Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Exploring Meigs County Tennessee # 3

This is ‘Chapter 3’ highlighting, or trying to highlight, some of the listings from the National Register of Historic Places that Laurie, Dawn Marie and myself ‘found’ during our mid-March exploration of Meigs County Tennessee.   Once again, I found very little history about two of these structures and I’ve supplemented what I did find with other information regarding the county and/or its former and current residents…

This is the Buchanan House on Vernon Street in Decatur Tennessee.  It was built ca. 1875 and it was listed in the NRHP in 1982.  The Buchanan’s must have been relative ‘late comers’ to the area as I couldn’t find any of them included in the 1860 census for the County. 
Meigs County was formed in 1836.  It was formerly a portion of Rhea County…that portion that was east of the Tennessee River.  As of 2010, Meigs County had a population of 11,753 and Decatur, the County Seat, is the only incorporated town in the county.  Today, with the building of the Watts Bar and the Chickamauga Dams…the county’s border on the west now consists of the Watts Bar and Chickamauga Lakes.  There are no Interstate or US Highways in the county. 
Just to deviate from the historical sites for the moment… I personally liked the appearance of this house in Decatur.  It looked Victorian/Gothic…and in style, it is.  If you’re interested, it’s for sale.  This 1920 home has 1,756 sq. ft. with 3 bedrooms and 1 bath.  The lot is 70 ft. by 231 ft. and it includes a large outbuilding, (studio?), and a big covered area.  FYI…The asking price was only $145,000 and it’s only a couple of blocks from downtown Decatur!  Hey…this could be 'the place' for you to retire!

Back to the historical structures… The stately old Meigs County Courthouse has been completely renovated, the fireplaces reopened and the clocks repaired.  The original portion of this structure was built in 1905 to replace an earlier courthouse which burned down…

Meigs County was named after Colonel Return J. Meigs. (Born in 1740, died in 1823) He was a Revolutionary War hero and he was one of the founding settlers of the Northwest Territory…in what is now Ohio.  Colonel Meigs fought at the Battles of Lexington and Stony Point.  His wartime claim to fame was Meigs Raid…a daring nighttime raid on the British Fleet at Sag Harbor New York.  Meigs and his team of 200 plus soldiers rowed across Long Island Sound in the dark from Connecticut and managed to burn 12 British ships and capture 90 prisoners without any American loss of life.
Colonel Meigs later moved to Tennessee where he operated a ferry across the Tennessee River… He became both a military and Indian agent in the area.  He was allegedly fair and honest with the Cherokee Indians.  Before 1819, Rhea and what was to become Meigs County were part of Cherokee Territory.  The Colonel’s son became Governor of Ohio and served as a US Senator.  Meigs County Ohio is named after him.  The Colonel’s brother was a lawyer who was President of the University of Georgia and later, served as Surveyor General under President James Madison.  A grandson married the daughter of the principal chief of the Cherokee and he ‘emigrated’ to Oklahoma to join his wife’s forced immigration via the “Trail of Tears”.
For more on Colonel Meigs and for links to other distinguished members of the family, go to,_Sr.   Even more interesting is the Meigs Family Genealogy at  It dates back to the 1600’s and includes the ‘Chicago’ member of the Meigs family for which the former Meigs Field Airport on Chicago’s waterfront was named… 

In 2004, a 2-story addition was added to the Meigs County Courthouse, utilizing modern equipment and technology, including the addition of an elevator.  This photo is from the reverse side of Decatur’s Courthouse Square…opposite the original entrance in the previous photo of the courthouse.  The courthouse lost many old records in earlier fires but they do maintain marriage and probate records from 1836.  The bell from the original (pre-1905) courthouse is now being used in Decatur’s Baptist Church…
The Associated Press filed the following report on 9/4/87 regarding a bit of excitement that took place at the Meigs County Courthouse:
200 Riot in Tennessee Courtroom as Slayer Is Freed
A county-wide curfew was in effect and jurors were under guard today after more than 200 people rioted in a courtroom when the jury declared a man not guilty of murder.
The defendant, Jerry Allen, and his family went into hiding for their own protection, the authorities said.  Mr. Allen testified he had lived in fear of the victims for years and had shot them in self-defense.
Mr. Allen, 27 years old, was cleared Wednesday in the slaying of Eddie Lee Anderson, 25, and the wounding of Tim Keaton, 23, and Mike Roberts, 21, on March 27 at a tavern, the Dew Drop Inn.
About 200 people went on the rampage in the Meigs County Courthouse when the verdict was announced. The authorities said most of those involved in the melee were friends or relatives of the dead man. Another 200 people milled about outside the courthouse, the authorities said.
The Highway Patrol and about 100 law-enforcement officers from surrounding counties helped restore order in this town of 1,190 people about 45 miles north of Chattanooga.
Roger Delp, the Meigs County Assistant District Attorney, said today that Mr. Allen had feared the three men since quarrels and at least one fist-fight about six years ago with one of the men.  Mr. Allen testified that he shot them with a shotgun after they threatened to kill him, Mr. Delp said.
The two men who survived the shooting testified that they did not threaten Mr. Allen, although they said one had produced a pistol from inside his shirt and placed it on the bar when Mr. Allen left the tavern briefly, Mr. Delp said.
After the jury announced its verdict, Sheriff McKenzie said the mob overturned benches, hurled chairs and shattered windows as some tried to grab Mr. Allen and break into the jury room.  Mr. Allen was rushed from the courtroom into a nearby office. . . ''He got under a table and started crying and screaming,'' Sheriff McKenzie said. "The crowd was after him.''. . .

This is the former Jacob L. Grubb Store on TN Highway 58 in Meigs County.  It was built in 1925.  Dawn Marie was hoping for a true ‘old time’ store where she could spend a little money but she was disappointed to discover that it was out of business.  The “Discover Tennessee – Trails and Byways” website suggests that the Grubb/Erwin’s Store is a "great place to grab a snack and experience an old time country store as they used to be…” The website has been updated this year but they missed the fact that this ‘store’ is now closed.
That’s about it for now… Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them.
Thanks for stopping by for a bit of East Tennessee history!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. I enjoyed reading about the history of the county. That little house for sale is certainly nice, but one bathroom only would be OK for a bachelor to buy it. You certainly find interesting history in your area.

  2. Dear David, It is wonderful and you find so much interesting history in the area.
    I love the look of the house that is for sale. The asking price sounds terrific. I certainly have seen enough water in this area!! I do think it might need one more bathroom though, but that is the least and can be remedied quite easily.
    Sure is to you and Laurie. Catherine