1859. This home was featured in the society’s county tour last fall.

From these two tidbits of information, I went back to the mill map today, which can be found at the society’s website, or at the Washington County-Jonesborough Library’s genealogy/history collection. From a review of this map and an additional Carter County map- I made a copy of while researching for our last tour at the Washington County-Jonesborough Library- you might want to consider looking at the following mills in Carter County: Chapp’s Mill and Hughes Mill at Sinking Creek Baptist Church and Hyder-Williams Mill (originally built by Daniel Krause), Turkey’s Mill, and People’s Mill around Milligan College. Hughes Mill was owned and operated by my great great great grandfather Joseph Hughes, but I don’t know much more than he owned the mill along with other property including a home that is no longer standing up behind Sinking Creek Baptist Church.

Another mill that stood near Woodlyn Road in the Barnes Community, 1 mile upstream from Dungan-St. John’s Mill was Allison Mill or the Star Mill or White Star Mill. This mill was also owned by Henry Bashor as well as James M. King (maybe the husband of the Mrs. King you mentioned in your letter). Henry Bashor built this grist mill on Brush Creek in the 1850s/60s, just before selling Dungan-St. John’s Mill to George St. John. A photo of the Star Mill can be found on page 717 of the History of Washington County, Tennessee, ed. 2001, ed. By Eugene and Joyce Cox. Others to own the mill, according to TNGENWEB, were John T. Hodge, Charles G. Lilly, Landon C. Allison, Dr. J. H. Preas, and Dr. Smathers.

If I was a betting man, I would do some digging around the Star Mill as this mill fits well with the location of Kings Springs Road, which is about 4 miles away. In addition, it fits well with the location of St. John’s Mill, being 1 mile upstream from Dungan-St. John’s Mill and about 2 miles driving from the St. John’s property at Watauga Road and Steam Plant Road.

I look forward to hearing what you might find in this endeavor and hope to see another letter in our weekly column soon.

Chad Bailey, JGS President

Tea for two (or more): New old-time ‘social hour’ settles in at the Barrel

Amanda Burchett, Candy Massey and Teresa Burchett enjoy tea time.



If you step into Jonesborough Barrel House on a Thursday afternoon this month, don’t be expecting barbecue.

While favorite items from this popular Main Street restaurant are always available, from barrel-smoked meats to soup beans, cornbread and chow chow, chef Dawn Heaton has a new idea for January — old-fashioned tea gatherings.

Chef Dawn Heaton shows off the new offering

“When I started thinking about it, this seemed to be the perfect venue for it,” said Heaton, looking around the downtown historic brick building that houses this restaurant she co-owns with business partner, Ben Dean. “As far as the area and what Jonesborough represents in general, because of the surroundings we are in. We are in Jonesborough. Most of the buildings in this area, especially the one we are sitting in now, are historic.”

And tea, she said, was the social hour of its time.

Enter the Barrel House’s latest offering — afternoon “tea time.”

Set for each Thursday throughout January, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m., “Tea Time,” was initially launched as a way to offer local residents a regular opportunity for hot (or cold) tea, good food and good conversation. After the Jan. 24 tea, the event will move to the first Thursday of each month.

Poppyseed muffins tempt diners

The idea of “tea time” is certainly not new, Heaton acknowledges, though she believes it has fallen by the wayside in recent years.

“First of all, there is a big coffee craze around,” she said. “Coffee is booming. And I think people have a tendency to miss out on what tea can actually bring.”

Tea, for example, from herbal to black and green teas, often carry various health benefits.

“There is so much tea can bring to the table literally,” Heaton said —  from soothing a sore throat to helping calm a stressful day.

At Barrel House Tea Time, diners pay a $9.95 cover charge, then are led to a buffet adorned with a First Course, Second Course, Third Course and,  finally, a selection of assorted teas from which to sample.

Previous tea time offerings have included sandwiches of chicken salad, egg salad or cucumber. Scones with Devonshire cream, lemon muffins with fruit preserves and strawberry shortbread cake have also put in an appearance.

“The first course is always supposed to be savory. It’s just tradition,” said Heaton, who recalls having her own imaginary tea parties as a child.  “The second course is supposed to be a little bit light with some sweetness. For instance, last time I did an apple pie biscuit. And of course, the third course is sort of your decadent, rich course.”

Guests have a wide variety of teas from which to choose.

Heaton tries to put extra thought into each of these dishes in keeping with the restaurant’s theme. “We pride ourselves in serving an old style menu in a modern way,” she said. “It’s cooked in that modern way but it still has an old feel to it.”

That might mean a red pepper pesto spread on traditional cucumber sandwiches or a special light homemade vanilla cream on a seasonal fruit dish. She wants to offer her diners something new and make them very glad they came to tea.

So far it seems to be working. Local Washington County Archives volunteer Shirley Hinds raved about the vanilla cream on the menu when she stopped by one recent Thursday afternoon.  And Teresa Burchett, her daughter Amanda Burchett and friend Candy Massey were thrilled to find a tea offering.

“There has been nowhere local,” Amanda Burchett said of their newest drop-by tea place.

“It’s a girls’ date,” her mother, Teresa Burchett, agreed happily. “You always have finger food. And it’s dainty and pretty.”

But more important than the food and the atmosphere, Heaton believes, is this time spent with friends away from the more hectic aspects of life,

“I want this literally to be a social hour,” Heaton said. “I want you to come in and meet people that you’ve never met before. That’s the whole point of it.

“We are so busy with these things,” Heaton added as she points to a cell phone, “and electronics, and so much other stuff that’s going and flashing and lighting up. I just thought it would be nice to have a place to come and put your cell phones away and actually look at each other and talk at the table.”

For more on tea at the Jonesborough Barrel House, visit Facebook  or call (423) 747-0511.

Volunteers play vital role


Associate Editor

“For us, the volunteers are invaluable,” said Washington County Archivist Ned Irwin on a recent afternoon. Three individuals were working on records at the county facility located at 103 West Main Street in Jonesborough.  “They allow me and Donna [Briggs, Archive Assistant] to accomplish more than we could do alone.”


The President of the Friends of the Archives, Betty Jane Hylton, was working on “Judicial Loose Records” from 1815 when asked to describe why she started volunteering and the process she went through in acquiring her expertise in records preservation.

She said family history curiosity began by talking with her Grandfather William Usary. “He told stories about our family.  Then I got interested in how everyone was related.”   

Now a State of Tennessee Certified Archives Manager, Hylton said, “I had a real good history teacher in high school, Cecil Whitlock.

“I grew up in Broylesville where I was in the middle of history. Later, a noted librarian and genealogist employed at East Tennessee State University, Pollyanna Creekmore, noticed that I was checking out all the library’s books on genealogy.  She got a group of us together to talk about genealogy.  At our first session, she said, ‘bring a friend with you to our next month’s meeting.’”

These informal get-togethers became the impetus for organizing in October 1971 The Watauga Association of Genealogists – Northeast Tennessee (WAGS).  By the Spring-Summer of 1972, the group was publishing a genealogical bulletin.  Today, the group meets the first Tuesday night of the month at the Johnson City Public Library.

Ann Gentry and Louise Beasley helped get the organization started along with Eddie Walker who became the Cocke County Historian. When Dr. Graham Landrum of King College joined the group WAGS began to have programs.

In researching her own personal genealogy, Hylton uses a computer. Her database collections began in the 1990s.

“Every night I would spend a little time looking at material on the Internet,” Hylton said.  “If something caught my eye as useful, I sent it on to members.”

At this point, “I tried to tell everybody that we (members of WAGS) were interested in a county archive. Part of the reason for my interest resulted from a trip down to the County Court Clerk’s Office to find out information about cemeteries.”  Hylton joined with Archive Assistant Briggs in listing people buried in county cemeteries. She indexed Washington County while Briggs concentrated on Sullivan County.    

She met Margaret Hougland at a Mac computer users group meeting. A computer expert, Hougland helped with the cemetery project which continues to this day under the title of “Washington County TNGenWeb.”  Hougland is also a volunteer in the archives.

Hylton has attended conferences of the  National Genealogical Society and the Federation of Genealogical Societies.   She has also attended several sessions of the North Florida Genealogical Conference. The friends’ president is proud of “Working with the county’s records before the archives opened. I helped with the archives’ inventory and moved records from the Court House to the Archives Main Street location.”

She has discovered Washington County records about her own family dating back to the 1700s. Hylton said “People are really going to be surprised when all of these records get organized.”


Volunteer Georgia Greer was spending the day working on marriage license records. The county archive has a total of 35,596, by exact count, according to Archive Assistant Briggs. Greer worked with Archivist Irwin at the East Tennessee State University Archives of Appalachia.  She was an ETSU employee for 25 years.  She originally was hired after explaining she knew how to operate a “new type of typewriter” the school had acquired.

Now she is working on the last six boxes of the marriage records, typing up alphabetical indexing records. In the process, she has “discovered my grandfather’s first wife. I did not know when he got married. I got very excited when I found her maiden name of ‘Shelton’ in the 1914 records.”

Greer said she had excellent instruction in the maintaining of archival material from Archivist Irwin and former department head Norma Myers.

“I was considered a typist,” she said.  “Then one day, Norma said, ‘You are going to have to use a computer.’”

Greer said now she has over 5,000 names in her personal genealogical database. “I did a book with cousins. We traced our family from Virginia to Texas and then all over the United States, naming our volume ‘Reflections of a Housewright Journey.’

“We are getting ready to re-issue and update the book.  There are seven brothers that form the beginning of our research – and we will add to each of their family lines.”


While Hylton was working on 1815 records, Janette Guinn, a retired teacher, was erasing grime from a series of 1814 “Loose Judicial Records.” She said, “I have been cleaning records. A few records have mold on them. The records are dirty because they were exposed to coal dust. In pioneer times, there was smoke everywhere.

“After I clean the records, I put each case in a folder identified by the names of plaintiff and defendant case numbers. I then place them in file boxes in alphabetical order. Reading various student handwriting for 35 years helps me decipher some of this old handwriting in these documents.

“I got involved with genealogy at a young age with help from my aunt who was a librarian and school teacher. I became a math and science teacher in the county, with pupils like Jimmy Neil Smith (founder of Storytelling) Joe Spiker (head docent at the Chester Inn Museum directly across the street from the Archive) and the father and his brothers of Anne G’Fellers Mason (Heritage Alliance playwright).”

Guinn  has a graduate degree from ETSU, a masters degree from Tusculum and an EdS degree from Lincoln Memorial University.  She is a member of the Watauga Association of Genealogists – Northeast Tennessee, National Genealogical Society and the Federation of Genealogical Societies.

She has known Betty Jane Hylton all of her life. They were classmates at Washington College for 12 years. She taught for 35 years in the Washington County School System, including a position at Jonesborough High School.

“By the time I retired,” she said, “I was teaching the grandchildren of my first students. I taught at Jonesborough High and then Middle School, both held in the same school building.

“I knew that Betty Jane had been helping with the Archive. I joined WAGS in 2009 and had assisted her with projects in the past.  In 2017, I started helping with wills and began making some notes. I’m related to Jacob Brown the Wagonmaker and all the Broyles. I’ve enjoyed getting into family references and also to those of some of my neighbors. I’ve been working with Jewell Susong. If I found a reference where I did not know the family, she knew them.”

Guinn has discovered that she is also related to Betty Jane through the Snapps who emigrated from Germany in 1733.

“One will I discovered I found very interesting. It was Rhea Wells will, the children’s author who helped fund the Washington County /Jonesborough Library.”

Guinn said she did not know she was related to the Henleys until just a few years ago. “They came to Washington County at Clark’s Creek in 1793. My sons are related to the Tiptons and to John Sevier. That means there is always a conflict going on.”

Guinn has also found reading lawsuit records most interesting. “Some of the lawsuits go on for years and years,” she said.

Guinn now lives in Johnson City but her home place is some two miles from Washington College. She is kin to many of the folks in that area of Washington County.

She said, “I wished I had listened more to the history of Washington College from the staff. Much of what they told us went in one ear and out the other.”   

She also has Civil War ancestors on both sides of the conflict. Records during that period of time are yet to be fully organized at the Archive

Besides the three individuals mentioned in this story, other volunteers at the archives are Margaret Hougland, Shirley Hinds, Kari Rouche, Lisa Shockley and Kyle Johnson.

Helen Keller’s story coming to JRT

Olivia Castillo plays Helen in the upcoming play.


The Jonesborough Repertory Theatre is pleased to present “The Miracle Worker,” running Friday, Jan. 25, through Sunday, Feb. 10. This classic, intense, yet heartwarming story about Helen Keller and her extraordinary teacher, Annie Sullivan, will give audiences a deeper understanding of the trials and complications of Helen’s childhood.

“I think that most people know who Helen Keller is,” explained the director, Janette Gaines, “but to be able to actually see the real life story of what the family went through brings it to a different level for the audience.”

Helen Keller was born in Alabama in 1880. At 19 months of age, she contracted an unknown disease (possibly scarlet fever or meningitis), which left her blind and deaf. This, of course, broke down any normal communication with the child, so the family spent years not knowing the best way to handle this.

Gaines said she can relate. “My daughters are hard of hearing,” she said. “They don’t hear the same things we do. They also have autism, which is a lot like being deaf since they may not be aware of what’s going on around them. I had to unlock communication and understanding with my girls.”

That’s the bottom line of “The Miracle Worker” — unlocking the communication of Helen Keller. The title character is Annie Sullivan, who truly does work miracles for the family. She had been blind and underwent surgeries that helped her to see. She was only 20 years old when first employed by the Keller family. And she went to extreme lengths teaching Helen how to communicate.

“It’s amazing how Helen Keller went through all this,” said Olivia Castillo, who plays Helen in the show, “and how Annie didn’t give up.”

Annie Sullivan refused to treat Helen like she had disabilities. Unlike the child’s family, she didn’t give in to her tantrums or allow her to act disrespectfully. She pretty much “took the bull by the horns.”

“Annie never just gives up,” said Hope Hiester, who portrays Annie Sullivan. “And I’m a lot like that. Her story has helped me personally get through things in my own life. I have gastroparesis (a condition that affects the normal spontaneous movement of the muscles in your stomach) which makes everyday things difficult, so everything most people take for granted is a challenge. And Annie didn’t let anything stop her, so I’ve learned from her.”

Hiester’s character is not only physically challenged by working with Helen, but also emotionally and mentally challenged, and she perseveres through it all. “If you want to see a story that defies all odds and teaches you the value of hard work and perseverance, that’s what this show is. And trying to make the best of any situation.”

The story conveys just why Annie needed to persevere. Helen presented so many challenges for her family. “I’ve been around those with physical and mental disabilities,” said Mike Ellis, who plays Helen’s father, “so I can relate a little knowing how the parents struggled. I’ve been involved with The Arc (an organization that serves people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families) so I see how and why the parents would need some assistance, and that helps me understand why Helen’s parents need a break.”

The show takes an honest look at family relationships and the struggles they have because of such a demanding child. It also reveals their love and commitment, though at times very strained, to not only Helen, but to each other. Each person in this show has his or her own “demons” to overcome, but those challenges are what make each character so special.

Emma Montag, who plays one of the blind students, is hearing impaired, so she understands the strong messages of this show. “Everyone’s beautiful and unique in their own way. I like to use that as awareness for other people to let them realize that just because they’re different or have something that makes them stand out doesn’t mean they should feel insecure about themselves. And that’s what makes ‘The Miracle Worker’ such a loving story, for all families, for all generations.”

Annie totally believed that —  for both herself and for Helen. They each had something to give. She helped to find the beautiful and the determination and the courage in both of them. She went way beyond what Helen’s family had ever thought possible.

Hope said it best. “Annie didn’t just give Helen a few words and say, ‘You live within your means; this is how you have to be.’ She said, ‘I can unlock the whole world for you.’ ”

And so she did.

“Theatre is about communicating a story,” Gaines said. “This particular story is about the importance of communication in everyone’s life. It’s got a good message that everyone can connect with. Audience members will find moments that will touch them and moments that will make them laugh. It’s a wonderful, triumphant story that will make people feel good.”

“The Miracle Worker” is by William Gibson and directed by Janette Gaines. The sponsors are Ballad Health, Ignacy Fonberg, the Law Offices of James R. Wheeler, and Sonia King/Mary B. Martin.

Rounding out the cast are Auggie Carver, Lorianne Carver, Lucy Carver, Renee Hickman, Pam Johnson, Charles Landry, Chloe Ledes, Kyle Mason, Kalliopi Papas, and Caroline Peccia.

Show times are Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 pm, and Saturdays and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 for students and seniors. The theatre is located at 125.5 West Main Street, Jonesborough. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010 or go online to

Helping others: Students work to give back to their community

Left to right, Micayla Lane and Mackenzie Robinette deliver the food and litter to an employee of the animal shelter.


The David Crockett High School Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) are hosting pet food and blanket drives for the Washington County/Johnson City Animal Shelter.

Students and staff members donated hundreds of pounds of pet food.

Headed by seniors Mackenzie Robinette and Micayla Lane, the club hosted a food drive at David Crockett High school for two weeks during the month of November.

Students and staff members of DCHS donated over 98 pounds of dry dog food, 61 cans of dog food, 95 pounds of dry cat food, 73 cans of cat food, and 58 pounds of cat litter for the shelter.

The FCCLA members are now hosting a blanket drive to collect new or gently used blankets for the shelter.

Students are partnering with various clubs at David Crockett High School, Daniel Boone FCCLA, and community members to collect as many donations as possible.

During the Crockett/Boone Basketball game on Friday, Jan. 18, blanket donations will be accepted.

If you bring a donation to the game, your ticket will be entered into a drawing for prizes including gift cards and gift baskets from local businesses. 

If you would like more information or would like to donate, please contact the DCHS FCCLA adviser, Jessica Gourley at or by calling the school at (423) 753-1171. 

Tennessee announces what’s new for 2019


Tourism in Tennessee continues to expand with new attractions, impressive state-of-the-art developments, expansions and milestone anniversary celebrations of iconic attractions that help shape “The Soundtrack of America. Made in Tennessee.”

2019 marks several milestones in Tennessee, including Memphis’ Bicentennial, Bijou Theatre’s 110th anniversary in Knoxville, and the 25th anniversary of the RC MoonPie Festival in Bell Buckle. Embrace the history, relive the stories and create memories. Here’s what’s new in 2019 for Tennessee.


Tennessee Music Pathways

The pathways connect the traveler to the people, places and genres that make Tennessee the Soundtrack of America, from the largest cities to the smallest communities. Whether it is a story of the past, a star of the present or promise of the future, historic or live, Tennessee Music Pathways go where the music does.

Tennessee Songwriters Week

Songs penned in Tennessee make the Soundtrack of America. A new state statute passed, annually designating the last full week of February as “Tennessee Songwriters Week.” The week is designed to celebrate the foundation of the craft, recognize songwriters and pave the way for future artists.


Baxter Seminary Park

Baxter Seminary Park will include a new live music amphitheater and walking trails, set to open in 2019.


25th Annual RC-MoonPie Festival

A quarter century celebration of the ultimate Southern tradition: RC Cola and MoonPies will be packed with fun and a reunion of the past 25 year’s Kings and Queens on June 15, 2019.


Birthplace of Country Music Museum

Walk through the pages of storybooks in the exhibit “Reading Appalachia: Voices from Children’s Literature” February-June 2019.

The exhibit “American Ballads: The Photographs of Marty Stuart” Aug. 2019-Jan. 2020 features photos of the people and places captured by the country music star since he first went on tour with Lester Flatt at age 13.

100th Birthday of Tennessee Ernie Ford

Bristol native Ernie Ford was most notably known for his hit song “Sixteen Tons,” which sold 20 million copies. During his birthday week starting Feb. 13, there will be celebrations featuring his son, Buck.

Lost State Distilling

The new distillery produces small batch gin, rum and Tennessee whiskey. Lost State has a tasting room, production area, retail area and event space.


I-40 Solar Farm

Information and Welcome Center

The new welcome center and solar farm greets visitors traveling on I-40. An interactive exhibit, designed by the University of Tennessee, highlights the state’s advancements in renewable energy.


Hiwassee River Heritage Center

The interpretive center and National Park Service-certified site on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail will expand with new exhibits and an education room.


Edwin Hotel

The new upscale, five-story boutique hotel includes 90 rooms, meeting space, upscale décor, rooftop bar, local art and a restaurant.

Fallen Five Memorial

A dedication ceremony for an unveiling of a memorial honoring the five service members killed in the July 2015 terrorist attack on two local military sites will be in July 2019 at Tennessee Riverpark.

Moxy Hotel

The new boutique hotel includes 102 rooms, free Wi-Fi, cushy beds, stylish design, vibrant community spaces, in-room storage (enough to fit a bicycle) and a bar.

Moon River Music Festival

The Moon River Festival moves from Memphis to Coolidge Park in Chattanooga. The two-day family-friendly festival Sept. 7-8, 2019 highlights the music and culture of Tennessee.

Read House Historic Hotel

Undergoing $20 million in renovations, the hotel will upgrade the 242 guest rooms with new technology and bathroom furnishings, as well as redesign the lobby, ballroom and restaurant.

Ruby Falls

Ruby Falls unveiled a $20 million expansion with upgrades like an outdoor observation area, improved ticketing experience, expanded retail, LED lights and additional parking.

The Signal

The Signal is Chattanooga’s newest live music venue. The 1,300-capacity warehouse plans to host all genres of music, receptions, fundraisers, corporate events and conferences.


Ridley Sports Complex Expansion

The sports complex expands with seven new soccer fields including a championship field complete with bleachers, a press box, a new concession facility, restrooms and parking.


The Broastery · Tennessee Coffee Roasters

Cookeville’s only craft coffee roaster’s new storefront pairs with brands such as Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Whiskey to create locally roasted flavors and blends.

Saltbox Inn & Stables


Saltbox Inn & Stables now includes hosting areas at The Loft, Three Trees Ceremony Site, and The Greenhouse. The new lodging, Pumphouse Cabin, is directly on the property’s waterfall.

The Shoppes at Eagle Pointe

The new 25,000 square feet of retail space on 42 acres features 1,200 parking spaces with Publix, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Ulta, Michael’s and more.

Tennessee Legend Distillery at Maddux Place

A staple in East Tennessee, Tennessee Legend Distillery expands with a new sipping shop and free tastings at the historic Putnam County Courthouse.


Rhea Heritage and Scopes Trial Museum

The historic museum in the basement of the Rhea County Courthouse is now open after upgrades and renovations.  It’s the site of the 1925 Scopes Trial over the teaching of evolution.


The Harpeth Hotel

The Harpeth Hotel will be located along Franklin’s iconic Main Street. The four-diamond, 119-room luxury hotel will feature a gourmet chef-led restaurant, spa, whiskey-focused bar, and walkability to Main Street. Franklin will open an additional six hotels in 2019, totally over 1,000 rooms.

Carter House Visitor Center

The Carter House, one of three historic museums on the battlefield of the Civil War’s Battle of Franklin, will open a new visitor center with a museum and orientation center, similar to its sister property, Carnton.

Leiper’s Fork Winery

Eric and Samantha Coghlan, who began their winemaking in California at the Coghlan Vineyard in 2008, now bring their award-winning wines and minimalist farming approach to Leiper’s Fork Winery.

231 Public Square & Ruby Sunshine

The newly renovated mixed-use development on the square on Franklin’s iconic Main Street downtown will feature Ruby Sunshine – a new concept from New Orleans’ famed The Ruby Slipper Cafe, along with locally-owned boutique shops and a rooftop restaurant and bar.


Grit, Grace and Grub

The new Grit, Grace and Grub food and bluegrass festival Sept. 7, 2019 will take visitors on a grub tour offering a taste of Gallatin’s local eateries.


Ole Red Gatlinburg

Opening Spring 2019, Blake Shelton’s Ole Red Gatlinburg features a two-story bar and restaurant, retail area, performance space, dance floor, outdoor terrace and Southern fare like hot chicken and waffles.


Hands On! Discovery Center

The brand new all-ages science center offers fun interactive programs and exhibits including a musical Tesla coil, giant building blocks and a maker studio inviting guests to engineer a rocket, create a masterpiece and uncover something new.

Legacy of giving: Kiwanis turn dinner/dance into Chromebooks for students

The Jonesborough Kiwanis Club presents a check for the purchase of Chromebooks to the Washington County Board of Education.


Associate Editor

Every once in a while someone has an idea, someone else adds to it, and then another and another and so on,” said Lowie van Staveren, President Jonesborough Kiwanis Club, on Thursday, December 13, as he spoke to the Washington County Board of Education. This “idea” came to fruition at the meeting when the Kiwanis Club presented a check for $8,000 targeted at purchasing Chromebooks for the classrooms of the Washington County schools. 

Chromebooks are laptop-type computers which, when combined with educational software, are used by students in their classroom activities.  There are over 6,500 Chromebook computers in the county schools and the goal is to have enough Chromebooks to provide one for every student.

The Thursday night presentation was the culmination of a seed idea which began last summer in which a Dinner, Dance and Silent Auction was proposed to raise funds to support technology improvements in the county schools.  The program included a catered dinner, a dance, and a silent auction to raise the funds, 100 percent of which would be given to the school for Chromebook computers.

The event was held in the McKinney Center.  Kiwanis members worked diligently on decorations, planning and, set-up.  DNA Catering provided the meal and Big Time Entertainment provided the music.   Nearly 30 members of the Kiwanis Builders Clubs and Key Clubs from the High and Middle Schools assisted as servers, waiting on tables and helping where needed.  Many of the nearly 100 people who attended said they were impressed with the way the students worked to make the evening special and successful.   

This 1928 photo shows the Jonesborough Kiwanis Club members at that time. Throughout its existance, the group has been known for giving back to its community. Readers who can identify any of the members in the above photo are encouraged to email the Herald & Tribune at

The Jonesborough Kiwanis Club has been serving Tennessee’s Oldest Town and Washington County continuously since 1925.  Initially a business networking organization, the club has morphed into a 501(c) 3 non-profit organization committed to helping children.   

In 2018, for example, the club has contributed over $14,000 to county schools and an additional $13,000 to community organizations focused on children.  Members have also worked hundreds of hours volunteering in schools, town events, and various civic and town committees. 

In addition to the new dinner/dance event, Jonesborough Kiwanis members raise money through three other main fundraisers – the Annual Spaghetti Dinner, the Annual Golf Tournament, and managing parking for Storytelling.  These club activities are designed to build community spirit while raising funds needed to provide financial support to local organizations.   

One of the most popular traditional fundraisers has been the Annual Spaghetti Dinner, held on the last Saturday in February.  This event enjoyed its 50th anniversary last year.  However, club member Randy Smythe noted “this was our third 50th anniversary,” mainly because nobody remembers when it actually started.  Therefore 2019 will be the 51st for the spaghetti dinner. 

The meal costs $10 for adults and $5 for children. It includes all you can eat salad, spaghetti with meat sauce (or meatless sauce), noodles (regular or gluten free), dessert, and drinks.  Guests are able to dine-in or take out.  It is held at the Jonesborough Middle School from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. 

On the day of the dinner, Kiwanis members start making the secret sauce and noodles at about 8 a.m.  The “noodle man,” Pat Wolfe, said he “prepares 125 pounds of noodles” and noted that other club members prepare 80 gallons of sauce.  Add to that the salad “fixins” and deserts donated by the club members, along with gallons of drinks, and you have the essence of the meals.    

During the day various club members arrive to make the salads, plate the desserts, and prepare the building for the event.  The volunteers’ day goes from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m.  Builders Club and Key Club members arrive at 4 p.m. and assist in cleaning the tables and helping guests. 

Much of the food is donated by local markets and businesses.  Missing from the meal description is the recipe for the secret sauce. For many years attorney Jud Thornton was the “head cook” for the group and developed the “special sauce”. When he passed away, Lloyd Fleenor took over and became the Spaghetti Chef.

Van Zandt noted that the club appreciates the full cooperation of the Jonesborough Middle School staff for allowing the club the full use of their cafeteria facilities. They school is an ideal venue and a key component of the success of this fundraiser. 

The club also partners with the Jonesborough Civitan in a Golf Tournament in early April.  This event provides a lunch and a round of golf at the Crossings Golf Course. Money is raised through sponsorships by businesses and individuals. 

The schools are a large beneficiary of Kiwanis fundraising efforts through direct donations to the classrooms, support of school programs and organizations, and scholarships to graduates of the high schools.   Members also volunteer in the classrooms during the week to assist students in reading, math, and science, assist in monitoring testing and support the “On My Own” program – an exercise in real world finances.   

Other funds go to organizations that support children. These include “Bags of Love” help children removed from harmful drug homes.  Little League, Soccer, and “Girls On The Run” help children develop athletic skills.  Safe Passage, CASA, and other programs support children and women needing assistance.  “Shop with a Cop,” established with the Jonesborough Department of Public Safety, provides Christmas gifts and food for families in need, and builds a positive relationship between the police, first responders and the children.   

Kiwanis also sponsors auxiliary clubs for students.  This includes Builder’s Clubs in the Middle Schools at Grandview, Jonesborough, and Lamar, and Key Clubs at David Crockett and Daniel Boone high schools.  These clubs provide a real world environment where students form and manage their own service organizations, electing officers, encouraging membership, creating and implementing service projects, and growing club membership.   Their organizations are overseen and led by teachers who volunteer their own time to teach important life lessons.   The Kiwanis club offers a $1,000.00 scholarship each year to each Key Club based on the sponsoring teacher’s recommendation. 

Kiwanis members come from a variety of backgrounds including medical professionals, an Air Traffic Controller, educators, consultants, and others.  The men and women are focused on helping children and work as a team to complete various projects and help with town events such as At Home with Santa, Easter Eggtravaganza and Halloween Haunts and Happenings.    

Member Pat Wolfe noted he joined Kiwanis in 1997.  “My first contact with the Club was in June 1966. I was back from Vietnam. My military service was in the Central Highlands. There was an orphanage that took our fatigues and washed them. There were lots of small children there. I was asked by Charlie Hartman from Jonesborough Kiwanis to give a program on Vietnam. I showed (club members) slides that included the children. They took up a collection that day and collected money to send to the orphanage. When returned, I got a job in Jonesborough at the Bank of Tennessee, and I joined the club.”

Van Zandt said he “was invited by a neighbor and since the club was focused on helping children, I decided to join.  It is a great club.”  John Tomko said “I was new to the area. The postmaster, Richard Knight, asked me to join.”

Fondly remembered by the group were past members Bernard Kaiman, Lee Halburg, John Palese, Jud Thornton, Conrad Crow, Earnest McKinney, and other members who helped make a difference in the club and community.

Today, the club meets at the Fellowship Hall at the Jonesborough United Methodist Church at noon each Wednesday. Lunch is catered by DNA Catering (Dawn Heaton).   Club dues are $180.00 per year. Officers of the group are President, Lowie van Staveren; Vice-President, Michelle Shelton-Stewart; Treasurer, Jack Van Zandt and Secretary Noah Beeber. The President-Elect, who will take office in September 2019, is Mike Floyd. Randy Smythe maintains the club Facebook page “Kiwanis Club of Jonesborough.” For additional information about Kiwanis, Jack Van Zandt can be contacted at

Author shares the beginning of a town

Long before the 1847 courthouse, above, was built, the town of Jonesborough sprang to life on the Tennessee frontier.


Jonesborough Town Historian

(Editor’s Note: This is third in a series of articles containing a “History of Jonesboro and Surrounding Sections” written by Miriam Fink Dulaney.)

In the grim business of war, and under the spur of As regards the date of the first settlement of Jonesboro, history seems to be silent.  In all probability, the existence of the town dates almost to the Watauga Association in 1772. In 1779, the Legislature of North Carolina determined boundary lines and established Jonesboro as the county seat of Washington County.

It was named in honor of Willie Jones of Halifax, North Carolina, a distinguished patriot, who had proven himself to be an interested friend to the people of the western country.  The struggling little village planted among the wooded hills during the dark and uncertain days of the Revolution, has been the scene of many stirring events and thrilling incidents of the state’s history. Thru [through] the streets of the newly christened town, [John} Sevier’s troops marched to the rendezvous at Sycamore Shoals, later crossing the range to take part in the battle of King’s Mountain in 1780. It is said that the first lot sold, was bought by Robert Sevier.

“Mention of Jonesboro is found in several of the journals kept by early travelers in this section. Bishop Frances Asbury, an English Methodist missionary, gives this record — April 2, 1793: “Our conference began at Nelson’s near Jonesborough, in the new territory. We have only four or five families of Methodists here. We had sweet peace in our conference.” 

“This was the first annual Methodist conference held in Tennessee. The home of William Nelson which was mentioned, was on a ridge northwest of Johnson City.

Andre Michaux, a French botanist and diplomat, made two journeys thru [through] Jonesboro. On his way from Morganton, North Carolina to points west, we find this entry in his diary — May 15, 1795: “The 15th, passed Jonesboroug (sic), 10 miles from Colonel Tipton’s dwelling and 84 miles from Burke Court House. Slept at the house of Anthony Moore near Noleychuckey (sic) river.  During the night my horse strayed away.” 

“Again, on another visit to this section, the following entry is found — March 19, 1796: “Passed by Johnsborough (sic), 25 miles from Green.” (Greeneville).  “Several merchants are established in Johnsborough (sic) who obtain their goods from Philadelphia by land.”

A few years later, two Moravian missionarys, Brethren Abraham Steiner and Frederick C. De Schweinitz made a journey to the back country to promote their gospel among the heathen – the ‘heathen’ in this section being the Cherokee Indians. They traveled from Abingdon, Virginia down the great Watauga road, which in after times became ‘the Jonesborough road.’  This famous thoroughfare was part of the main stage coach line between Washington, D.C. and Nashville. 

An interesting account is given in their report.  — Nov. 3, 1799: “On the 3rd, as this was Sunday, we rejoiced that we could be remembered in the intercessions of the congregation in behalf of those who travel.  This morning we crossed the Wataga (sic), a main tributary of the Holston. As it flows very swiftly and has a deep ford [DeVault’s Ford, near Austin Springs], we were glad that a German who has land here and is well acquainted with the ford took us through.

“Ten miles from Wataga (sic) we came to Jonesborough and into the region of Nolachucky. The land here about is very good and fertile and mostly level.  Here, also, the culture of cotton begins again. Much maple sugar is boiled by the families in this region, in qualities of 1000 lbs. Now the price is 16½ cents per pound, but in spring the traders buy it for 12 ½ cents the pound. 

“The weather hitherto has been so warm that the foliage of most oaks and locusts, even of chestnuts, was still quite green.

“Jonesborough consists of one long street, has nearly 30 houses and is growing, as are all the towns of the back country.  The innkeeper with whom we stopped, looks after an apothecary’s shop as well as the inn.” The innkeeper at that time was Dr. Williams P. Chester of Carlisle, PA.  He was the first learned physician in this section and was the family doctor of John Sevier.  The inn is still standing, probably one of the oldest buildings left in Jonesboro – a monument to its historic past.”

But to continue with the journal – “Ten miles from here in Greene County begins, where this afternoon we came to an entirely new place, Leesburg, or New Washington, which for the short time of its existence, is not insignificant.” About the beginning of the entry, there was some discussion as to changing the county seat of Washington from Jonesboro to Leesburg, but after bitter debates it was decided that the old site be retained.

Some of the buildings of that era are still standing.  Of particular interest is the old tavern, now occupied by Mr. F. R. Devault. One may still see the wings where stage coaches backed into the yard under cover, so that passengers in alighting, might be protected from inclement weather.

When people live together, there must be law and provision for the execution of that law and punishment of offenders. At the November term of court, 1784, probably held in some log cabin near Jonesboro, the following record was made: – “The Court recommend that there be a Court House built in the following manner, to wit: 24 feet square diamond corners and hewed down after the same is built up, 9 feet high between two floors and the body of the house 4 feet high above the upper floor, each floor to be neatly laid with plank.  The roof to be of joint shingles neatly hung on with pegs, a Justices bench, a lawyer’s and a Clerks bar, also a Sheriffs box to sit in.” 

Exactly a year later, another entry was made – “the Court Ordered that Col. Charles Roberson be allowed fifty pounds Current money for the building of the Court House in the Town of JonesBorough.”  In such a manner was the first seat of justice established west of the Alleghenies.

Early court records prove that the people in their legal relations with one another often resorted to the most cruel methods of punishment.  For instance, in the August term of court, 1790, at Jonesboro, a man by the name of Elias Pybourne was arraigned for horse stealing.  The record is thus: – “The defendant being called to the bar and asked if he had anything to say why the sentence should not be passed upon Saith Nothing.  It is therefore Odered that said Elias Pybourne be confined in the publick Pillory one Hour.  That he have both his ears nailed to the Pillory and severed from his Head; That he receive at the publick whipping post thirty-nine lashes well laid on; and be branded on the Right check with the Letter H. and on the left cheek with the letter T. and that the Sheriff of Washington County put this sentence in execution between the hours of Twelve and Two this day.”

However, the sheriff rebelled at this terrible punishment and refused to execute the command of the court.  He, too, was brought to trial and convicted for non-performance of duty.

   (To Be Continued with a story about Andrew Jackson “our” president.)

Christmas greetings from 100 years ago

The front page of the Dec. 26, 1918 Herald and Tribune brought Christmas greetings.


Associate Editor

“In the grim business of war, and under the spur of conservation pleas wrongly understood, there is danger this year that something of the Christmas spirit will be lost. Never before has it been more important that it should not be.”

These were the opening words of an article titled “The Spirit of Christmas” in the Herald & Tribune on Dec. 26, 1918 on a page where a banner headline read “Christmas Greetings.”  The spirit article continued, “The Christmas spirit as well as civilization and liberty must be saved. The world is in the midst of a war that is wrenching men’s hearts; a nation that has made peace its emblem is throwing itself and every resource into the conflict; on all sides sons have parted from mothers and fathers; news of casualties is being received.  Under such circumstances it might be natural for the weak to yield to depression.  This must not be.  There is a brave and cheery side to the picture, which must be kept constantly in our hearts and minds.”

Quoted only in part, the Christmas Spirit concerns were reflected in a front page story under the headline: “FORMER JONESBORO BOY KILLED IN ACTION.”   

The opening paragraph stated, “The following notice recently appeared in a Rockport, Iowa paper: “John A. McNeece, living on the Tollie Wolf place, north of Rock Port, received a telegram last Saturday evening, bearing the information that his oldest son, Corp. Walter E. McNeece,  had been killed in action, Oct. 6th.  Corp. McNeece volunteered for service at the country’s first call, when he was but 19 years of age.  He has been overseas since June 26th and since then has undoubtedly seen some hard service…”

Both “The Spirit of Christmas” and the report of a soldier’s death illustrate the time it took for news from overseas to reach the home front. The Armistice had been signed on Nov. 11, 1918 but the newspaper continued to be filled with stories about World War I.

In the Herald & Tribune’s left side columns was the portrait of a soldier looking at an angel under a shining star and bells over Bethlehem. 

The “Beautiful Bethlehem Bells” was the following poem: “Over the roar of the cities; Over the hills and dells,  With a message of peace to the nations, Ring the beautiful Bethlehem bells;  Bringing joy to the souls that are sighing,  In the hovels where poverty dwells – There is life – there is life for the dying,  In the beautiful Bethlehem bells.”

Another poem expressed “A Christmas Wish” – “Wherever there is sickness, May Santa Claus bring health;  Wherever there is poverty, May Santa Claus bring wealth;  Wherever one is weeping, May tears to smiles give way;  Wherever sadness hovers, May joy come Christmas day.  To every heart that’s aching, may peace and comfort come;  And may an outlook rosy, Supplant an outlook glum;  May friends now separate, Soon united be;  And everyone find gladness,  Upon his Christmas tree.”

The front page also featured a story about “The Old Shoemaker” that is too long to be printed here. However, the sketch of a young person before a fireplace sitting in a rocking chair is worth retelling as explained by the caption, “A DATE WITH SANTA CLAUS.  – Dear Santa Claus, I’m waiting here.  For you to come with your reindeer;  And bring the toys you’ve got for me.  Right down into this chimney;  Can’t keep my head up very straight, So hope you won’t be awfully late;  Might go to sleep in this big chair, So Santa, if you really care;  To meet me, as I hope you do, You’ll make your reindeer come right thru;  ‘Cause if this date, you’re going to keep,  Do hurry ‘fore I go to sleep.”

Inside the pages of the Christmas edition of the Herald & Tribune in addition to the paper’s editorial content were a number of merchants’ holiday greetings.  Among the advertisements were the following: “Happy Christmas Wishes – The Banking & Trust Co.; TO EVERY ONE: Right Merry Christmas and A Most Happy New Year! – Jonesboro Supply House Building Material; A nice Christmas Gift to your Children would be a Deposit in the Bank to their Credit.  It would help them Start Saving – GET THE HABIT – First National Bank, Jonesboro.”

Another  ad announced some after holiday discounts “WHITLOCK’S –  New Coats—Coats that were $45 to be sold at $25, All kinds of Christmas Toys, A new lot of Overshoes at very low Prices. ” Shipley  Hardware Co. told readers, “Christmas Remembrances that will linger long after Christmas has passed can be found in our large stock of Hardware and Furniture.”

A number of merchants (Shipley Hardware Co., R. M. May & Son, City Drug Co., F.E. Britton, Farmers Union Co., Hoss & McCall) joined together in sponsoring an add stating “JOIN – Make this a Red Cross Christmas the happiest, merriest Christmas the world ever knew…  But in the rejoicings of peace and freedom there is one note of seriousness that America must not forget – there is misery and distress and sickness all over the world.  Relief must be given.  The work of the Red Cross MUST go on.  And to carry on, the Red Cross MUST have the support of your membership.  JOIN THE RED CROSS – all you need is a heart and a dollar.

The Red Cross message should be repeated this 2018 holiday season because the need for financial aid and volunteer assistance continues worldwide.  Do remember your charitable giving as the staff of the Herald & Tribune wishes all of its readers Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Society member creates book on 220-year-old mill


Jonesborough Genealogical Society members Dwight H. and Cheryl A. Christensen Bennett never knew that their genealogical research would bring them from California to Broylesville, (a little historic community in Washington County.

Cheryl’s two 5x great-grandfathers Nicholas and Cyrus Broyles settled in this community in 1783. Two Broyles brothers, who came from a long line of millers in Germany, settled on Little Limestone Creek. According to Cheryl’s book entitled “The Broyles, Bashor & Bennett Mill, Broylesville, Tennessee: A History of the Mill, the People and the Town,” Cyrus purchased land from Nicholas several times, beginning in 1783. When this property was sold in 1797, a land deed records a grist mill and saw mill on this property.

Brief History

Throughout this history, the building that houses the mill have been owned by several families including the Broyles, Bashors, Telfords, Swatzells, Mitchells, Smiths, Andersons, Parkers, and Taylors. The mill ceased operations in 1952, and remained vacant for its next 32 years until Erlene Hoover Ledford purchased the mill in 1982.

Erlene Hoover Ledford saved what has become known as the Broyles, Bashor, and Bennett Mill, after she “discovered the mill was to sold for $1,000 so that the brick and wood could be harvested,” on Thanksgiving 1981. With her daughter, Faith, Erlene purchased the mill and .595 acres, where she opened a second antique store inside, after retiring from the Ledford’s Antiques in Greeneville after 30 years in business. In 1983, the mill was added to the National Register of Historic Places through the Tennessee Historical Commission, where it remains on the register today.

Since this time, other owners including artist Margaret Gregg (1994-2007) and Richard Davis Smith and Marie F. Jones (2007-2016) improved the mill’s condition, turning it more into living quarters.

Bennetts Find Home

But by 2015, the Bennetts were not looking to buy a mill, but fate has a way of bringing you home. On a trip to attend a conference in Washington D.C., Cheryl and Dwight made a road trip to see Broylesville, where Cheryl had traced her ancestors too. According to her book, “Broylesville is small. It is said that about 20 people live there now. When Cheryl and Dwight first arrived, they were not sure where the town started and stopped.They asked for directions from a man who was mowing his lawn. He laughed. They had already arrived. The first building they spotted was the back of the mill. When they got to the front, they say the for sale sign.”

After about 6 months negotiating, the Bennetts purchased the mill, which set off the journey of a lifetime. The Bennetts hope to see the mill become a museum, establishing the Broylesville Archives and Museum. From 2016 to today, they have begun examining the old mill, finding several signatures including the oldest dating to 1863. From Dwight’s schematics to interviews with previous residents and hours upon hours of research, Cheryl was able to publish this 323-page hardback book on the history of the mill. This book, full colored, showcases a living testament to mill history in Washington County, as well as small community histories that still have not yet been recorded.

Dwight and Cheryl have donated a copy of this self-published book to the Jonesborough Genealogical Society, where it will be placed in the Washington County-Jonesborough Library’s Genealogical and Historical Collection for researchers to use. This book was paid for by a matching reimbursement grant from the Society for the Preservation of Old Mills (SPOOM) They have no plans of selling this book at this time. For more information on the Broylesville Archives and Museum, contact Cheryl and Dwight at or visit

Cheryl’s next adventure is to publish a book on the history of mills throughout Washington County, Tennessee. Do you know of a mill and its history? If so, let the JGS know, by email us at

Christopher Taylor house has new roof

The Christopher Taylor house sits proudly with a now-completed, new roof.


Thanks to the State Of Franklin Chapter, National Society Daughters of the American Revolution and the Town of Jonesborough, the Christopher Taylor House has a new roof.

The Christopher Taylor House is one of the most popular attractions in Jonesborough.  It figures prominently on Jonesborough’s various tours, photo ops of all varieties, events and  the “Storytown” app. When it was relocated from its original location to the center of the historic district, it stood as a symbol of Jonesborough’s preservation efforts.

Unfortunately, years of deferred maintenance have resulted in several issues, but the roof was by far the most dire. Earlier in the year, The Heritage Alliance and the Town of Jonesborough partnered to remove the rotted shake roof and replace it with a temporary membrane, enabling the structure to dry out. This temporary roof also allowed the Heritage Alliance to begin opening the House during the peak visitors’ season and to create unobtrusive interpretive panels to help tell the story of this unique structure.

It also allowed the Alliance to begin a fundraising effort to purchase and install the period appropriate western cedar shakes which now help protect Captain Taylor’s log home. Funding for this project was made possible through a Preservation Grant from the State of Franklin Chapter of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR).  The Town of Jonesborough matched the DAR funding.

Now that the roof is on, The Heritage Alliance is taking on the task of creating a cyclical maintenance plan for the structure.  In cooperation with the Town, the Heritage Alliance staff and volunteers will routinely monitor the Christopher Taylor House in order to prevent little issues such as trimming branches away from the roof and keeping vegetation and mulch away from the log foundations to prevent rot.

Executive Director Deborah Montanti is excited to have the Christopher Taylor House back in the mix of heritage offerings. The goal is to restore the structure to its role as a gathering space, inviting the public in to experience the history this building holds, in addition to local crafts, music and storytelling.

“I especially love to talk about the Christopher Taylor House in the context of The Chester Inn next door” says Montanti. “Taken together, these structures represent the evolution of settlement patterns and architecture over a period of time. As artifacts, they provide a structural representation of pioneer building technology along the migration route of the great stage road. In addition, they give insight into the amenities of 18th century travel. Christopher Taylor built his log house along the stage road with what would be considered extra space, offering it to travelers weary from the road. Many pioneer settlers opened their home to strangers as the nation expanded westward. Such helpfulness was beneficial to both traveler and homesteader, whose generosity often resulted in the traveler becoming a new neighbor.”

Montanti noted that, “Even though the Christopher Taylor House has been relocated, its “V”- notch construction still serves as an example of the quick and dirty building techniques that put a roof over our forbearers’ heads. In contrast, The Chester Inn, built two decades later, illustrates a more sophisticated, settled population. Its clean lines and finely sawed lumber are indicative of a town that means to stay and to prosper, rather than move on down the road.”

Gordon Edwards, current president of the Alliance Board of Trustees and Project Director for the Christopher Taylor House Restoration puts it another way, “It is a wonderful artifact on Main Street and we need to take care of it. We appreciate the painstakingly careful work of Jordon Marvin Carpentry who installed the new roof and look forward to interpreting this treasure for many years to come.”

The Heritage Alliance is working with the Town and the State of Franklin Chapter , NSDARto host a rededication ceremony in the Spring of 2019.

The 1940s USO Christmas Show returns

Join the Jonesborough Repertory Theatre for the USO Christmas. Show times are December 6-16, Thursday through Monday, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 2 & 5 p.m. Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 for students and seniors.


Jonesborough Repertory Theatre

The Jonesborough Repertory Theatre is once again thrilled to bring you the patriotic and energetic 1940s USO Christmas Show, written and directed by Jennifer Ross-Bernhardt, the theatre’s artistic director. This show (and its July counterpart) has been one of their iconic and most beloved shows each year.

JRT’s USO shows take you back to the wartime of the 1940s and the radio programming that uplifted the spirits of our military troops and their families. As always, the talented cast will perform songs and dances as well as comedy radio skits. You may find yourself singing along to familiar carols like “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,”  “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” and “Joy to the World.”

This show is not only a community favorite but also a favorite of the cast and band members. Here’s what several have to say about the impact this show has had on them and the community over the past 15 years:

“The USO show is a cherished JRT tradition. I am fortunate to be one of the original cast members and look forward to this show every year. I’ve witnessed the positive impact this show has had on our community as it honors our veterans and brings people together in the spirit of love and country. It is also very entertaining on multiple levels and we strive to provide our audiences with wholesome entertainment so that they leave the theatre with a smile on their faces and joy in their hearts.” —Sharon Squibb

“The 1940s USO Show has shown me how important it is to do something special to honor our veterans. JRT is so proud of our veterans, and this show means so much to all of us. I feel much more connected to our community because of the USO show.” — Jessica Shelton

“This show is always the most fun, the most meaningful, and no matter how many songs or skits we do, every year is different. The bond between the actors, musicians and tech crew is amazing. In every performance, we hope to create a similar bond with the audience. All of us, young and old, are deeply affected by the emotion and sentiment accompanying this yearly production.”

Stacia Howard (band member)

“To be able to do a show of this magnitude to say thank you to our servicemen and women has meant so much to me over the past 15 years. I think these are the most popular shows that we have ever done. They continue to sell out, and that is a tribute to this area and the patriotic feeling that we have. It’s a tribute to our theatre and the dedication that we have to thanking our military.” — Josh Baldwin

“I love doing this show, in particular because it involves such a diverse cross section of our community coming together to express our gratitude to our armed forces and our shared Christmas hope for a kinder, more peaceful world.” — Joe Gumina

“The USO show has a special meaning to me because it was my very first show at the JRT. It was my introduction to a community full of pride for their country, a theatre proud to recognize those who have given so much for their country and a group of people who I can proudly call my friends and family.” — Shawn Hale

“I am one of several USO ‘newbies’ getting to experience performing in this year‘s show for the first time and am so excited and honored to be a part of this patriotic, funny, and heartwarming production! I have been an audience member many times watching this show, and it has always touched my heart. This show is very family-friendly and allows younger generations to see how our parents and grandparents were entertained in the 40s.  We hope our audience loves the show as much as we do!” — Krista Wharton

“Through the years, Jonesborough Repertory Theatre’s 1940s USO Show has brought me so much joy and happiness. It was the first show I saw at JRT in 2014, sparking my interest in performing. I am sure it will bring you as much holiday spirit as it has brought me, my family, and friends. — Isaiah Johnson

Rounding out the cast are Heather Allen (choreographer), Lorrie Anderson, Andee Atkins, Tim Barto, Austin Bird, Ramona Bird, Tabatha Bird, Bob Browning, Stephen Cradic, Liz Dollar, Paul Fagan, Janette Gaines, Laura Griffin, Tiffany Matthews, Emily Merritt, Jennifer Ross-Bernhardt, Jessie Scarbrough, Lucas Schmidt (band director), Eli Simpson, and Don Squibb.

The JRT appreciates each of the show’s sponsors: Denny Dentistry, Morningstar Farms, Joe Grandy, Citizen’s Bank, Chick-fil-A, and Mary B. Martin/Sonia King.

Show times are December 6-16, Thursday through Monday, at 7:30 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at 2 & 5 p.m. Tickets are $16 general admission, $14 for students and seniors. The theatre is located at 125.5 West Main Street, Jonesborough, TN. To purchase tickets, call the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center at (423) 753-1010 or go online to

(JRT’s USO show is neither sponsored nor endorsed by the USO, and it’s not a fundraiser for the USO.)

Carter Mansion ready to ring in holiday

A troop stands guard outside of the Carter Mansion in Elizabethon. The tour of the historical home continues this year with historical figures wandering about and Christmas whimsy all around.


Set aside the hustle and bustle that always accompanies this time of year, and step back in time to the 18th century and enjoy a colonial Christmas at the beautiful Carter Mansion. Join Colonel John Carter, the Carter family, and all their friends for a glimpse into simpler time, when Christmas was the grandest celebration of the entire year. The event will be held on Friday, Nov. 30 and Saturday, Dec. 1 from 6 to 9 p.m.

In colonial America the Christmas season was celebrated as a month long array of merriment and festivities signaled by caroling, feasting, dances, foxhunts, and the firing of Christmas guns. Christmas on the colonial frontier would have been much different though, with only the simplest of pleasures being offered by the humble backwoods settlers. However, in contrast, the Carters would have displayed an opulence only seen in the finest homes of Williamsburg or Philadelphia.  

Spend a candlelit evening in the oldest frame house in Tennessee, decorated with bright greenery for the holidays.  Enjoy music, hot cider, and 18th century interpreters as they transport you to a Colonial American Christmas.  We look forward to your visit for this one-of-a-kind holiday gathering!

Tours are by registration only. A new tour starts every 20 minutes beginning at 6 p.m. The last tour starts at 8:40 p.m. Admission for adults is $7. Ages 7 to 17 to are $3 and ages 6 and under are free. You can register online at

For more information please contact Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park, located at 1651 W. Elk Avenue Elizabethton or call (423)543-5808. You can also visit,, or

Local author turns pages of history

Daniel Boone escorts settlers through Cumberland Gap.


The Watauga Association (1772) was the outgrowth of a desire for self-government and the craving for law and order. Here in the very forefront of the advance of civilization, it was so far from the authorities of constituted government in North Carolina, that it took weeks of wilderness travel to keep in touch.  For the protection of these brave pioneers, it was necessary that they have some local form of government and this Association was their answer to this need.

    In connection with this settlement we hear of the glowing deeds of James and Charles Robertson and John Sevier.  [The year] 1776 found the inhabitants of Washington District, Watauga Settlement, petitioning the Provincial Council of North Carolina that they be “annexed” to North Carolina.

Ramsey, that renowned historian of our state, makes this statement concerning the District. “The name Washington District, being in the petition itself, must have been assumed by the people petitioning, and was probably suggested by John Sevier, who, during his residence at Williamsburg, had doubtless known Col. George Washington, now the commander-in-chief of the American Army.  It is not known to this writer that the authorities or people of any other province had previously honoured Washington by giving his name to one of it’s towns or districts – a district, too, of such magnificent dimensions, extending from the Allegheny Mountains to the Mississippi … The pioneers of Tennessee were, probably, the first thus to honour Washington.”

In 1777, the North Carolina Assembly changed the district into a county of the same name, still retaining the boundaries of our state.  But these pioneers who had long cherished a dream of independence and entirely separate government began to grow restless and were not quite satisfied with the rule of their mother state.  And again, the close of the Revolutionary War found North Carolina in an impoverished condition.

Congress had offered several plans to help the states, thereby strengthening the national position.  One was to ask the states that held idle lands to cede them to the United States.  Pleas were being presented from the western settlements for military protection in the Indian wars.  North Carolina was not able to meet these and other claims, so in order to boost herself to a more stable foothold in governmental affairs, in May 1784, ceded her lands west of the Alleghenies to the federal government.

The provision was made, however, that it must be accepted by Congress within the space of two years.  This move caused consternation among the settlers in the region.  What did the act of North Carolina mean?  Merely this, that for two years, the people in the ceded territory were neither under the jurisdiction of the United States, nor of any one state.  They were left without outside support or protection, nor with ways of raising revenue, but during this time they were required to pay federal taxes.

Many were being massacred by the Cherokees.  Something had to be done, and the dream of self government began to approach reality.  On August 23, 1784, a convention was held at Jonesboro, at which John Sevier was elected president and Landon Carter, clerk. In this meeting it was decided that the three counties of Washington, Sullivan and Greene should unite into an association, with [a] view to the final formation of a new state.

Their rights were asserted in no uncertain terms.  The convention adjourned to meet again on September 16, 1784, but for some unknown reason the second meeting on this date did not take place.   In the meantime (Oct. 22,1784) the Assembly of North Carolina had repealed the act of cession.  During November, the delegates from the three counties attempted to meet at Jonesboro, but could not agree upon the adoption of the constitution and because of the disputes concerning the repeal of the cession act, broke up in confusion. 

On December 14, 1784, the delegates assembled again at Jonesboro for the consideration of a stable government, public finances and promotion of public spirit.  The formation of a new state still occupied their main attention.  When the vote was taken as regards the formation of a new state, 28 voted for and 15 against. 

The people without the courthouse eagerly awaiting the announcement of the result of the ballot, seemingly were in sympathy with the movement for self government.  John H. Wheeler, a North Carolina historian, states that while these people were together, John Sevier mounted the rude steps of the log court house and read a letter from Joseph Martin, who had just returned from the General Assembly of North Carolina, which informed them that the Legislature had granted to the people of Western North Carolina a general court, formed their militia into a brigade, appointed a brigadier general and repealed the cession act of the last session.  “Our grievances,” said he, “are redressed and we have nothing more to complain of; my advice is to cease all efforts to separate from North Carolina, but remain firm and faithful to her laws.”

Judge Williams tells us that – “The December convention largely devoted itself to the work of preparing a temporary constitution for the new state, which from the outset, was called the State of Franklin and not Frankland, as is sometimes stated.  The document was unique in form in that it was prefaced by a Declaration of Independence, in which was set forth the “reason which impels us to declare ourselves independent of North Carolina,”  — “a decent respect to the opinions of mankind,” making it proper. “

It recommended the temporary Constitution ”for the serious consideration of the people during six months,” after which period and before the expiration of a year,” another constitution convention should be held to pass upon its adoption as the permanent fundamental law, or to amend it to conform to the popular will.”

The first General Assembly in the Assembly of Franklin met in March 1785 at Jonesboro and John Sevier was elected the first and likewise the only governor of the State of Franklin.  Legislative acts were proposed, including those for the promotion of learning, division of counties and procuring a seal for the new state.  Therefore, we may truly say that Jonesboro was the first capital of the State of Franklin.

Ar Greeneville, the constitution was adopted, the organization of the government completed and the first and last meetings of the Legislature held.  When Sevier’s term as governor terminated in March 1788, the State of Franklin died and North Carolina resumed full control of the state that was formed for self protection.

(In the next installment, the formation of the Town of Jonesboro will be discussed.

Happy Hour spotlights Bristol Sessions

Rene Rodgers shares Bristol Sessions stories.


Associate Editor

“The purpose of my speech is to talk about the people you don’t often hear about,” began Rene Rodgers, head curator at the Birthplace of Country Music Museum. Her presentation, titled “Voices That Carry: History and Personal Stories from the 1927 Bristol Sessions,” was the topic of the History Happy Hour in Jonesborough on Thursday, Oct. 18.  Rodgers’ detailing of what has become known as the “Big Bang” of  country music took place on the second floor of the International Storytelling Center before an audience of 60 people.

The museum, located in downtown Bristol, Virginia, officially explains its legacy in these words: “In the summer of 1927, just two months after Charles Lindberg made his flight across the Atlantic in the Spirit of St. Louis, and during the season that Babe Ruth was blasting out 60 home runs for the Yankees, record producer Ralph Peer of the Victor Talking Machine Company was making music in Bristol, Tennessee/Virginia.  Between July 25 and Aug. 5 of that year, Peer conducted recording sessions using the new Western Electric microphone during which 19 performers (or groups of performers) recorded 76 songs.”

While country music fans recognize Ernest “Pop” Stoneman, the members of the Carter Family, featuring A.P., Sara, and Maybelle, and Jimmy Rodgers, not many can relate to contributions made to the Sessions by Wesley ‘Bane” Boyles and the West Virginia Coon Hunters, Uncle Eck Dunford, Alfred Karnes, Ernest Phipps, Hattie Stoneman, and Georgia Warren.  These are the names of individuals who also brought “Hillbilly” music from the region to audiences worldwide.

A slide gives a face to Alfred Karnes, an early performer.

Speaker Rodgers, who has written or edited posts about many of these individuals on the Birthplace of Country Music blog, artfully condensed their stories into an hour-long talk.  She also noted that recordings made before and after the 1927 Bristol Sessions in the record companies’ studios and further afield such as Asheville, North Carolina and Johnson City were also part of country music’s origins. 

She emphasized that the innovation of the electronic microphone was a major change in technology, bringing a “more authentic” sound to the music. 

In addition to phonographic records, radio would also play a major role in the dispersal of this “Hillbilly Sound” with stations like WSM in Nashville and a 50,000 watt station (XERA) on the Mexico / United States border.

Because of radio’s importance, Rodgers gave out a folder on the Birthplace of Country Music’s radio station, “Radio Bristol,” with a reference to scheduling on LISTENRADIOBRISTOL.ORG.  The low power FM station features three channels streaming different genres of country music, and one channel streaming video.  The museum’s literature states that the station has listeners throughout the nation and in more than 140 countries.

The greatest revelation in Rodgers’ presentation was the museum’s focus on genealogy.  The museum, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, has recorded several oral histories of descendants of the original 19 Bristol Sessions performers. Many of these descendants came together at the museum for the 90th anniversary in July 2017. Get-togethers like this, along with a few other reunions, have given family members the opportunity to share stories, photographs, and other items that enhance the museum’s content.

When Georgia Massengill Warren of Bluff City was 12 years old, she was one of the performers at the 1927 Sessions, Rodgers said.  The last surviving member of the groups that made up the music contributors, she died Sunday, March 6, 2016 at the age of 100.  She sang with the Tennessee Mountaineers and the two songs they recorded can still be heard as part of the museum’s exhibits.  The songs are “Standing on the Promises” and “At the River” recorded on the last day of the Sessions, Aug. 5.

Georgia married Paul Warren, who taught math and geography at Bluff City Middle School for 30 years.  She had five sisters and grew up on the Massengill’s farm between Piney Flats and Bluff City near where Ridgewood Barbecue is now located.  In a 2014 newspaper interview in the Bristol Herald Courier, Warren said, “I did everything on the farm but plow with the big plow. We had 12 cows.  Sometimes I had to milk them all.”

Most of the performers at the 1927 Bristol Sessions like Warren did not become famous. The Tennessee Mountaineers, named as such by record producer Peer, had to wait at the Taylor Christian Hat Factory where the recordings were being made until the West Virginia Coon Hunters recorded their two songs, “Your Blue Eyes Run Me Crazy” and “Greasy String.”  The group was from Bluefield where a number of families had migrated because the town was central to the coal boom, especially due to its railway traffic.

While the personalities of all those who comprised the 1927 Bristol Sessions performers are interesting, Rodgers said “meeting Uncle Eck Dunford must have been quite an experience.”  She said he “was full of character and personality,” speaking a distinctive voice and dialect, possibly Scots-Irish, wearing an overcoat in all seasons and often donning pink earmuffs when it was cold.  He lived in a cabin he had built in Galax, Virginia.  Dunford was a photographer and worked as a shoe cobbler.

Uncle Eck was known for his jokes and stood out in Galax when he frequently quoted Shakespeare and Robert Burns, pointing to a man who took the time to read and educate himself.  He was a highly skilled fiddler, guitarist and storyteller and known for his musical connections with Ernest “Pop” Stoneman.  He married into the family when he married Callie Frost, a relative of Hattie Stoneman’s.  He sang and played at the 1927 Bristol Sessions with the Stonemans and others.  He had two recordings by himself, “The Whip-poor-will’s Song” and the familiar children’s tune “Skip-to Ma Lou, My Darling,” with the 1927 recording being its first commercial cutting.

Curator Rodgers pointed out Hattie Stoneman as an important figure in country music and said, “Women didn’t always get as much recognition as men.” She said Hattie’s story illustrates “the huge influence of women in country music.” She was instrumental in “the support and encouragement” of her husband Ernest, who may have never recorded music without her.  She did all this while bearing 23 children.  After their marriage, Hattie played the fiddle with “Pop.”  At the Bristol recordings, Hattie was part of the Dixie Mountaineers and recorded “What Will I Do, For My Money’s All Gone” with Uncle Eck Dunford.

Alfred Karnes, born in Virginia and later residing in Corbin, Kentucky, was known as a harp guitar player, though there is much debate about whether he played this unusual instrument on the Bristol Sessions recordings.  A Baptist preacher with a wonderfully resonant voice, he recorded six religious songs at the Sessions, including “I’m Bound For the Promised Land,” “To The Work” and “Where We’ll Never Grow Old.”

Ernest Phipps, also from Corbin, was a singing preacher who had also worked as a coal miner.  He recorded at the 1927 Bristol Sessions and returned in 1928 when Ralph Peer returned to Bristol to record again.  Although his records, all religious in subject matter, were released by Victor, he did not record again after the 1927 and 1928 Bristol Sessions. His songs include “Old Ship of Zion,” “I Want to Go Where Jesus Is,” and “If the Light Has Gone Out Of Your Soul.”  He continued to live in Corbin where he preached for the rest of his life.

Voters choose change in pivotal years

Actions in Tennessee helped pave the way for women’s right to vote.


Associate Editor

A world war, an influenza epidemic, prohibition and the women’s suffrage movement made 1918 a pivotal year in both the nation’s and Tennessee’s politics. The General Election that year took place on Nov. 5. The end of World War I would occur on the 11th hour, of the 11th day of the 11th month – Nov. 11, 1918.

The names and accomplishments of the individuals involved in the remaking of how political parties operated 100 years ago serve as timely reminders of the democratic process as the state approaches yet another mid-term election. In 1918 Tennessee elected a governor, a United States senator and members of the federal House of Representatives. Some background on the laws then in force is necessary in order to explain the sequence of events that unfolded.

Thomas Clarke Rye (Born June 2, 1863 – Died Sept. 12, 1953) was Governor of Tennessee in 1918. He had been elected for two terms during a period of time when Tennessee governors were elected for two-year terms. A Democrat, he was on the ballot in 1918 in the race for United States senator.

During his second term in office, the United States entered World War I. More than 80,000 Tennesseans joined the Armed Forces. In a time when prohibition was a state-wide issue, Rye enacted the so-called “Ouster Law” allowing for the removal of public officials for incompetence or unwillingness to enforce the law.

His first target was political boss E. H. Crump, who as mayor of Memphis had refused to enforce prohibition in the city. After an ouster proceeding filed by the state attorney general in 1915 was successful, an appeal to the Tennessee Supreme Court upheld Crump’s ouster.

In Washington County, Rye beat fellow Democrat John Knight Shields by 111 votes, 822 votes to 710. Statewide, however, Shields collected more votes and ran in the November election against Republican Henry Clay Evans, who he defeated with 62 percent of the popular vote.

Ironically, in 1917 Governor Rye enacted legislation that implemented a primary for choosing candidates for state offices from the Democratic and Republican parties. Prior to 1917, candidates were selected by delegates at party conventions.

Shields had been elected a senator by the Tennessee Legislature prior to the passage of the 17th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States which established direct election of senators. He had previously served as Chief Justice of the Tennessee Supreme Court. As a senator, he served from 1913 to 1925.

Albert H. Roberts (Born July 4, 1868 – Died June 25, 1946) would be elected governor of Tennessee in 1918.

His opponent for the governor’s nomination was former state legislator Austin Peay. He defeated Peay in the Washington County Democratic primary by 131 votes, 991 to 860. He had gained the support of Boss Crump, winning the state-wide primary by 12,000 votes. He then defeated Republican candidate and  Knoxville judge, Hugh B. Lindsay in the General Election, 98,628 votes to 59,518.

Historians believe voter turnout for the general election was diminished by the year’s flu epidemic.

The influenza pandemic of 1918 was the most serious outbreak of flu in Tennessee history with 7,721 recorded deaths from the disease. It is estimated to have killed 20 to 40 million people worldwide, two to four times the number killed in World War I.

Once elected, among Roberts’ first order of business was to certify Tennessee’s ratification of the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The state senate had voted 28 to 2 in favor of passage making Tennessee the 23rd state to ratify the amendment.

The amendment that prohibited the sale and transportation of alcoholic beverages would be the law of the land from 1919 until its repeal by the 21st Amendment in 1933.

On June 7, 1919, Roberts performed the marriage ceremony for celebrated World War I Medal of Honor recipient Sergeant Alvin York and Gracie Williams in the Pall Mall community in Fentress County.

On Aug. 9, 1920, following his victory in the primaries, Roberts called a special session of the General Assembly to consider the ratification of the 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which would give women the right to vote.

The amendment required ratification in 36 states to become law. By August 1920, 35 states had ratified the amendment while eight states had rejected it, and five, including Tennessee, had yet to vote.

The Tennessee Senate approved the amendment by a 25 to 4 margin, and it narrowly passed in the State House by a 50 to 46 vote. Angry anti-suffragists tried to file an injunction. The Tennessee Supreme Court ruled against them. Governor Roberts certified the state’s passage of the amendment on Aug. 24, 1920.

Roberts had defeated William Riley Crabtree, a former Chattanooga mayor, by 67,886 votes to 44,853 votes in the Aug. 5, 1920 primary.

He faced Republican Alfred A. Taylor (Born Aug.6, 1848 – Died Nov. 25, 1931) in the General Election. Taylor, born in Happy Valley, Carter County, Tennessee, became famous for his election campaigns against his brother, Bob, referred to in Tennessee history as the “War of the Roses.”

Taylor would win 55.2 per cent of the vote in the first governor’s election in which women voted.

He was attacked by Democrats for his support of the “Lodge Bill” which would have provided protection for black voters, that vote taking place when he was a congressman.

On Election Day in 1920, Taylor defeated Roberts by a state-wide vote of 229,143 to 185,890.

In the 1918 Congressional race in the First Congressional District, Sam R. Sells (Born Aug. 2,1871 – Died Nov. 2, 1935), easily won both the primary election (receiving 745 votes more than his opponent in Washington County) and 100 percent of the vote in the general election in which he was unopposed. He served the lst Congressional District in Congress from March 4, 1911 until March 3, 1921.

So confident was Sells of his election chances in the Aug. 5 primary in 1918 that when he gave a speech on the war situation several days before the primary, the Herald and Tribune reported, “The speech was well received, and many expressions of fitness were heard. It had been thought by many that Mr. Sells would make a political speech, but the congressional race was not even mentioned.”

Born in Bristol, Sells was in the lumber, shale brick and other businesses in Johnson City after his political career came to a close. He died at 64 years of age and is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.

President Woodrow Wilson had called for a political moratorium during World War I saying “politics is adjourned.” However, on Oct. 25, 1918 a decisive turning point occurred in his eight-year presidency when he “released a note calling for the return of a Democratic Congress as essential to the nation’s security.”

Wilson’s questioning of the Republican Party’s patriotism turned what had been a listless campaign into a heated contest. On Nov.  5, Republicans swept the congressional elections, compiling a two-seat majority in the Senate and a forty-one seat margin in the House.

Burlington Industries employees reunited for reunion

Burlington Industries employees reunited on Oct. 20 to reminisce.


In Johnson City, many large employers have come and gone, as Johnson City has typically been the commercial center for Washington County, Tennessee. Burlington Industries is no different.

Burlington, who purchased Gloria Rayon in the 1930s, filled the void and pockets of many workers through its history. Closing the early 21st Century, after approximately 75 years in business, the Burlington Plant on McKinley Road in Johnson City served the purpose of making fabric used throughout the world on large looms that could transform simple thread into beautiful works of art.

Approximately 15 years after the plants closing, employees of the plant recently reunited for their second reunion in many years on Saturday, Oct. 20.

This reunion was special for the 60 plus employees who attended. After its closing, Marvin Carter purchased “the mill,” as employees affectionally call it. Since that time, Carter has transformed it into the Burlington Business Park. This park has many loft style apartments as well as storage rental units and restaurant and store space.

Employees of the old mill got to see the renovations and reflect on their memories of their time spent at work.

Martha Swift affectionately told of times when “young girls” went to work in the 1940s and 1950s, and did not understand how to take care of their feet. She said, “We went to work and wore our bobby socks and tennis shoes and walked all over this plant. I guess that’s the reason some of us have trouble walking today.”

Sylvia Bowser remembered working 2nd shift for 6 years cleaning offices before moving on to other duties at the plant, while her niece, Margaret Rhudy, also worked at the plant.

Pictures were also brought to help derive memories of the past. Looking at a photo that depicted several office staff,

Bob Sams asked Elaine Cantrell, if she remembered a photo which she was in. She said, “yes, that’s the day I retired.”

Cantrell along with seven other employees were honored before the plant’s closing for working 50 plus years at the plant. Cantrell who began her career reading pick clocks and reporting production among other duties in 1945 at the age of 17, retired in 1996 at the age of 68, for a total of 51 years.

Cantrell told those in attendance how many people don’t ever make it that long in one job.

Fifty years in one job is almost unheard of today. Yet, many at Burlington worked hard, developed bonds, and friendships that have lasted well past the typical work life.

Cutting it close for a cause: Ridgeview raises over $40,000 for new playground

Top fundraiser, Rylie Conley (third grade) shaves off the beard of the school’s music teacher, Joshua McFadden, as part of the fundraising challenge. McFadden agreed that if the students met their goal amount of $40,000, he’d let the student who raised the most funds shave his lengthy beard. Rylie Conley earned the top spot by raising almost $800 — and off came the beard.


Staff Writer

A playground was the focus for Ridgeview Elementary School’s fundraising goal this year, but the students weren’t playing around when it came to raising money for the project. In fact, the students raised over $40,500 dollars, with the money still coming in.

Site of the location of the new playground for Ridgeview.

“Every year we come up with a fundraiser. For the past two years we did a color-thon or a color walk,” Ridgeview Principal Kelley Harrell said. “Having that goal for the playground, our parents really supported that and we raised so much more money this year. They’re very supportive of that and our PTO is already thinking that next year, we’d like to add even more to some of our playgrounds.”

The playground will be placed in the field located at the front of the school and will include six swings, a climbing dome and four other small playground items, Harrell said.

But the future playground wasn’t the only incentive for the Ridgeview Raptors; the school’s music teacher, Joshua McFadden, agreed that if the students met their goal amount of $40,000, he’d let the student who raised the most funds shave his lengthy beard. Third grade student Rylie Conley earned the top spot by raising almost $800 — and off came the beard.

“Well I didn’t think it was going to happen,” McFadden, with a now clean-shaven face, said with a laugh. “Last year they raised $25,000, so to bump it up to $40,000, I thought I was in the safe zone. I thought that was never going to happen so I didn’t even worry about it. But they stepped up to it.”

Kadence WIlliams and Garrison Jones were part of the school effort.

But it wasn’t all for a ceremonial shave in front of the student body and for a new playground facility setting out front of the school; McFadden and Harrell both said the importance of physical activity for students was a key component in choosing this year’s fundraising goal.

“We feel that getting our kids outside is so important for them to be able to come back in and really be academically focused,” Harrell said. “We want them to have some outdoor time. We want them to get out every day for just the physical aspect and the social aspect. They need time to be out and talk to their friends and let some steam off. They don’t get enough of it.”

Fourth grade student Garrison Jones and fifth grade student Kadence Williams would have to agree. The two Ridgeview students said they looked forward to the new playground, but for Williams, the additional playground means more room for girls to have their fair share of playground access at recess.

“I hope there’s enough room for girls and boys. I hope there’s enough room for football and stuff,” Williams, who is a cross country and softball athlete, said. “I’m really excited about it. I think it’s going to be better because we’re going to have a newer and better playground and it’s not going to be so crowded and crumpled up.”

The funds raised will be put towards the playground equipment, as well as mulch and timbers for the facility, but the money will also be used to add an octoball court to the sixth-through-eighth-grade playground and swings to the kindergarten-through-second-grade playground.

While Ridgeview awaits its new playground, which is set to be installed in early December, Harrell said next year’s fundraising goal may be set on adding more to the playground facilities. And in the meantime, McFadden will consider getting to work on growing next year’s sacrificial beard.

“I’m okay with it,” McFadden said. “I made peace with it in the idea that not everyone can say that they have a $40,000 beard. So I’ll try to grow another one.”