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County Information



Before The White Man
The Pioneers
Early Settlements
The Forming of Johnson County
Johnson County and the Civil War
The Twentieth Century
The Story Behind the Name
The Town of Butler
Nick the Hermit
Tom Dula
Why you should Visit

Johnson County Trails Association
MainStreet Tenneessee
NorthEast Tennessee Tourism Association
Sunny Side Trail
Tennessee Vacations
TN 3 Star Community
TN Trails and Byways

Natural Attractions

Physical Features
The Appalachian Trail
Backbone Rock

The Forming of Johnson County

Johnson County in its early history was part of the colony of North Carolina in what was called the Cherokee Territory. It later became part of the Wayne District of North Carolina. The Wayne District included the land from what is now from Boone, North Carolina to Greeneville, Tennessee. In 1776 it became part of Washington County which was organized at Jonesborough. Washington County was under North Carolina rule. This area was renamed Washington County in honor of George Washington.

After the American Revolution in the late 1700’s many ex-soldiers were given land grants in the area that is now East Tennessee as reward for fighting for independence from England. The population of the area grew greatly because of this.

The State of Franklin
In 1784 the settlers declared their freedom from North Carolina. The counties of Sullivan, Washington, Greene, and Davidson broke away to form a new state. They named this new state, which included what is now Johnson County, Franklin after Benjamin Franklin.

The people elected John Sevier as the “President” of the new state. Unfortunately there was trouble between Franklin and North Carolina. John Tipton carried out a court judgment to take the property of Governor John Sevier, including his slaves. Sevier put together an army of 150 men. He fought Col. George Maxwell’s and Tipton’s men. Sevier’s band was arrested along with two of Sevier’s sons.

Sevier kept fight Indian settlements in what is now western Tennessee. When Sevier returned to Franklin he was captured for treason. Sevier escaped at his trial through a second story window onto a waiting horse. He was later pardoned and released in 1788.

North Carolina refused to recognize Franklin’s independence and the state collapsed in 1788. North Carolina gained back control of the area at this time. Sevier was elected senator in North Carolina. The State of Franklin existed for only four years. Later the area merged with the new state of Tennessee.

Congress appointed William Blount as Territorial Governor. In 1794 the population of the territory had grown to 77,000. At this point it was eligible to apply for statehood. Blount and William were the first representatives to Continental Congress. On June 1, 1796 Tennessee was admitted as the 16th state. George Washington was President at this time. John Sevier became the first Governor of the new state of Tennessee. Sullivan and Greene Counties were organized for this area. In 1796 Carter County split from Washington County.

Johnson County
One of the early settlers of this region was Thomas Johnson. He married Fannie Scott of Russell County, Virginia. Fannie was captured by the Cherokee Indians and taken 300 miles from her home. She escaped and returned home through the wilderness forest. Fannie died in 1796, 39 years before Johnson County was created.

In 1796 Tennessee became a recognized state. At this time Johnson County was a part of Carter County. In 1820 the people from what is now Johnson County began a petition to build a courthouse in the center of the county. The people in Elizabethton started their own petition to leave the county seat in Elizabethton. The state legislature listened to the people from Elizabethton. In 1829 the people from Johnson County petitioned again for a more centrally located courthouse. The petition stated that people from the area that is now Johnson County had to travel 30 to 50 miles crossing the Doe River eight times and passing over steep mountains to reach the courthouse. The state legislature ruled against the petition. A movement was made to create a new county apart from Carter County.

The thought was that a person on horseback should be able to travel to the county seat and be back on the same day before dark. In 1835 Joseph Powell introduced the idea of a separate county to the senate. It would be named Johnson County after Thomas Johnson, one of its oldest settlers. Several amendments were added to the bill changing the name. Three senators meet to work out the differences. Finally everyone agreed to name the new county Johnson County. The county seat would be named Taylorsville, in honor of James P. Taylor. William Gott, Robert Reeve, and James O’Brian were appointed to purchase between 10 to 100 acres for the town. The house of the late Thomas Johnson was used as the courthouse until one could be built. Governor Newton Cannon signed the bill and Johnson County was formed in 1836. Johnson had died earlier in 1835 before the creation of this new county.