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Sister shares Jonesborough history

George Caleb Bingham’s Daniel Boone Escorting Settlers through the Cumberland Gap (1851-52) is a famous depiction of Boone.


Associate Editor

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Most residents of Jonesborough and area historians know that Paul Fink wrote a town history titled “Jonesborough: The First Century of Tennessee’s First Town.” Many of these same people may not know that his sister, Miriam Fink Dulaney, also wrote a history titled “History of Jonesborough and Surrounding Sections.”

While Paul was the Washington County Historian, Miriam was the Jonesborough Town Historian. She taught school and served as principal in both the Jonesborough Elementary School and Jonesborough High School.  Miriam Dulaney was also a professor of history at East Tennessee State University.

Her book titled “Humor, Rumor, and Romance in Old Jonesborough” is mentioned in an article in the “History of Washington County Tennessee” published by the Washington County Historical Association in which she was named one of the county’s “Notable People.”

However it was not until Gene Hurdt began scanning files at the Washington County / Jonesborough Library that this editor discovered a town history written “about 1975.” The article is 10 typewritten pages. Her brother’s book in its original publication was 302 pages as printed in a large, typewritten format.

Dulaney’s history follows in this and several future articles.  It is copied in the form written by the author without any editorial notes or corrections except for an occasional spelling note for purposes of clarification.

In writing the town’s history she did not hesitate to use words that express her opinions on the community’ s history, writing in a style rich in colorful expressions and valuable insights.  It would be interesting to know if the history was written for a particular town celebration. The text begins:

“Long before the white man ever topped the high ridges of the Unakas and caught the first glimpse of the broad East Tennessee valley, the site of what is now Jonesboro, was already a town — a thriving village of Cherokee Indians. To them it was known as NANATHUGUNYI (the Spruce Tree Place).  This word has come down to us corrupted in the rude speech of the pioneers as Nolichucky, now applied to our closest river.  But these former residents of our town had already moved westward when the first white traveler quenched his search at Mill Springs returning to the same spot on future visits, gave [giving] birth to the legend that he who drinks from this famous spring will surely come back to drink again.

“For almost two hundred and fifty years after the discovery of America, the country of the present state of Tennessee was a terra incognita to the European invader. The dazzling conquests of the Spanish in Mexico and Peru had fired the ambitions of the other nations of the old world until they too, wished to have a share in the exploitation of the great new field.  The warmer portions of the newly discovered territory was already in the possession of the Latins, so to the English fell that part of the continent now included in the United States and they planted colonies up and down it’s seaboard. 

“The coast of our state of North Carolina, was discovered by English voyagers in 1584 under the leadership of Sir Walter Raleigh.  Several unsuccessful expeditions and attempts at colonization were made.  On March 24,1663, King Charles II granted to eight nobles all the country between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, between the parallels of latitude 31 — 36. This section was called Carolina in honor of the king.  Shiploads of colonists soon began to arrive.  A freer country was never organized by man.  The primary objects of government were freedom of conscience and security from taxation, except by their own consent.  Nothing less would satisfy those who would not acknowledge an earthly monarch or tolerate unjust laws.  Altho [although] hardships and the rough demands of pioneer life at times mocked them, nothing could quell their dauntless spirit.  As more and more settlers came, civilization gradually crept westward, on to the base of the Appalachian range.  But this high rampart was an impenetrable barrier to further expansion in that direction.  Whispers of rich valleys and fertile farm lands to the westward of these forbidding mountains came to the colonists in the talk of the French and Spanish traders who had wandered into the country in the course of long journeys from their settlements around the Great Lakes and the Gulf of Mexico.  The curiosity of some of the bravest, called for an investigation of these rumors.  As early at 1748, a band of hunters from Virginia passed through a depression in the Cumberland mountains, naming it Cumberland Gap.

“In 1760, Daniel Boone, In one of his journeys from his home on the Yadkin River across the mountains into this country, killed a bear in the valley of Boone’s creek and carved the record of his deed on a beech tree. An interesting story of the encounter with the bear is told by old settlers.  As Boone was traveling thru the thick forests, he caught sight of a big black bear rapidly coming him.  Hastily taking aim with his flint lock rifle, the hunter pressed the trigger, but sad to relate, the hammer merely snapped.  The bear was almost upon him, but quickly taking in the situation he caught sight of a beech tree.  Up the tree he went, followed by the bear.  A snag projected from the trunk and Boone broke it off and threw it at the animal.  The aim was perfect — the bear fell to the ground stunned.  A moment later it lay stretched on the earth, clubbed to death by the mighty hunter.”