Johnson County Tennessee in the Civil War
In 1861 the Civil War began and Johnson County was in tumult as was the rest of the nation. East Tennessee was historically a primarily Republican area and most men here sided with the Union. The vote in Johnson County was 787 to 111 against secession. Many families split and neighbors became enemies over this issue. Johnson County sent a company to unite with the 13th Tennessee Volunteer Cavalry which fought for the Union. The Confederate army had sent troops into East Tennessee to control the people. The loyal Union men were forced to slip by these Confederate troops into Kentucky to join the Union army. Although there were no major battles fought in Johnson County, there were conflicts which resulted in some fighting. After the war was over many men were able to return home and settle their differences with their neighbors. This was true with the Coffey Brothers in the Smith's Mill area. However, other men were unable to reestablish their businesses. Major Joseph Wagner owned a hardware store and was a wealthy citizen. After he voted Republican his store was boycotted. Wagner left Johnson County after the war and left his home behind.
The first newspaper written in Johnson County was the Taylorsville Reporter. It was established in 1874 by W.J. Keys. Later the paper was renamed The Tomahawk.
In 1885 the town Taylorsville was renamed Mountain City. This change took place when Roderick Random Butler who served in the 13th Tennessee Cavalry convinced the people of the town to change the name. The new name came 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 Random Butler.
In 1900 the railroad finally came to Johnson County. The ETWNC (Tweetsie) Railroad which served as a shipper from Butler to Hampton had been the closest railroad before this. The V&SW Railroad originally planned mainly to carry iron ore out of upper East Tennessee became a major means to transport farm and timber products. Several logging operations came to the area creating a thriving railroad related business.
In 1907 the Pea Vine Railroad traveled through Laurel on its way from Damascus to Mountain City. This railroad also ran to Forge Creek.
In just a few years a large portion of Johnson County had been over logged. At this time many private land owners began selling their land to the United States government to form the Cherokee National Forest. Other land owners turned to agriculture to make a living. The railroad was being used less and less. After flooding destroyed large portions of the railroad track in 1940 the track was not replaced and the railroad no longer traveled through the county.
From 1935 to 1950 Johnson County was a leading producer of green beans. 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 stopped raising bean crops. Today the largest agricultural product is our county is tobacco.
Since 1966 many industries have moved into and out of Johnson County. Today approximately 2300 people are employed by various industries in the county.
In 1992 Johnson County had a population of 15,209 and Mountain City's population was 2,252. The population per square mile in 1992 was 51.
reprinted by permission from Mountain City Elementary website