7:08 AM / Friday December 1, 2023

6 Dec 2013

East Tennessee, Experience it All! (Part Two)

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December 6, 2013 Category: Travel Posted by:

ABOVE PHOTO:Morristown Main Street


By Renée S. Gordon


“The foot of man hath never trod the soil of any spot on earth where purer fountains gem the hills, or brighter streams falling from loftier heights, thread their way through sweeter, greener or lovelier vales.” 

–L. Haynes 1857


The area that is now Kingsport’s Long Island of the Holston in Tennessee was once a place where the Native Americans held their councils. The 4.5-mile long island was considered a sacred place and both the Great Warrior’ Path and the Great Trading Path crossed the land. In the 1750s a few scattered cabins were erected to trade with the Cherokee and in 1761 Fort Robinson was constructed at the river junction but was soon abandoned. Daniel Boone and 30 axemen set out from here in 1775 to blaze the now famous Wilderness Trail that allowed settlers to push further westward from the first frontier. The following year Fort Patrick Henry was established near the site of the previous fort. It is believed that the first Independence Day celebration was held at Patrick Henry and it was manned throughout the American Revolution. 


Jobs and opportunities created by river trade brought settlers to the town. One of the most successful businessmen was James King the owner of King’s Mill Station. In the late 1700s, the town was referred to as King’s Port, later Kingsport. Tennessee took ownership of Kingsport in 1802 after having been claimed earlier by North Carolina, Virginia and the State of Franklin.


Downtown Kingsport is filled with more than 45 gift and specialty stores, bakeries and restaurants and the largest collection of antique stores in the Southeast Region. This is the perfect place to purchase a memento or souvenir. Between serious bouts of shopping you can take in the city’s Sculpture Walk VII. Sculptures are juried and 10 works are selected for display for a one-year period. Kingsport also showcases its permanent collection of eight sculptures. Visitors can tour using Guide By Cell for additional information on each work.


Kingsport’s commitment to the community and the arts is evident in the Kingsport Carousel Project. More than 100 residents are building a menagerie-style carousel including carving and painting 32 animals and two chariots. Rounding boards with scenes of the area prior to 1956, are created by local artists. Located atop the ticket booth will be a carved flying pig, a reference to the fact that early on the project was considered so fanciful that someone said it would only happen when pigs fly. 


Riverfront Seafood Company is situated on the shore of the Holston River and is a regional favorite. The restaurant provides splendid views as you dine on the freshest catches of the day.


Morristown was always a popular crossroads because of its location on the Buffalo Trail and the Big Road that linked TN with Baltimore. The town was named in honor of Absalom Morris one of its earliest nonindigenous settlers. Another of those early settlers was John Crockett, father of Davy. The family lived in Morristown during Davy’s childhood and legend has it that he learned to shoot on what is now known as Crockett Ridge. Crockett Tavern Museum has been interpreting the pioneer culture of the 1700s since opening in 1958. A reproduction of the family’s cabin is situated near the site of the original family tavern.


Mountain Makins Festival has been voted both the “Best Festival in East TN” and “One Of the Top 20 Events in the Southeast.” Morristown has been hosting this celebration of Appalachian cultures since 1976. This is a crash course in the best of the regional food, music, dance, craft and storytelling traditions. More than 70-juried craftspeople showcase their art and demonstrations of traditional skills are also on view.


Downtown Morristown is a short walk from the festival venue and it is totally unique. Twenty-five years ago the city added a “SkyMart,” a sidewalk at the buildings’ second level. You can stroll the main street along either the upper or sheltered lower level.


There are no chain restaurants or shops downtown and there are many choices for dining and shopping. You must stop in Jersey Girl Diner. All of the choices are great and the diner has won the People’s Choice Award for “ Best Lunch.”  Cross the street to Yummy Cakes & More for dessert. The desserts are handmade and delicious.


(Tennessee Story Note: The film Evil Dead was filmed in an unused cabin on the outskirts of Morristown.)


Fourteen years before Tennessee’s statehood the town of Jonesborough was founded and named in honor of Willie Jones a North Carolina legislator. Jonesborough is the oldest city in the state and the area is filled with meticulously maintained historic structures and is a repository of the stories and legends of East Tennessee. 


It was the first Tennessee town listed on the NRHP.


In order to ensure the continuation of the stories and the storytelling traditions of Appalachia the National Storytelling Festival was established in Jonesborough in 1973. The annual festival has continued and is now the most highly regarded and oldest storytelling event in the country. Jonesborough’s National Storytelling Center recently began collaboration with the Desmond Tutu Peace Foundation to use the art of storytelling to promote international peace. Individuals are invited to share their stories. and


A 21-year old Andrew Jackson practiced law in Jonesborough for five months in 1788 prior to moving to Nashville. He rented a cabin from Christopher Taylor on the outskirts of town that was reconstructed and relocated to Main Street in 1974. Not only is the two story cabin the oldest building in the town, it is also said to be haunted by Jackson.


Pennsylvanian Dr. William Chester constructed the first boarding house in Tennessee in 1797. Three U.S. presidents lodged in the Italianate Chester Inn on the Great Stage Road. Today the inn is home to the National Story Telling Society. 


PHOTO: Longstreet Telegraph Center


Jonesborough had a slave population but it also had a Philadelphia Quaker abolitionist named Elihu Embree. In 1819 he began publication of the Manumission Intelligencier. One year later he started The Emancipator, the country’s first newspaper dedicated exclusively to ending slavery. After a mere eight issues Embree died. Ironically, Embree had been a slaveowner until 1812 when he freed them. A historic marker denotes the site where the paper was printed.


Blair-Moore House is an exceptional Greek Revival-style, two story brick, home constructed in 1832. In 1997, after a five year restoration by Jack and Tami Moore, the house opened as a B&B. This home is filled with antiques and modern amenities, has been featured in “Southern Living” and is listed on the NRHP. A stay here is an exceptional experience.


Henry Johnson founded Johnson City in 1856 by constructing his home at the site of a branch of the railroad. He went on to establish an inn, post office, store and railroad depot. Originally, the town was known as Johnson’s Depot, but in 1869 it was incorporated as Johnson City. (Story Note: Al Capone is known to have hidden out here during prohibition.)


The Reece Museum is located on the campus of East Tennessee State University and takes as its mission the preservation and presentation of Appalachian culture. The museum’s only permanent exhibit relates the story of regional music beginning with the ballads settlers brought with them. Kiosks allow you to access 46 hours of video. On view until January 4, 2014 is the Smithsonian’s traveling exhibit, “IndiVisible: African-Native American Lives in the Americas.”


The Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site is, arguably, one of the most important and representative sites in East Tennessee. Tipton-Hayes history stretches back at least 10,500-years and archeologists have proven that a trace ran across the property indicating that prehistoric animals and native hunters occupied the area. Col. John Tipton purchased 100-acres in 1783 and constructed a 25’ X 30’ cabin. In 1831, his son inherited the property and in 1837 it was sold to David Haynes who gifted the land to his son in the 1850s. Landon Haynes made additions to the house and added a Greek revival portico. There are 18 locations, including a museum and education center, and an orientation video on the tour.


Oral tradition states that George Haynes, a slave of David Haynes, was actually his son and half-brother of Langdon. George’s story and that of two additional Haynes slaves is fully interpreted. Records show that in 1853 George was used as collateral for Langdon’s loans and during the Civil War he continued working on the property when the family relocated to Virginia. The family was forced to move because of the region’s Unionist sentiments. Modern Haynes family reunions include both the white and black members.


From December 22, 1863 until January 28, 1864 General James Longstreet was headquartered in the Nenny House in Russellville. The area was chosen because food was available and the house was selected because it provided easy access to the railroad station and telegraph lines. The first portion of the 1.5-story house had two rooms and dates from the 1820s. Nenny purchased the land and moved the cabin here in 1834. Four rooms were added 20 years later. A highlight of the headquarters tour is the Civil War communications center complete with period telegraph and audio. Longstreet’s Garden on the exterior features medicinal and culinary herbs as well as Civil War heirloom vegetables.


Greenville’s Dickson-Williams Mansion typifies the southern experience in the 1860s. It was truly a house divided with brother pitted against brother and during the Civil War Catherine Williams refused to divulge which side she was on because two sons were Confederates and one was Union.


The Federal mansion was constructed in 1815 using skilled Irish and enslaved labor and was considered the “Showplace of East TN.” Guests were always welcome here and a list includes Henry Clay, Davy Crockett, Andrew Jackson and Lafayette. John Hunt Morgan, “The Thunderbolt of the Confederacy,” was discovered to be staying in the mansion on September 4, 1864 by Federal soldiers and was killed while attempting to escape.


Tours of the house are outstanding. Furnishings are family heirlooms or pieces from the 1850s to 1870s. Raphael Peale portraits, artwork owned by R. E. Lee and books printed prior to 1872 are displayed and all of the mansion’s clocks are still working. The home has a number of breathtaking items handcrafted by the Burgner Brothers, the most flamboyant being a kitchen cabinet. Upstairs the tour includes the bedroom in which Morgan spent the night. It is laid out as if he just walked into the corridor. After his death the body was brought back to the house and laid out in the parlor. 


Tennessee Story Note: The Melungeons are an East Tennessee ethnic group with untraced origins. It is believed that they are a blend of Native American, Sub-Saharan African, Portuguese and possibly Viking ancestry that precedes the first documented settlements in the New World. With the encroachment of Europeans they moved into the Appalachian region. Their largest community is located in and around Sneedville and their most (in)famous person is Mahala Mullins. Mahala was a moonshining 500-lb widow with 18 children. When lawmen came to arrest her she put up no resistance but it was impossible to get her out of her cabin or transport her down the mountain. A deputy stated that Mahala was “catchable but not fetchable.” Mahala’s two story dogtrot cabin is on display in the Vardy Historic District.


Tennessee Is filled with outdoor recreational opportunities, historic sites, eclectic dining venues, entertainment spots and stories, lots of stories. Plan a visit and hear them for yourself.


I wish you smooth travels!




The Philadelphia Museum of Art is a jewel in the city’s crown year-round but it shines especially brightly during the holidays and this year is no exception. A complete schedule of activities is online and includes details on such family activities as the Gallery Tour: Christmas Story in Art, Holiday Trolley Tours, Festival of Lights, “Snowflake Man,” a Holiday Card-Making Station, concerts and the Holiday Film Series.


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