The Cumberland Plateau is deeply dissected. In places, the plateau rises to about 1,000 feet above the valleys that give the area a lot of character. Our last stop was in the Sequatchie Valley, a deep valley within the plateau. This valley is over 150 miles long, it’s almost straight, and it’s drained by the 116 mile long Sequatchie River. The river empties into the Tennessee River downstream from Chattanooga near the Tennessee-Alabama State Line. US Hwy. 127 follows the valley from north to south.
The Sequatchie Valley was part of Cherokee lands until 1805 when the Cherokee ceded it to the U.S. as part of the Treaty of Tellico. The valley was probably named after a Cherokee chief…but the name may also have meant “beautiful valley” in the Cherokee language.
Back in the early days, the rough and challenging terrain led to the development of isolated settlements and towns with economies based on subsistence agriculture. Our last stop was in one of those early towns, Pikeville Tennessee, the County Seat for Bledsoe County.
This is the Bledsoe County Courthouse in Pikeville. Despite the fact that it looks fairly modern, this classic revival structure was actually completed in 1909. Bledsoe County was formed in 1807 from land carved from Indian Land and part of Roane County. It was named for a soldier in the Revolutionary War who was an early settler in the area.
Due to its central location in the county, Pikeville was designated as the County Seat. By 1833, the town had 5 stores, 2 blacksmiths, 4 shoemakers, a cabinet maker, 3 tailors, a saddle maker, a wagon maker and 2 cotton gins. In 1834, Pikeville was the only stagecoach stop between Knoxville Tennessee and Huntsville Alabama.
Like many East Tennessee counties, Bledsoe County opposed secession on the eve of the Civil War. Residents voted against secession by a margin of 500 to 197. General James G. Spears, a resident of Bledsoe County, fought with the Union Army during the war.
This is the ‘Dr. James A. Ross House and Medical Office’. It’s located at 102 Frazer Street in Pikesville. This home, built in 1872, was designed in the ‘Folk Victorian style’, which is a combination of Queen Anne and Italianate styles. Dr. Ross was a physician who served the Confederate States Army during the Civil War. Two years after the war, he became a real estate investor and continued to serve as a physician for 43 years. He was also prominent in local politics.
Bledsoe County acquired Dr. Ross’s home in 1997 and the Bledsoe County Historical Society renovated the home creating a community museum. The sign out front states that it’s the Museum of Bledsoe County History…but I couldn’t find anything on-line about it.
Perhaps it was an effort to confuse visitors looking for historic homes but all of the homes in Pikesville’s South Main Street Historic District have been renumbered. The addresses listed in the National Register have been replaced by a completely new set of street numbers. Consequently, it was difficult to identify the historic homes.
The historic districts lines both sides of South Main Street for about a third of a mile. It’s made up of 25 primary properties and their outbuildings, most of which were constructed between ca. 1885 and 1935. Architectural styles include Queen Anne, Colonial Revival, Classical Revival, Tudor Revival and Bungalow.
The handsome home shown above is located at (New street number) 2895 South Main Street. It was built in 1920, sits on an acre of land and it has 13 rooms. It’s now being operated as the White Wagon Bed and Breakfast. Website: .
This interesting looking Queen Anne home is located at 304 South Main Street. (Old street number) In the National Register it’s listed as the ‘W.A. Brown House’. I particularly like the gable front, the wrap around porch with the columns and that balcony above the porch on the second floor.
Using the ‘new’ street number, I found out a bit about this big single family home on realtor.com and Zillow.com. I love that expanded porch with the big portico at the right. The 1906 ‘Vaughn house’, which looks like a Queen Anne/Victorian mix to me, sits on an acre of land, has 3,000+ sq. ft. and 3 baths. It has hardwood floor throughout…
This unusually shaped church is appropriately located at 7 Methodist Avenue in Pikeville. I believe that its old address was 221 South Main Street…right where Methodist Avenue intersects with South Main Street. This Classical Revival structure was dedicated in 1920. It’s the home of the Pikeville United Methodist Church. With those impressive columns and the arch head windows on the second floor, it is an engaging structure.
I’m fairly sure that this big home at what I believe was numbered as 200 South Main Street is the ‘A.B. Crandall House’. It’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places as a Tudor Revival home with a stone fence and an iron gate. It was built ca. 1930.
This beautiful Classic Revival home at what was 316 South Main Street is definitely referred to as the ‘T.A. Pope House’. This 2-story mansion and its brick and cast iron was built ca. 1906. I actually found a photo of this home that verified its identity.
This big white home is located at 2787 South Main Street (new house number). It was built in 1892 and it’s known as the ‘Eliza Ault House’. This home features 10 – 12 foot ceilings, 4 bedrooms and 3 baths in 3,340 sq. ft. The home sits on two-thirds of an acre and there is an original log cabin plus a storage shed at the rear of the house.
This large all brick Federal style home at 106 East Spring Street was built ca. 1815 for John Bridgman and his family. Bridgman was a co-founder of Pikeville and he served as a member of Tennessee’s House of Representatives. The home’s exterior and interior walls are 12” thick.
Bridgman was instrumental in the establishment of a sound commercial and educational base in Bledsoe County. He helped establish the first school of any significance in the county. He also was merchant, the Commissioner of the Town of Pikeville and a member of the county court. He was a significant land owner and he also owned many slaves. Between 1818 and 1847 Bridgman bought and sold over 17,000 acres in the county.
The wife of former Union General James G. Spears purchased this house in 1869 after the death of her husband. Note: General Spears had a rather ‘checkered’ career in the Union Army. For the details, just go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/James_G._Spears.
After a number of owners over the years, the Bridgman/Spears House was purchased by the First National Bank of Pikeville. It may currently be operating as a museum but I can’t verify that as fact…
This intriguing but somewhat foreboding structure is the former Bledsoe County Jail. Originally, this was a brick building with a stone foundation that was completed in 1851. It had a capacity of 5 prisoners plus the Sheriff’s family lived in the front section on both floors. In 1937 the building was expanded and the new stone exterior was added. Prisoner capacity increased to 9! When the jail was added to the National Register of Historic Places in November of 2008, it was still operating as a jail. At that time it was the oldest continually operating jail in Tennessee. The building now serves as the Bledsoe County Veterans Office...
How about a side story? Most of us have heard of the Hatfield and McCoy feud. Well, Bledsoe County was the home of the Swafford and Tollett feud! From the 1890s until the 1930s, members of both families were often ‘visitors’ in the Pikeville Court and Bledsoe County Jail. A long-standing family feud escalated on Presidential election-day in 1892. Gunfire resulted in the death of one of Aaron Swafford’s sons as well as several wounded on both sides. No one was convicted of the murder. Two Swafford brothers avenged their brother by killing Bill Tollett in 1905. Battles with the Tolletts continued mostly in courts into the 1920s.
Outside of family disputes, members of the Swafford family battled with the law. First they killed a Deputy Sheriff, then they killed a witness named Lee Price who testified against them. Two years later, another Swafford was shot by the brothers of Lee Price.
Throughout the 1920s, Major Swafford, aka. “King Bee”, was arrested several times for the production of moonshine. To make the situation even weirder, 5 different Swaffords served as Bledsoe County Sheriff’s during the late 1800s and well into the 1900s. (Talk about a conflict of interest!) As a final note on the Swaffords, Thomas Swafford, who served as the Sheriff in the early 1930s, was brutally murdered in October 1932. The murder was never solved…
There sure was a lot of action in this lightly populated county... During this period of time, the county had between 6,000 and 7,500 residents.
For a bit more on this bloody Bledsoe County/Cumberland Plateau history, go to
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by for a visit…and a bit of history too!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave