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Exploring The History of Hamblen County

Hamblen County, TN. has a long and historical path to where it is now. Before the forming of Hamblen County in 1870, Several Native American communities had lived in the East Tennessee hills and valleys before the first settlement was established in what would eventually become Hamblen County. These communities consisted of the Cherokees, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Shawnees.

In 1783, some of the first settlers in the area, Robert McFarland and Alexander Outlaw moved from Virginia to claim land grants on the “Bend of Chucky.” This included almost all the land up the Nolichucky River to a point near the Greene County line. After them, Gideon Morris and his two brothers, Daniel and Absalom were the next people to settle the land. They took land grants within the present city limits of Morristown. This provided the city with its name.

A road was eventually built connecting Abingdon, Virginia. Along with Knoxville which was constructed in 1792. This of course increased the amount of settlers choosing to move into present day Hamblen County and by 1800 several communities popped up, including Russellville, Whitesburg, Springvale, and Panther Springs. In its early history, Panther Springs boasted a store, a church, and an academy along with some residences. The town of course was named after its ever-flowing spring with its large volume of water. Panther Creek State Park, which consists of two thousand acres, is located on this historic spot near Cherokee Lake. Russellville, another one of the original settlements, was once larger than Morristown. It has a rich history and the Famous Boone Trace and Buffalo Trail of the Indians, which ran from Kentucky through Tennessee to North Carolina, passed through Russellville. By the late 1850’s, the town had a drugstore, a railroad station, a theater, and an academy.

Hamblen county’s first industry was called Shields’ Paper Mill and was located at Marshalls Ferry on the Holston River. It operated from 1825 to 1861 and it was used to produce fine paper from rags, lint, and wheat straw. Other early businesses include the Morristown Manufacturing Company and J.F. Goodson Coffee Company which is now called JFG Coffee and operates in Knoxville. Textile mills and furniture companies dominated local industry in the earlier half of the twentieth century.

Hamblen County was finally formed in 1870 from parts of Jefferson, Grainger, and Hawkins counties. The county was named after Hezekiah Hamblen, a lawyer that lived in Hawkins county.

One famous person that lived in Hamblen County was Davy Crockett. He lived in Hamblen County shortly after his marriage to Polly Finley. He later served as a member of the Tennessee State Legislature and as a representative in the U.S. Congress. He died fighting in a last stand at the Alamo.

Agriculture continues to be a key part of the county. The farms produce beef, dairy products, and vegetables. Tobacco annually boosts the economy with revenues of up to five million dollars.

Hamblen County is filled with historical buildings and cultural and social advantages to benefit its citizens. The county has a highly praised school system that is recognized for its achievements. In 1881, Morristown College was established by the Methodist Episcopal Church. It was a historic African American school. It later became a branch of Knoxville College before closing in 1994. Morristown College later burnt down and is now the site of Heritage Park. The county also boasts Walter State Community College, named after Herbert S. Walters. It offers two first free years for students looking to continue education there. There’s also a theater guild which offers recreational activities to citizens. Of course the Rose Center is also an important piece of Morristown history and is the oldest school opened there. Today the county’s population is 64,934.

Picture of the front of the Rose Center
Picture of the front of the Rose Center

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