A Walk Through Time
(Download Strolling Tour Guide here)
Settled in 1775
Established as a town in 1789
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places
As treaties were made with the Indian tribes and land companies opened vast tracts west of the Appalachian Mountains, an increasing flood of settlers moved into the western country of North Carolina and Virginia. General settlement of what is now Hawkins County began in the late 1760s and early 1770s.
Among those who settled in the area were Thomas Amis. Amis moved to the area in the 1780’s after he received a land grant for 1000 acres along Big Creek for his service in the American Revolution. Here, Amis built a home, gristmill, sawmill, distillery and store and did thriving business with indians and settlers.
Amis’ daughter, Mary, has been quoted by sources as saying it was not unusual to find bears in the front yard feasting on the pigs or wake up in the morning to find Indians sharpening their tools on the family grindstone.
In 1784, North Carolina ceded its western lands to the US Government to help pay its share of the war debt. Soon after, a convention of delegates from Washington, Greene and Sullivan Counties met to from a new state, Franklin.
North Carolina then repealed its law and reclaimed its western lands. The State of Franklin existed in opposition to North Carolina’s claim until 1788 when it collapsed and the area submitted once again to the rule of North Carolina.
Rogersville’s founder, Joseph Rogers, was born in 1764 in Tyrone County, Ireland. He immigrated to the US in 1781 and came south to this area where he found work at the plantation of Thomas Amis, located on Big Creek, east of the present town of Rogersville.
Now, Amis’ land was home of the Ebb and Flowing Springs, one of only two known springs in the world to exhibit tidal characteristics with a predictable regularity.
The Spring is said to have extraordinary powers in matters of the heart. Townspeople claim that any couple drinking from the spring at the peak of its flow will marry within the year – and legends suggest that the spring’s power was first discovered by Joseph Rogers, who was said to have drunk from the spring with his beloved, Mary, the 16-year old daughter of Thomas Amis.
As a result, in 1786 the 22-year old Irishman, Rogers, eloped with Mary while her father was off serving in the North Carolina legislature. Relations between Thomas Amis and his son-in-law Rogers were never cordial.
Later the same year, Rogers purchased a 281-acre tract of land from Robert Crockett (David Crockett’s uncle) following the death of Robert Crockett’s parents (David Crockett’s grandparents) in an Indian attack at the site of Crockett Spring Park.
In 1787, Hawkins County, North Carolina was created by the NC legislature. Rogers successfully lobbied, through the influence of his father-in-law, to have the county seat located near his home on Crockett Creek.
Rogers, with the help of other local settlers, laid out a plan for the town. The plan included a public square, deeded to the town government, which would host the town’s public well and the county courthouse. And the town of Rogersville was chartered by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1789.
In 1790, North Carolina again ceded its western lands to the United States, and Hawkins County then became part of the Territory South of the River Ohio. William Blount was named territorial governor and established the territorial capital at James White’s Fort in present day Knoxville.
In 1791, at the behest of Blount, George Roulstone, the first printer to enter the State of Tennessee, took his press apart in Fayetteville, North Carolina, packed it on horseback or in wagons, and trekked over the trails of the Blue Ridge Mountains into the Holston Valley where Kingsport now stands. There on the banks of the Holston River at James King’s Boat Yard he loaded it on a flat boat and floated it down to Rogersville, where he set it up again and started printing the Knoxville Gazette, the first piece of printing ever attempted in the Territory South of the River Ohio (Tennessee.)
In 1792, Roulston moved the press to Knoxville, the new capital of the Territory.
After the Gazette was moved, there was no newspaper in the area until 1813, when John B. Hood began publishing The East Tennessee Gazette at Rogersville. Other papers shortly followed, including The Western Pilot, circa 1815, and The Rogersville Gazette from the same era. Speciality publications emerged during these early days, including The Rail-Road Advocate, The Calvinistic Magazine, and The Holston Watchman. Numerous other newspapers have been published in Rogersville over the years, most surviving only a short time and having modest circulation. Among them were The Independent, The Rogersville Spectator, The Weekly Reporter, The Rogersville Gazette, Rogersville Press and Times, Holston Journal, Hawkins County Republican, Hawkins County Telephone, and The Rogersville Herald.
Rogersville’s longest-lasting newspaper is The Rogersville Review, which began publication as The Holston Review in 1885 by William T. Robertson. A year later, Robertson changed the name to the present banner, and the paper has published without fail to the present day.
(Rogersville’s Tennessee Newspaper and Printing Museum reflects the area’s long involvement with the printing industry.) See also Pressmen’s Home.
Hawkins County was a great thoroughfare as settlers bound for Kentucky and middle Tennessee made their way through the area following the Holston River or the great Wilderness Road through Cumberland Gap into Kentucky.
In the 1820’s, Rogersville’s Absolom Kyle started a stagecoach line from Bristol to Knoxville, and the Atlanta to Washington stagecoach line also passed through the town. With the traffic came new settlers and trade for the Inns in Rogersville, so Rogers found success as a businessman and tavern keeper.
In 1827, attorney and landowner John McKinney, while representing a client from Philadelphia, came to visit Rogersville, married and later built what is now Hale Springs Inn.
The impressive “McKinney Tavern” became a popular stop for those patrons of the East Tennessee Stagecoach line running through Rogersville,
Sawmills and gristmills were also an important factor in early industry. The marble industry began in Rogersville in the late 1830s. The unique pink and red marble quarried in the area was used in the Tennessee state house and in the National Capital in Washington.
Rogersville has had an illustrious career, reflected both in the brilliant statesmen and businessmen it has produced and in its many productive industries.
Today, it reflects its gracious past in its homes and buildings and in the cordial manner of its citizens. It is a genial place to visit and, even more, a delightful place to call home.