Wednesday, September 10, 2014

History Along the Way…

During our exploratory drive up into northeastern Tennessee this past August, we did come across a number of interesting and/or historical buildings…

Anyone who follows my blog has probably become aware that I like to photograph and research railroad related buildings, structures and rolling stock.  This is the former Southern Railroad Depot in Newport Tennessee.  It isn’t listed in the National Register of Historic Places and I couldn’t find any information about when it was built.  Norfolk Southern Railroad currently owns and uses this building as a maintenance office.
To view a video of a former Southern Railroad Steam Locomotive pulling a special train through Newport and past the depot, just click on the following link:  The first railroad to come to Newport was the Cincinnati, Cumberland Gap and Charleston Railroad back in 1867.  The Western Carolina Railroad came to town in 1882.

Newport today is a town with a population of just under 7,000.  It is located west of the Smoky Mountains just to the north of I-40.  US Highway 321 runs right through the middle of town.

This is the Valentine Sevier House in Greeneville Tennessee. It’s located just down the street from the Andrew Johnson homestead and National Historic Site.  This is the oldest home in Greeneville, having been built in 1795.  Today’s home is built around the original log structure.  
Valentine Sevier II (1747–1800) was a pioneer settler on the Tennessee frontier and a younger brother of John Sevier, the state's first governor.  During the American Revolutionary War, Sevier fought against the British Regular and Loyalist forces.  Sevier also fought in many actions against Native Americans across part of eastern Tennessee). During the Chickamauga Wars, Sevier was promoted to the rank of colonel.  Sevier's three sons were killed by a raiding party under the Chickamauga Indian leader, ‘Doublehead’.  In a subsequent fray, one of Valentine Sevier’s daughters was scalped but survived.

Greeneville is the county seat of Greene County, Tennessee.  The population as of the 2010 census was 15,062.  The town was named in honor of Revolutionary War hero Nathanael Greene. (One of Laurie's ancestors) Permanent European settlement of Greene County began in 1772.  In 1785, Greeneville was named as the capital of the short-lived State of Franklin and Valentine’s brother, John, was named as its first governor.  The state of Franklin was dissolved and members of its government swore allegiance to the State of Tennessee in 1789. 
Another attempt at statehood occurred on the eve of the Civil War.  Thirty counties of the pro-Union East Tennessee Convention met in Greeneville to discuss strategy after state voters had elected to join the Confederate States of America.  The convention sought to create a separate state in East Tennessee that would remain with the United States.  The state government in Nashville rejected the convention's request, however, and Greeneville was occupied by Confederate forces for most of the rest of the war. 

This is the historic downtown district of Rogersville Tennessee.  It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.  In addition to the downtown area, there are many beautiful well maintained old homes up and down Main Street.  The current population of Rogersville is about 5,300 with another 6,200 people living within 4 miles of the town. 

Rogersville is the county seat of Hawkins County Tennessee. It was settled in 1775 by the grandparents of Davy Crockett, and it is the second-oldest town in the state. It is named for its founder, Joseph Rogers. John Rogers’ Tavern became the first county courthouse and he was also the first postmaster. Tennessee's second oldest courthouse, the Hawkins County Courthouse, its first newspaper - The Knoxville Gazette, and the state’s first post office are all located in Rogersville.  The first post office was actually built in 1792 and the current building was built ca. 1815.  The Rogersville Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  

This is the former Southern Railroad Depot at 415 Depot Street in Rogersville.  It was built ca. 1890.  The first railroad to come into this area was the East Tennessee and Virginia back in 1858.

The restored depot now serves as the Tennessee Newspaper and Printing Museum.  Back in 1791, George Roulston and Robert Ferguson printed the Knoxville Gazette, the first newspaper in the Territory South of the Ohio River, right here in Rogersville. Visitors can tour the award-winning recreation of a 19th century print shop and view originals or copies of over two dozen papers printed in Rogersville. The Newspaper and Printing Museum pays tribute to the area's long history of involvement in the printing industry.  The Depot also houses the office of the Rogersville Heritage Association.  Unfortunately, the museum was closed due to illness on the day we stopped by.

To view a video regarding this museum, just click on this link:

This very attractive building is the Hale Springs Inn in Rogersville Tennessee.  It was established in 1824.  The Inn features 9 well-appointed and updated guest rooms and suites, all with private baths.  The Hale Springs Inn has no less than 3 Presidential Suites, all named after Presidents who have been guests at the Inn.  The 3 Presidents were Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, and James Polk.  The Hale Springs Inn is located at 110 West Main Street.  Phone: 1-877-222-1616.  Website:

Laurie and I have no information about this old home just a block or two off Main Street in Rogersville.  We thought that it was pretty interesting.  As you can see, sometime in the distant past, wood siding was applied over the original mud chinked logs of the original structure.  The solid rock base for the house is also evident.  We couldn’t tell if this building was set for demolition or if it was going to be conserved…

This is St. Mark’s Presbyterian Church in Rogersville.  Its African-American congregation was first established in about 1875 and this church was built in 1912.  It is a wood-frame building on a brick foundation with decorative patterned wood shingles, a characteristic of Shingle Style architecture...very unusual in Tennessee.  Stained-glass windows are a prominent feature of the sanctuary.  There are two front entrances to the building; the western door was originally for women and the eastern door was for men.  Early on, men and women sat separately during services. With dwindling membership, the St. Marks congregation stopped holding regular worship services in 2000 and the congregation was ‘dissolved’ in 2002.  The building currently appears to be in disuse...and distress.
The founding minister of St. Mark’s was, William Franklin, the son of slave parents.  He was an early black graduate from Maryville College in Maryville Tennessee.  When the State of Tennessee passed legislation in 1901 banning African Americans from attending Maryville College, Franklin founded Swift Memorial College, which was adjacent to his church.  It’s an interesting story… Check it out at

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a tour of some historical structures in upper East Tennessee.

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


  1. I particularly like the architecture of the Valentine Sevier House. It has a colonial feel for a southern home. I have my fingers crossed someone is renovating the one in need in Rogersville. Back in the day we would have loved to have gotten our hands on that kind of home and brought it back to its hay day..

  2. You guys had a busy day and I enjoyed your post. I believe I've only driven through Greeneville once, but Rogersville several times when we went home in the pre I-81 days. Many hears ago, we took a steam excursion from Knoxville to Biltmore, NC and it went through Newport - maybe that same engine.

  3. Rogersville has a great Main St! Not many of them like that left. The old depots are awesome and have a lot of stories to tell. Wish there was a pic of the old house back when it was built. That's interesting about the church doors, like the Amish. Thanks for another touch of history!

  4. What great history, David. I always enjoy your informative posts... Even though I grew up in Southwest VA (Big Stone Gap), I'm not sure I have ever been in Rogersville, other than to pass through... Strange that you cannot find info on that old home... Looks like someone is trying to preserve it somehow....

    I love old train stations also---and recently visited the one in Bristol... Have you all ever checked out Bristol??? Neat little city divided by two states. You'd enjoy a trip there sometime if you haven't done it.