Elizabethton, Tennessee (Carter County)

 

Source: The Watauga Spinnerette, July 1937, Volume eight, No. 3, Author unknown

Transcribed by: Angella Perry Graybeal

The Beginning of Elizabethton

 

Elizabethton is one of the richest cities in this country in historical lore and romantic tales of rough frontier live. The story of the growth of a small mountain village into the occupancy of an important place on the industrial map of a new South, is a yarn that smacks of pioneer hardiness and modern progressiveness.

Daniel Boone, it is believed, was the first white man ever to come into this country, which was then a wilderness infested with wild animals and Indians. The intrepid hunter is believed to have extended his journey on beyond this section afer carving those memorable words on a tree near Johnson City: "D. Boone cilled A BAR On Tree in the yEAR 1760."

Daniel Boone discovered new territories and states in his roving over the country which took both daring and supreme courage, but when we think of the fierce determination of men moving their families into a savage wilderness, we ponder deeply as to whether we could have steeled ourselves to do the same. Two men who were possessed with just such a determination, Julius C. Dugger and Andrew Greer, young men with an urgent desire to take their families into a fertile section where they could endow them with large plantations. With this in mind, they left their peaceful homes in Brunswick County, Virginia, and blazed a trail across the mountains in search of such a place. The place where they located on the beautiful Watauga River is ample proof of their sound judgement. No more fertile valley traversed by a clear crystal stream and surrounded by beautiful mountains could be found anywhere in America.

It is a matter of tradition that Julius C. Dugger and Andrew Greer were brother-in-laws having married sisters, which probably is true because of their close associations. They not only made this historical journey together, but their families were closely associated in the new-found country. The date of their coming to Tennessee was in 1766 according to Ramsey's Annals of Tennessee which is the most authoritative history of the early settlement. After them came the Robertsons, John Carter, Michael Hyder, Seviers, Harts, Carrigers, Naves, Potters, Tiptons, Stouts, Taylors, Ingles, McNabbs, Edens, Williams, Renfros and others.

At the time that Dugger and Greer came to this section, the site of the present city of Elizabethton was an Indian village. Because of this fact, Andrew Greer settled near here as he was an Indian fur trader. Julius C. Dugger moved further up the river and settled at about the present site of Fish Springs, which for a long time was known as Dugger's Bridge. They, of course, became large landowners by virtue of their explorations.

William Bean, a settler with more courage and faith than equipment and provisions, built his cabin on the banks of the Watauga River and wrested a living from the dense forest about him. Bean was followed by other woodsmen who met in 1772 to form the first government. Theodore Roosevelt in his "Winning of the West," said " The Watauga Association, which was founded on the spot where Elizabethton now stands was the first independent government set up in defiance of British authority in the western hemisphere." The Watauga Association was founded in 1772 and existed for 12 years until it had driven the savages to Ross Landing, now Chattanooga. The Watauga Association was a Government by Commission with John Sevier as one of the officers. He fought 35 battles and he lost to no man. The first commission was composed of John Sevier, Isaac and Evans Shelby, James and Charles Robertson, Joshua, Isabelle and John Carter.

When Cornwallis landed at Charleston, he inaugurated a movement northward to hunt George Washington. General Ferguson was made Commander of the advance division, and upon his arrival at Gilbertown, across the mountains opposite where Elizabethton now stands, he sent this message to the Watauga Association: 'Dissolve your association immediately, take oath of allegiance to King George, or I will cross the mountains and destroy you with fire and sword."

The Watauga Association was growing strong. The Indians had been driven out of the country, and the population of the association had established several colonies. John Sevier established a colony on the Nolichucky River, 20 miles away from Elizabethton. The Shelbys established a colony at King's Meadow, now Bristol, Tennessee. General Campbell had a colony at Abingdon, Virginia.

When Ferguson's message was received at headquarters, now Elizabethton, it was sent by a special messenger to every colony, together with an order to muster all able-bodied men in every colony and meet the forces of Elizabethton and vicinity at Sycamore Shoals the only ford of the Watauga then known. This order was obeyed promptly and they met at Sycamore Shoals organized and drilled 960 strong. Meantime, they had communicated with Williams and Cleveland across the mountains, who met at a given point, where they began their march to Gilbertown to meet Col. Ferguson.

When they were ready to start on the march, however, they found that some of the men would have to stay home with the women and children. It was than that the first draft in this section was inaugurated. The leaders lined up their forces and every eighth man was ordered to stay at home and protect the women and children. Every eighth man commenced weeping, tradition has it. Samuel Doak made a speech at this time about liberty versus tyranny and oppression, and the establishment of freedom in this country.

John Sevier, with other leaders of the Watauga Association, being anxious to secure the good will of their Virginia neighbors, agreed among themselves to honor Virginia by electing Campbell to head the expedition. It was John Sevier who planned the battle of King's Mountain, according to legend.

Ferguson had entrenched his army at King's Mountain, after retreating several miles from Gilbertown when he was informed of the advance of the men west of the mountains.

John Sevier divided his army into sections and ordered that one section approach from the south and the other from the north. It was planned that when the British opened fire, the troops under Sevier and Campbell would run down the mountain, seeming to retreat, in great disorder so as to lure the British from their trenches. The plan worked.

When the British were far enough down the mountain that they could not return to their trenches, the Americans turned upon them and their aim was so deadly and the British fell so fast that Colonel Ferguson mounted to his horse in an effort to lead the few remaining through the line to run for safety.

Darling Jones, who hailed from Brush Creek, now Johnson City, rested his elbow on his knee, aimed and fired his rifle and Col. Ferguson fell from his horse mortally wounded. The battle of King's Mountain was the turning point of the American Revolution."

Descendants of these staunch pioneers have resided in this section down through the generations.

In 1796, Elizabethton was organized into a township. It was at that time part of Washington County, but when Carter County was formed, Elizabethton was made the county seat.

It was not until 1891, however, that the organization of the cooperative town company took place. The plans of the streets of Elizabethton which were laid out by the organizers of that by-gone day are still in use, the general map is on the order of that first drawing.

Elizabethton and Carter County have contributed the blood of their sons to every war in which the United States has every engaged and at no time has it been said that this county had a citizen within its borders drafted for service. July 1937

* Angella's note: It is thought that William is the same person later mistakenly referred to among his descendants as "Julius Caesar Dugger Sr".