County History

Unicoi County, Tennessee

TNGenWeb Project

Updated October 03, 2015




Goodspeed's History of Unicoi County 1897


UNICOI COUNTY lies almost wholly in the Unaka Mountain belt, on the border North Carolina, immediately south of Washington County. It has an area of about 480 square miles, of which only a comparatively small proportion is adapted to cultivation. Greasy Cove and Lime Stone Cove, however, are among the most beautiful an fertile spots in the State.


Its mineral and timber resources are exceedingly abundant. The iron ores embrace both the red and brown hematites and the speculum. Manganese is also found in large quantities. These resources when developed will render Unicoi one of the wealthiest counties of East Tennessee. The principal streams in the county are the Nolichucky River which traverses it in a northerly direction, and the two tributaries of this stream the North Indian and South Indian Creeks.


The first settlers of this county located in Greasy Cove not long after the first settlement was made on the Nolichucky. The first to enter the cove were James Acton, Jonathan Webb, Robert Hampton, George Martin, Richard Deakins and -- Judd, and a little later came Baxter Davis, Enoch Job(e), Jesse Brown, Pheleg and William Tilson. William Lewis located on the upper part of Indian Creek, where in a short time his wife and seven children were killed by the Indians. One of his sons escaped, and a daughter taken prisoner was afterward ransomed for a gun. Among the earliest settlers in Lime Stone Cove were Richard C. Garland, whose six sons, David, Gertredge [Guthridge], Elisha, William, Stephen and Ezekiel, all located in the vicinity.  Edward Banks, Richard Colyer, John Chambers a Henry Grindstaff also settled in this cove.  About 1785 a Baptist Church was organized and at the formation of the Holston Association.  It was represented by Richard Deakins and James Anton who, with Robert Hampton and their families, constituted the church.  After 1791 the name of the church disappears from the minutes of the association and it was doubtless disbanded.


The next Baptist Church established was the Indian Creek by Jonathan Mulkey, Uriah Hunt and Reese Bayless, June 29, 1822, near the present site of Erwin. The original members were John Edwards, William S. Erwin, John Rose, Thomas Edwards, Joseph Longmire, Nancy McGinsey, Polly Rose, Elizabeth Brown, Hannah Longmire, Jemima and Diana Job, Elizabeth, Mary and Lucy Edwards, Rachel and Ella Tilson, Hannah Black. B. Odom, Elizabeth Webb,  Ginsey Brown, Jesse Brown, Abel Edwards, William Odom, James and Elizabeth Williams, Peleg Tilson, Margaret Carroll, Rachel Ambrose, Barbara Wright, Hugh Harris, Jesse Bayless, Rebecca Deakin, William McGinsey, John Peterson. Abraham and Mary Adle, Stephen and Nancy McLaughlin, Enoch Job and Jacob McLaughlin. The pastors of this church have been as follows: Reese Bayless, 1822-53; J. B. Stone, 1853-54 also 1859-60, and 1865; William A. Keen, 1856; J. W. Hooper, 1857-59; J. H. Hyder, 1867-72; H. W. Gilbert, 1874; J. H. Moon, 1874430, and since 1883; A. J. F. Hyder, 1880- 83. In 1842 a church was constituted at Flag Pond, with John, James, Elizabeth and Riley Keith, Washington, Ellis, James, Ruth and Barbara Higgins, John and Jennette Tilson, John Stroud, Jacob C. Sanes, Henry Hensley, Alfred Murray, Leodica Carter, Nancy O. Murray, Biddy Stroud and Eleanor Justice. Later Shallow Ford Church was constituted with Nancy Parks, James Brown, Elizabeth Brown, William and Rebecca Ferguson, Samuel May, William S. Erwin, Katharine Erwin, Nancy Lawrence, Emeline Gillis and James and Nancy Tinker.


The other Baptist Churches in the county at the present time are Coffee Ridge and Paul's Gap.  There is also a General Baptist, and a Christian congregation in the county.


The first Methodist Church was organized near the center of Limestone Cove, where a small log house was erected, some seventy-five years ago. As a result of this church, a large part of the inhabitants of the northern part of the country are adherents of the Methodist Church. The churches in the county at the present time are Ervin, Jones Chapel Limestone Cove, Patton's Chapel and Anderson's Schoolhouse, at nearly all of which places services are held by both branches of the church. The act establishing Unicoi County. was approved March 23, 1875. The commissioners appointed to organize it were Thomas J. Wright, David Bell, R. N. Norris, J. V. Johnson, C. R. Blair, William Mclnturff. J. B. Sams, W. E. Tilson and F. E. Hannum. An election to vote upon the organization of the new county, was fixed for July 22, 1875, but a bill of injunction filed by William Phillips and others delayed it until October 21, 1875. The election was then held with the following result: Carter, fraction 119 votes for and twenty-three against, and the Washington fraction 228 for and forty against. John Wolf, Jesse B. Erwin, Joseph Tucker, E. Burchfield and David Bell, were then appointed to lay off the county into ten civil districts, and in November the election for county officers was held with the following results: L. A. White, circuit clerk; J. B. Erwin. county clerk; John Mclnturff, sheriff; Nelson McLaughlin, trustee, and Samuel Wright, register.


On January 3,1876, the county court was organized at the Old Baptist Church, on North Indian Creek. The magistrates who were present and qualified were Henry McKinneys, D. T. O'Brien, M. C. Burchfield, Alexander McInturff, James M. Norris, R. L. Rowe, J. M. Anderson, G Garland, William Mclnturff, Baptist McNabb, J. S. Yader, William Parks, Alexander Masters, B. B. Hensley, G. F. Tompkins, Isaac W. Gilbert, B. W. Woodward and A. E. Briggs. The court continued to meet at the church until after the erection of the present brick courthouse, in the summer of 1876. This building has since been occupied, but is not fully completed at the present time. In April, 1878, a contract for building a frame jail was let to John K. Miller, but he failed to complete it. It has since been finished. however, sufficiently to make it a safe place for the keeping of prisoners.


The commissioners who organized the county seat, located at the place long known as Longmire post office. The land in the vicinity was entered by Joseph Longmire, who divided his estate between his sons, John and Charles; the latter was a merchant and postmaster for many years. The town was laid off in 1876 upon thirty acres of belonging to D. I. N. Ervin, who donated one-half of the lots to the county, and reserved the remainder for his own use. A donation of five acres by William Love, and two acres by G. Garland, was also made to the county. The name of the town was at first Vanderbilt, but the Legislature of 1879 changed it to Ervin, in honor of D. J. N. Ervin. The post office department, however, made a mistake in changing the name, and it has since been called Erwin. The first merchants of the town were J. P. S. and William Ryburn, who were selling goods when the town was laid off; C. T. Bowers & B. K. Campbell, C. H. Baker, John K. Miller and J. P. McNabb. The business interests are now represented by J. F. Toney, & Co., W. C. Emmert, L. W. White, W. F. Brown, C. L. Phillips, general stores, and L. D. Scott, grocery; the physicians are H. C. Banner and J. P.S. Ryburn, and the attorneys, W. C. Emmert and R. W. H. Gilbert. In April, 1887.  The Erwin Unakean was established by R. R. Emmert and W. B. Clark.  It is a very small three-column folio, but is an enterprising and readable newspaper.


The only other village in the county is Flag Pond situated in the southern part of the county.  It has a flourishing school known as Flag Pond Academy and three stores owned by J. B. Sams & Co., W. F. Guinn and L. Gentry respectively.


The officers of the county since its organization as follows:

  • Clerks- County Court:  J. B. Erwin, 1875-78;  H. C. Banner, 1886.

  • Clerks -Circuit Court:  L. A. White, 1875-78;  J. F. Toney, 1872-82;  L. A. White, 1882-86;  R.R. Emmert, 1886.

  • Clerks and Masters:  G. C. Bowman, 1878-82; John K. Miller, 1882-85; W. B. Tilson, 1885.

  • Sheriffs:  John McInturff, 1875-78;  J. P. McNabb, 1878-80;  William Mclnturff, 1880-86;  L. R. Love, 1886.

  • Trustees:  N. McLaughlin, 1875-76;  W. W. Bailey, 1876-50;  M. F. Booth, 1880-86;  S. J. Watts, 1886.


Unicoi County:  by Hilda Britt Padgett and Betty Washburn Stevens, Erwin

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