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History

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The Twentieth Century

The first newspaper written in Johnson County was the TaylorsvilleReporter. It was established in 1874 by W.J. Keys. Later the paper wasrenamed The Tomahawk.In 1885 the town Taylorsville was renamed Mountain City. This changetook place when Roderick Random Butler who served in the 13th TennesseeCavalry convinced the people of the town to change the name.


The first railroad, built by the Virginia and Southwestern Railroad in 1899, ran from Elizabethton to Butler.


The new namecame not only from its location at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains,but also because it was in one of the highest valleys in Tennessee.The first newspaper written in Johnson County was the TaylorsvilleReporter. It was established in 1874 by W.J. Keys. Later the paper wasrenamed The Tomahawk.In 1885 the town Taylorsville was renamed Mountain City. This changetook place when Roderick Random Butler who served in the 13th TennesseeCavalry convinced the people of the town to change the name. The new namecame not only from its location at the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains,but also because it was in one of the highest valleys in Tennessee.Smith’s Mill was also renamed Butler in honor of Roderick RandomButler.In 1900 the railroad finally came to Johnson County. The ETWNC(Tweetsie) Railroad which served as a shipper from Butler to Hampton hadbeen the closest railroad before this. The V&SW Railroad originally plannedmainly to carry iron ore out of upper East Tennessee became a major meansto transport farm and timber products. Several logging operations came to thearea creating a thriving railroad related business.In 1907 the Pea Vine Railroad traveled through Laurel on its way fromDamascus to Mountain City. This railroad also ran to Forge Creek.In just a few years a large portion of Johnson County had been overlogged. At this time many private land owners began selling their land to theUnited States government to form the Cherokee National Forest. Other landowners turned to agriculture to make a living. The railroad was being usedless and less. After flooding destroyed large portions of the railroad track in1940 the track was not replaced and the railroad no longer traveled throughthe county.From 1935 to 1950 Johnson County was a leading producer of greenbeans. In the early 1950’s it was called the “Bean Capital of the World”.Mechanical pickers ended the success of the crop in Johnson County.Mechanical pickers were cheaper than hand picking so farmers stoppedraising bean crops. Today the largest agricultural product is our county istobacco.Since 1966 many industries have moved into and out of Johnson County.Today approximately 2300 people are employed by various industries in thecounty.In 1992 Johnson County had a population of 15,209 and Mountain City’spopulation was 2,252. The population per square mile in 1992 was 51.