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Creation of Hawkins County

Hawkins County lies in upper East Tennessee, and extends somewhat in the shape of a parallelogram from the Virginia line to the northern boundaries of Grainger and Hamblen Counties. It is divided into two almost equal parts by the Holston River, which traverses its entire length. It is one of the largest counties in the State having an area of 570 square miles. The surface is much of it broken, but the uplands are more fertile than in many counties. Iron ore is found in some localities, but is not now worked. In marble, Hawkins County surpasses any other county in the South. It is found in all tints from a pale pink to a dark richly variegated chocolate color, and in inexhaustible quantities.

The first permanent settlements within the limits of Hawkins County were made in 1772, very soon after the settlements on the Watauga were begun. They were made in Carter's Valley, a short distance west of New Canton.

Among these pioneers were Mr Kincaid, Mr Love, Mr Long, and Rev Mr Mulkey. At about the same time, Messrs Carter & Parker established a store in the neighborhood. Soon after this store was robbed by a party of Cherokees, and when Henderson & Co's treaty was held with the Indians, the proprietors of the store demanded as compensation all the lands in Carter's Valley extending from Cloud Creek to Chimney Top Mountain of Beech Creek. This was granted upon the payment of a small amount advanced by Robert Lucas who then became a partner of Messrs Parker & Carter. The firm leased their lands to the settlers much after the manner of the Patrons in the early history of New York. This continued for a time but when it became known that the lands lay in North Carolina. instead of Virginia. the settlers refused to recognize the ownership of the firm and the right and title to the territory acquired was denied by the former State. They were afterward included with the members of the Henderson Company to whom a grant of 200,000 acres was given by the goverment of North Carolina as a compensation for the trouble they had been to in obtaining these lands.

The deeds obtained by Henderson & Co from the Cherokees is recorded in the register's office of Hawkins County. It was given by Oconistoto the chief warrior and representative of the Cherokee Nation and Attakullakulla and Savanooka otherwise Coronoh appointed by the warriors and other head men to convey for the whole nation to Richard Henderson. Thomas and Nathaniel Hart, John Williams, John Luttrell, William Johnston, James Hogg, David Hart, and Thomas H Bullock. The compensation for the immense tracts conveyed by these deeds as expressed at 10,000.

The settlement in Hawkins County was confined chiefly to Carter's Valley until about 1780. Several stations or forts were built and it is said that a Presbyterian Church was organized there as early as that date. At about the same time, a fort was built at Big Creek. Not far from this fort about three and one half miles above Rogersville,

Thomas Amis, in 1780 or 1781, erected a stone house around which he built a palisade for protection against the Indians. The next year he opened a store, and erected a blacksmith shop and a distillery. Very soon after he also put into operation a saw and grist mill and from the first he kept a house of entertainment. A Baptist Church was organized and a school established very soon after the settlement was made. The church was probably organized by Thomas Murrell who located on the farm now owned by John A Chesnut on the Holston River some time prior to 1782. Among the school masters who taught in the school at this place were John Long in 1783, William Evans 1784, James King 1786, Robert Johnston and Samuel B Hawkins 1796. Thomas Amis was twice married and was the father of fourteen children. The stone house in which he lived is now occupied by his grandson, Thomas Amis, and is in a remarkably good state of preservation. In 1789 he represented Hawkins County in the Legislature of North Carolina and took an active part in restoring Gen Sevier to the rights of citizenship. He owned two or three large tracts of land one of which included the site of Rogersville he died in 1798. In 1784 Joseph Rodgers, an Irishman, arrived at Amis and for a short time was engaged in keeping store but in 1785 or 1786, probably the latter year he married Mary Amis. Mr Amis then gave to the newly married pair a tract of land upon which in 1787 was established the seat of justice for Hawkins County. There they continued to reside until their death in November 1833. Rachel, another daughter of Thomas Amis married James Hagan, a countryman of Rodgers, with whom he was in partnership in merchandising for a time. He afterward removed to a farm above town. Of other early settlers of the county only a few of the most prominent will be located. Perhaps no Tennessean of his time ranked higher than William Cocke, who settled at what was known as Mullberry Grove about 1780. He was a lawyer by profession and his name appears upon the records of all the older counties of East Tennessee as a practicing attorney, but during the greater portion of his life was engaged in filling some official position. In 1783 he was elected attorney general for Greene County, and the next year was sent to the convention which met at Jonesboro. In 1785 he was made a member of the Council of State of the Franklin Government was chosen brigadier general of militia and was sent as a delegate to the United States Congress. In 1786 he represented Spencer County in the Franklin Assembly. From the fall of the State of Franklin until 1794, he was actively engaged in his profession. In that year he was chosen a member of the Territorial Assembly, and in 1796 was a member of the Constitutional Convention. The first Legislature elected him as one of the members of the United States Senate where he remained for twelve years. In 1810 he was elected judge of the First Judicial Circuit, but after serving one year he was impeached. Stung by the ingratitude of his countrymen whom he had served so long and faithfully, he at once left for Mississippi where he remained until his death. Joseph McMinn located in the extreme upper end of Hawkins County about 1787, and soon took an active interest in the affairs of the county. In 1794 he was elected with William Cocke to represent it in the Territorial Assembly, and two years later was a delegate to the Constitutional Convention. He then served two terms in the Upper House of the General Assembly. In 1815 he was elected governor of the State, a position he continued to hold until 1821. Soon after he was appointed Indian Agent at Calhoun, now in Bradley County, and was filling that position at the time of his death. The above named men were the most illustrious of the first settlers of the county. Among others who had settled prior to 1783, were Mordecai Haygood who lived on the Holston about eight miles above Rogersville, Peter Cocke who lived in the same neighborhood, and Rodham Kenner who located about one mile above Spear's Mill. He was prominently connected with the affairs of the county and was a member of the Legislature one or more terms. Capt Thomas Caldwell lived ten miles above Rogersville on the north side of the river. John Saunders lived on the river opposite Kenner's. William Cox Sr, Charles and William Payne, Obadiah and Elijah Chissom also lived south of the Holston and the last named kept a ferry across that stream. Thomas Lee, Cornelius and John Carmack, and Thomas Gibbons lived in Carter's Walley. William Armstrong settled at Stony Point. Among others who had located in the county prior to 1783 may be mentioned: John Cox, Col John Smith, William McGehee, Peter Harris, James McCarty, Hutson Johnston, John Evans, George Ridley, James Blair, Thomas Brooks, Elisha Walling, William W Brown, Capt Thomas Hutchings, James Short, Abraham Rice, William Ingram, William Lauson, Reese Jones, Capt Thomas English, James Berry, Benjamin Murrell, George and Littleton Brooks, Thomas Henderson, Thomas Caldwell, Robert King, and Martin Shaner. Among those who came in during the next two or three years were Robert Gray, Richard Mitchell, Samuel Wilson, William Bell, John Horton, Robert Stephenson, and John Gordon.

Some time about 1795, one of the most extensive iron works of those days was erected near the present town of Rotherwood by Daniel Ross & Co, and a considerable business was done there for a number of years.

Hawkins County suffered much less from Indian depredations than some other sections of the State. A few instances of massacres and robberies are mentioned by Haywood, but the most of these occurred in what is now Hancock County. The comparative immunity of this section from Indian attacks was due partly to the position of the county, and partly to the vigilance of the settlers who had taken every precaution for the protection of themselves and families. The Indians made several incursions into Carter's Valley, but finding the people in the forts and prepared for them, they retreated without doing serious damage. On one occasion the families that had gathered into the fort at Big Creek became greatly in need of salt and a young man Joab Mitchell volunteered to go out and procure a supply. While upon his return he was attacked by a party of Cherokees and mortally wounded. He succeeded, however. in reaching the fort and his remains were interred in that depression which has since borne the name of Mitchell's Hollow. In December. 1787, William English was killed by the Indians and two of his children carried into captivity. The county court records of 1790 contained the following entry: Whereas it has been represented to the court by Thomas King that Matthew English and Elizabeth English orphan children of William English who was taken and killed by the Indians in December 1787 at which time the aforesaid children were carried into captivity by the Indians supposed to be of the Wyandotte Nation and are yet in captivity, Thomas King therefore represents that the said orphans might be recovered if there was property sufficient for that purpose. Ordered by the court that James Blair and William Patterson do receive from the said Thomas King, or from any other person the property belonging to the estate of the said William English, and the same apply as they shall think best for the redemption of the said orphans, and Thomas King was discharged thereupon of said property.

It is related that a boy on one occasion came suddenly upon a party of Indians not far from one of the forts. He turned and fled with the savages in close pursuit. Before reaching the fort he was compelled to cross a small stream, and just as he reached the bank, the foremost Indian caught him by the back of his loose hunting shirt. But the lad was not a captive. Straightening out his arms behind him he sped on to the fort in safety, leaving his pursuer holding the shirt.

In 1785 the State of Franklin organized Spencer County, including, besides other territory, the present Hawkins County. Thomas Henderson was chosen county court clerk and colonel of militia, and William Cocke and Thomas King representative to the Assembly. The remaining officers are unknown In November 1786, the Legislature of North Carolina passed an act creating Hawkins County. It included within its limits all the territory between Bays Mountain and the Holston and Tennessee Rivers, on the east to the Cumberland Mountains on the west. The county court was organized at the house of Thomas Gibbons but as the early records were all destroyed during the late civil war nothing is known of its transactions. (Source:History of Tennessee, Volume 2, Goodspeed Publishing Company Staff, Southern Historical Press, 1887)

For the county of Hawkins: George Maxwell, John Long, Nathaniel Henderson, William Armstrong, Joseph M' Min, Alexander Nelson, Thomas Jackson, John Gordon, David Larkin, James Berry, Mark Mitchell, Thomas Lea, James Lathim, William M Carty, James Armstrong, Benoni Caldwell, Absalom Looney, John Mitchell, and David Kinkead. Commissioned Justices of the Peace May 6th, 1796 ( Commission Book of Governor John Sevier, Tennessee Historical Commission, Nashville, Tennessee, p. 22)

Received a bill to amend the line between Hawkins and Grainger counties and for other purposes endorsed read the first time amended and passed.

Hawkins county: Mr Joseph M' Minn (Journal of the Senate of the state of Tennessee: begun and held at Knoxville, on Monday, the twenty-eighth of March, one thousand seven hundred and ninety six,Tennessee. General Assembly. Senate, McKennie & Brown, 1852)