Monday, June 24, 2013

Cruising the Back Roads of East Tennessee (#2)

Continuing with our Saturday drive that took us to Rugby Tennessee, we moved west along Tennessee Rte. 52 past Allardt to the city of Jamestown.  Jamestown is the county seat for Fentress County Tennessee. 

(For my blog which includes historical structures in Allardt, just go to

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places, this is the old Fentress county jail.  It is well over 100 years old and it was built from native sandstone.  Currently the building houses the Fentress County Chamber of Commerce as well as Ye Olde Jail Museum.  In addition, it’s the headquarters for the US 127 Corridor Sale, aka. The World’s Longest Yard Sale.  The ‘yard sale’, which is held each August, was started here in Jamestown back in 1987.
Jamestown was founded in 1823 and its population is approximately 2,000.  The whole county only has a population of roughly 18,000.  There is a well-marked spring in town that used to be the primary water source for John M. Clemens, father of Samuel Clemens, who is better known as Mark Twain.  John Clemens was the first circuit court clerk for Fentress County and he drew up the plans for the first courthouse and the original jail. 

This is another view of the old jail.  We wanted to share the image of the barred window on the second floor.  I’ll bet that this wasn’t the best place to serve time in jail! 
Fentress County was also the home to Sgt. Alvin C. York, a WWI hero who was born, lived and died in the county.  He was a Medal of Honor recipient after some amazing heroics during the war.  For more on Sgt. York, you can go to For additional information on Fentress County as well as for some related genealogy data, there are a lot of sources on this site:

If you thought that the old Fentress County jail was foreboding, how about spending some time in this scary looking structure!  This is the old jail in Huntsville Tennessee, the county seat for Scott County.  It was built from native sandstone ca. 1904 and was finally ‘retired’ from service in the summer of 2008!  The walls are 2 feet thick.  This building is also listed in the National Register of Historic Places. 
This jail was originally replaced in the 1960’s but the prisoners found the new jail too easy to escape so this building was returned to service to meet the needs of the community.  The building has a colorful history.  Back in 1933, masked vigilantes stormed the jail, dragged 2 accused murderers from their cells, shot them repeatedly and then strung them up for good effect…
As of May of 2011, I could still find information regarding the efforts of Scott County to lease out the building…perhaps as a restaurant or a Bed and Breakfast…

Just a block or two away from the old Scott County jail, there is another old NRHP sandstone structure.  This is the First National Bank of Huntsville. 
Scott County has a population of about 21,000 and Huntsville has about 1,000 residents.  The area that now comprises the county was first settled ca. 1778 and the county itself was created in 1849.  The county was named after General Winfield Scott who served in both the War of 1812 and the Mexican War.  The history of Huntsville itself is interesting…with growth and decline.  To learn more, you can go to:
In June of 1861, Tennessee Senator Andrew Johnson, (later President Johnson), gave a speech in Huntsville against Tennessee’s secession from the Union.  Four days later, the citizens of the county overwhelmingly voted against secession but the state still seceded.  At that point, Scott County elected to formally secede from the state of Tennessee…and declared themselves the ‘State of Scott’, part of the Union…the USA.

This is a close up view of the First National Bank of Huntsville.  This bank was one of the many banks that issued their own banknotes early in the 20th century.  They are now fairly rare and are quite valuable to collectors.  As of ca. 1920, the bank’s net resources totaled $228,180.  It closed in 1932 during the Great Depression.
Former Tennessee Senator Howard Baker Jr. was born in Huntsville.  He served as Senator from 1966 until 1985 and then joined the Regan administration as President Regan’s Chief of Staff.  Interestingly, his first wife was the daughter of Illinois Republican Senator and Senate Minority Leader, Everett Dirksen.  After she died from cancer, Baker married former Senator Nancy Kassenbaum, the daughter of Alfred M. Landon, former Kansas Governor and Republican Presidential Candidate. 
One of the myths or stories about Huntsville is about a couple of strangers who came to town 2 years after the Civil War.  They stayed for a few months, and even ran a business.  They always dealt in hard cash/coins…no paper money.  Then one day, they just rode off, never to be heard from again.  Later it was ‘confirmed’ that 2 of those strangers were Jesse and Frank James…and they’d been using Huntsville as a place to lay low for a while.

This is the Barton Chapel in Robbins Tennessee. (Population – 300)  This Congregational Church was built in 1926 and it’s also listed on the NRHP.  Apparently, it was named after William Eleazar Barton.  He was an important figure in the Congregational Churches of America.  He was born in 1861 and he died in 1930.  Robbins Tennessee was his first church assignment.  When this church/chapel was built he had been gone from the community for many years but he had risen to great heights in the church hierarchy.  To learn more about William, just click on
His son, Bruce Fairchild Barton was born in Robbins.  He became even more well-known than his father.  He was the super salesman of his day.  He had a big ad agency and he has been credited with naming General Motors and General Electric and for creating the Betty Crocker character.  During his lifetime he was even more well-known for writing best-selling guides to personal success.  To learn more, go to
Just click on any of the photographs to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by and sharing our back roads drive and a little bit of history!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 


  1. Nice little trip Dave. Jamestown is one place we have been a few times but mostly to visit the Highland Manor Winery - hope you stopped there.

  2. These old structures are fascinating. I love the crenelated top on that second jail. It's a bit like a small castle. I hope you are having a great week. Blessings...Mary

  3. David I love these old buildings look beautiful, nice trip, send huggs to you and Laurie!