GOODSPEED’S HISTORY OF
1887 Goodspeed Publishing Co
MCMINN COUNTY lies in lower East Tennessee, between the counties of Monroe
and Meigs. It embraces an area of 480 square miles, and it is doubtful if any county
in the State possesses resources of greater variety. Along the base of the Chilhowee Mountains,
are found inexhaustible veins of brown hematite ore, yielding forty-eight per cent
metallic iron, and beds of marble of the finest quality. Gold, silver, and lead are also found in
paying quantities. The surface of the county consists of a series of low parallel ridges
separated by swift flowing streams, which furnish excellent water power. The principal
creeks are Conasouga, Chestua, Cane, Estanallee, Mouse. Spring and Rogers, all of which
traverse the county from northeast to southwest, and empty into the Hiwassee River
The territory now included in McMinn County formed a part or the Hiwassee
District, which the Cherokee Indians ceded to the United States by a treaty,
Washington, D. C., on February 27, 1819. between John C. Calhoun, secretary of war, and
the following chiefs: Hicks, John Ross, Lewis Ross, John Martin, James Brown,
George Lowry, Gideon Morgan, Jr., Cobbin Smith, Sleeping Rabbit, Small Wood, John
Walker and Carrohee Dick. By the terms of the treaty a reservation of 640 acres was
offered to all who chose to become citizens of the United States, and to a few, who were
deemed capable of managing their own affairs intelligently, a grant of 640 acres in fee
simple was made. Very few accepted the former privilege, and the latter grants soon
passed into the hands of land speculators.
The act for the organization of McMinn County was passed by the Legislature
Murfreesboro on November 13, 1819, and on the 6th of the following March the county
court was organized at the house of Maj. John Walker at Calhoun. The following were
the justices present: George Colville, John Walker, Benjamin Griffith, Samuel Dickey,
Hambright Black, Archibald Black and Jacob Sharp. Young Colville was elected clerk,
Spencer Beavers, sheriff ; Arch R. Turk, trustee; Benjamin Hambright, register; Griffith
Dickeson, ranger, and Jacob Work, coroner. A temporary log courthouse was erected
at Calhoun, and was occupied until December. 1823, when the courts were transferred to
Athens. A building standing about where Robeson & Co.'s store now is, was then used
as a courthouse for a time. Later a brick building, 40x46 feet, two stories high, was
erected on the public square. This was completed and received by the county court in
June, 1828. Previous to that time a substantial log jail had been completed. It was used
until 1851, when the present brick building was erected. In 1873 preparations were made
for the erection of a new courthouse, and a building committee consisting of M. L.
Phillips, M. A. Helm, C. L. King, J. A. Turley and J. S. Russell was appointed They
engaged A. C. Bruce, of Knoxville, as architect, and the contract was let to W. C.
Cleage. The building, which cost about $30,0(10. was completed in 1875, and is one of
the finest structures of the kind in the State.
The following is a list of the county officers.
Joseph McCulley, 1842-48: C. Peters, 1848-51, R. F. Braden, 1851-54: Thomas Stephens,
1854-56; J. A. Gouldy, 1856-60; L. E. Cantrell. 1860-61; William Burns, 1861-66; J. W.
Gibson, 1866-70; J. A. Gouldy. 1870-74; I. S. Garrison, 1874-76; E. L. Miller, 1876-78; G.
W. Bogard. 1878-84; W. G. Wilson, 1884-86; J. C. Duff,1886.
Clerks of the county court-Young Colville, 1820-24; A. R. Turk, 1824-36; John
Jackson, 1836-40; Thomas Vaughn, 1840-44: James C. Carlock, 1844-48; George W. Mayo,
1848-52; Thomas Vaughn, 1852-55; William George, 1855-64; R. M. Fisher, 1864-66;
Thomas Hale, 1866-70; Lon Blizard, 1870- 78; R. A. Ellis, 1878-86; W. S. Gaston. 1886.
Registers-Benjamin Hambright. 1820-36; George W. Mayo. 1836-40; J. L.
1840-44; H. H. Rider. 1844-48; Cornelius Brown, 1848-62; William Burns, 1862-70; W. C.
Davis. 1870-78; George W. Mayo, 1878-86; C. B. Davis, 1886; J. P. Thompson, 1886.
Trustees-A. R. Turk. 1820-24; James McKamy, 1824-28; George R. Cox, 1834-36:
Aaron Matthews. 1836-38; P. A. Bradford, 1838-40; James Parkison. 1840-44; T. S. Price,
1844-46; James McNabb, 1846-48; John M. Cantrell, !848-52; A Barb, 1852-54; Benjamin
Wells, 1854-58; I. Garrison, !858-60; Robinson Snider, !860-64; R. T. Engledow, 1861-66;
H. Buttram, 1866-68; Robert Reynolds, 1868-70; E. W. Hyden, !870-72; R. Snider, 1872-74; J. H. Lowry, 1874-76; W. McKenzie, 1876-78; John T. Boyd, 1878-82; J. G. Hale, 1882-86; J. K. Boyd, 1886.
Clerks of the circuit court-Samuel Gaut, ----; Samuel Workman, 1836-44; J. L.
Bridges, 1844-52; John F. Slover, 1852-68; J. H. Hornsby, 1868-70; J. F. Slover, 1870-78;
W. N. Hoge, 1878.
Clerks and masters-William Lowry. 1845-54; John L. Bridges, 1860-64; James M.
Henderson, 1864-76; W. G. Horton, 1876.
The circuit court was organized at Calhoun in the spring of 1820. by Judge
but as the early records of this court have been destroyed, nothing is known of its
transactions. Judge Keith was a native of Jefferson County, but removed to McMinn
County upon his election to the bench. He was a quiet, unassuming man, of sound judgment,
and had a good knowledge of the law; his decisions were rarely reversed by the
supreme court. He continued upon the bench until 1844, when he was succeeded by
John 0. Cannon, who died before the expiration of his term of office. The latter's successor
was J. C. Gaut, who remained in the position until the reorganization of the
court at the close of the war. George W. Bridges was then commissioned by the
Governor, and presided about a year. He began the practice of law at Athens, about
1848, and was soon after elected attorney-general. In 1861 he was elected to Congress,
but was arrested by the Confederate authorities before reaching Washington. He died
in March, 1873. The succeeding judges have been W. L. Adams, 1866-70; John B. Hoyl,
1870-78 and D. C. Trewhitt since 1878.
The act for the organization of a chancery court at Athens was passed January
1844, and permission was given the inhabitants of Polk and Meigs Counties to file bills
in this court. (For a list of the chancellors see the history of Bradley County.)
The early bar of Athens was one of exceptionable ability, numbering among its members
Return J. Meigs, Spencer Jarnagin and Thomas J. Campbell, the first two of whom
are mentioned in another chapter. Campbell located in Athens soon after the town was
established, and remained until about 1845, when he was elected clerk of the National
House of Representatives. He was a man of superior attainments, and one of the best
lawyers in East Tennessee. T. Nixon Van Dyke, for more than half a century one of the
prominent members of the profession in Tennessee, located in Athens about 1829. He
had been licensed to practice in Pennsylvania, and had for a time resided in Alabama,
where he was a clerk of the House of Representatives for two terms. He served for
about ten years as chancellor, and although somewhat inclined to be arbitrary and dictatorial
in his manner, his rulings were generally satisfactory. He now resides at Rome,
Ga. Among the other prominent members of the Athens bar from 1830 to 1860 were
James F. Bradford, A. D. Keys, W. F. Keith, J. W. M. Breageale, M. P. Jarnagin, J. B.
Cooke and D. W. Ballew. Bradford was a brother-in-law and partner of Spencer Jarnagin,
and a lawyer of moderate ability. Keyes began practice at Athena about 1830. He
was an excellent office lawyer, but never attained very high rank as an advocate. For about
five years he was president of the Hiwassee Railroad Company. Keith was a fine speaker
and a good advocate, but died before reaching maturity. Ballew was a native of McMinn
County, and served one term in the State Senate. A short time before the war he
removed to Middle Tennessee. Cooke is also a native of the county, and was engaged
in practice at Athens from about 1845 until the war. He is now one of the leading
members of the Chattanooga bar. M. P. Jarnagin is a nephew of Spencer Jarnagin. He
remained at Athens until the close of the war, and is now a resident of Mossy Creek.
Among the other attorneys who practiced at Athens for a time before the war were A.
Caldwell, William B. Briant, Willie Lowry, W. P. B. McDermott, William G. Blackwell,
J. S. Matthews and Frank S. Hale. The present members of the bar, named in the order
of seniority, are Col. A. Blizard, W. L. Harbison, T. M. Burkett, W. S. Gaston, W. D.
Henderson, C. B. Davis, Virgil Turner and J. W. A. Sanford.
The first town in the county was laid out by Maj. John Walker, and named in
honor of John C. Calhoun. Walker was part Cherokee, and had been allowed a large
reservation on the north bank of the Hiwassee, and upon this reservation he established
the town, Among the first settlers of the town were James and A. R. Turk. E. P. Owen,
John Cowan, George Colville, Young Colville, Benjamin Hambright and Eli Sharp. A
Presbyterian Church was erected in 1823~ and in the yard adjoining this church lies the
body of Gov. Joseph McMinn, who at the time of his death was in charge of the Cherokee
agency on the opposite side of the river. Previous to the removal of the Indians the
town attained considerable importance as a trading point, and it is still a thriving village.
The present businessmen are Graves & McKamy, I. B. Bond, J. B. Porter, J. F. Green,
A. A. Farrington and W. T. Bays. A Masonic institute has for many years furnished
the town with good educational facilities.
In 1823 the seat of justice was permanently located upon land donated for
purpose by William Lowry. Cedar Springs two miles to the south was first considered,
but Martin Cassidy, who owned the land, refused to donate a site for the town. The
commissioners appointed to layoff the town and sell the lots were Isaac Rice, A. C.
Robeson, Samuel McConnell, John Walker, Thomas Armstrong, George Colville, William
B. Cooke, John B. Flanagin and Elijah Burst. At the next session of the Legislature an
act was passed establishing the town, and Appointing Benjamin C. Stout, .John
K. Farmer, James W. McCartney, James McKamy, A. Matthews, I. W. Fyffe and R. J,
Meigs, commissioners for its government.
The first stores in the town were opened by James and Isaac Fyffe and Matthew
and William Smith. Among others who soon followed were 0. G. Murrell, John Crawford,
Alexander and David Cleage, Solomon Bogard, McKelden and Brobson, Lane and
Jackson, W. W. Anderson, Francis Boyd and George Morgan. Joel K.Brown had a
tailor shop; Peter Kinder was a hatter; Dempsey Casey, a saddler; George Sehorn, & silver.
smith; James Gettys and Squire Johnson, tanners, and Julius Blackwell, a copper-smith.
The first doctors were Benjamin C. Stout, John K. Farmer, Samuel B. Jordan
Horace Hickox. In 1835 a branch of the Planter's Bank was opened in Athens, and
in 1838 a branch of the State Bank was established there, of the latter institution V. M.
Campbell was the first cashier. His successors were Thomas J. Campbell, Col. A.
Blizard, W. C. Witt and Thomas A. Cleage. Both banks continued until the beginning of
the war and did a large business. During the fifties Athens was at the height of its
prosperity. Among the business men of that period were A. McKelden, John McGaughey,
S. K. Reeder, George W. Ross, McEwin & Gillespie, George Borne, William Burns,
King & Crutchfield, Grubb & Engledow, Moss & Jackson, William H. Ballew, J.
M. Henderson, Robeson, Sartain & Co., Sehorn & Hornsby, W. C. Witt & Co., and
A. Cleage & Co. About 1852 a foundry was established by C. Zimmerman.
The first newspaper published in Athens was the Valley Freeman, established
1824 by John B. Hood, it continued for about ten years, and was succeeded by the
Tennessee Journal, which was published by J. W. M. Brazeale, the author of " Life as it
is." The Hiawassee Patriot, a Whig sheet, was the next paper established. Its publication
was begun about 1837 by A. W. Elder: it continued but a short time. The Athens Courier,
a bitter Democratic paper, was founded at nearly the same time by Frazier & Gibbs. Rev.
Robert Frazier was the editor until about 1841. From then until its suspension in 1853
it changed owners several times, the last proprietor being J. R. McNelly. In 1848 S. P.
Ivins founded the Athens Post, which he has since continued with the exception of the
period from September, 1863, to December, 1867. From the first it bas ranked as one of
the best country papers in the State, and before the war it reached a circulation of 1,400.
It exerted a considerable influence in securing the construction of the East Tennessee &
Georgia, and until 1861 was an advocate of the principles of the Whig party. It then
gave its support to the Southern Confederacy, and since its re-establishment has been Democratic in politics. The other papers of the present time are the Athenian, established
in 1882 by Frank K. Houghton, and now edited and published by W. F. McCarron and the
McMinn Citizen, established in 1886, and published by J. N. Hood. The former is
Republican and the latter Democratic in politics.
The first church in Athens was a log house built by the Baptists on the lot
by the cemetery. It was erected soon after the town was laid out. 4.t about the
same time the Methodists built a house on the site of the present Methodist
Episcopal Church. The Presbyterians established a camp-ground just south of town,
and about 18--, erected a brick house near the Baptist Church. The Cumberland Presbyterians
had a camp-ground near the old Forest Hill Academy, in which they occasionally held services.
Among the earliest ministers were Daniel Buckner, of the Baptist
Church; David Ware, Fielding Pope, Robert McCoppin and William and Elijah Eagleton.
Presbyterians, and Robert and John Tate, Samuel Aston and C. C. Porter, Cumberland
Presbyterian. About 1837 the Presbyterians erected the church known as Mars Hill,
which is still occupied by them, but has been repaired and remodeled two or three times.
About 1841 the Cumberland Presbyterians began the erection of a church which was
never entirely completed. At nearly the same time the Methodist Church South erected
the house which was recently torn down and rebuilt. The Methodist Episcopal Church,
which was organized at the close of the war, worshiped in the college chapel until 1884,
when the present brick house was completed. In 1867 the Episcopalians erected a church
which is now unoccupied. The first school in the town was taught in a house standing
on a lot adjoining the cemetery. The first teacher was probably John G. Lockins, a
In 1826 the following trustees were appointed for a county academy, known as
Hill Academy, which was soon after established about one mile northeast of town:
Charles F. Keith, I. Holt, A. P. Fore, Tidence Lane, Nathaniel Smith, Horace Hickox, R.
J. Meigs, Jesse Mayfield, Thomas J. Campbell, John H. Porter, James McKamy, John
Miller, Isaac W. Fyffe and Elijah Hurst. About 1832 Rev. Charles P. Samuels became
principal of this school, and continued in that position for many years. He was a most
excellent teacher, and several men who have since attained prominence received their
early education under him. About 1853 the old building was abandoned, and a new one
erected in the town. The first teacher in the new building was A. C. Carnes. This school
was continued as the county academy until the war, and since that time the house has
been occupied by both private and public schools. Some time in the twenties a female
academy was erected on the same site, and a school conducted there unti11852, when the
house was burned. Soon after a large three-story brick building was erected by McMinn
Lodge, No.54, I. 0. 0. F., for a female college, but, having become involved in debt, the
institution was transferred to the Methodist Episcopal Church South, under whose auspices
it was conducted until the close of the war. In 1867 the Methodist Episcopal Church
obtained possession of the property, and the institution was chartered as the East Tennessee
Wesleyan College. By a subsequent act it was given university privileges, and in
1885 the name was changed to the Grant Memorial University. It was one of the most
popular schools in the State, and now has an attendance of about 300. The first president
was P. C. Wilson, but since 1875 it has been under the management of Rev. Dr. John
Athens, at the present time, has a population of about 1,500, and is one of
prosperous towns in East Tennessee. Its manufacturing interests consist of a woolen-
mil1, operating. sixty-four looms, owned by an incorporated company, of which W.
M. Nixon is president; a furniture factory, owned by George Bros., employing eight
or ten hands; a foundry, operated by J. H. Smith &Son, employing about eight men, and
a flouring-mill, with a capacity of about twenty-five barrels per day. The mercantile
business is represented by the following individuals and firms: Robeson & Co.,
McKelden & Nixon, J. H. Hornsby; and F. Brigham, dry goods and groceries; G. F. Carter &
Co., M. H. Patterson, E. Daniels, drugs; J. L. Crow, A. Wickersham, C. F. Gibson, Will
Brooks and A. L. Moore & Co., groceries; T. F. Gibson, hardware; J. a. Sehorn,
jewelry, and the Misses Fisher, millinery. In 1872 the Franklin Association Bank was
organized with J. W. Lillard president, and M.A. Helm cashier. It subsequently became
the Bank of Athens, which in May, 1885, was succeeded by the First National Bank, with
a capital stock of $50,000; of this institution J. M. Henderson is president, and R. J .
Fisher cashier. It is one of the designated state depositories, and no bank in Tennessee
has a better standing in business circles.
Riceville and Mouse Creek are both thriving villages and stations on the East
Virginia & Georgia Railroad. The former is situated about midway between
Athens and Calhoun. It was established upon land owned by Charles W. Rice, soon after
the completion of the railroad to that point, The business men of the present are W. M.
Long, Gibbins & Emmerson, John W. Matlock, C. V. Orton &Co., C. C. Parkinson, I. W.
Carlock and Vickers & Son. About 1877 a large woolen-mill was erected three miles south
of the town by Gettys Bros., and a little village known as Sanford has sprung up around
it. The mill is now operated by the Knoxville Woolen-Mill Company.
The first house built on the site of Mouse Creek was erected by J. H. Gill in
he also opened the first store. The other merchants previous to the war were Stephens
& Browder, J. N. Dalzell, A. Forrest and E. Cate. John F. Sherman, L. R. Hurst, J. L.
Burst, H. L. Shultz, Greenbury Cate and James Wilson were also early settlers in the
vicinity. Upon the completion of the railroad a large depot building was erected by the
citizens, and an eating house was opened by J. H. Magill. About 1857 Mouse Creek:
Male and Female Academy was established, and soon after a similar institute known as
Fountain Hill Academy was opened within half a mile of the first. A great rivalry
sprung up between them, and the attendance at each became large. About 1860 Fountain
Bill succeeded in obtaining the postoffice, and retained it until the close of the war
During the war the first named academy was burned, and a short time after Fountain
Hill was also destroyed. The former has since been rebuilt with a Masonic Hall above it.
The business of Mouse Creek now consists of three stores conducted by Blair, John & Co.,
W. C. Blair, and Thompson & Varnell, respectively, and a tannery opened by S. P. Blair.
History of Goodspeed Publishing Company:
The Goodspeed Publishing Company of Nashville and Chicago issued A History
of Tennessee from the Earliest Times to the Present, together with an Historical
and a Biographical Sketch of … [County names go here] . . during 1886 and
1887. Unfortunately, the project was not completed and therefore not all
Tennessee counties are represented in this series. A total of eighty-two
counties were recorded, however, the histories of Davidson County and twelve
rural counties of the Cumberland Plateau were never published.
Goodspeed published their work in three parts. First was the general History of Tennessee, Illustrated; second, the histories of the individual counties; and lastly, some biographies of folk from the individual counties.