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the Pioneers of Johnson County 

     In 1673 the first white men entered the region that is now Johnson County with eight Indian guides. These white men named James Needham and  Gabriel Arthur were sent by Abraham Wood to establish a trading post with the Cherokee Indians. To reach this area Needham and Arthur traveled the well-worn Indian trail through a gap in the mountains between what is now Zionville, North Carolina and Trade, Tennessee.


Scene from Trade Days

      In 1749 the British Parliament sent a survey party to establish the boundary lines between the colonies of North Carolina and Virginia.  The leader of the survey party was Peter Jefferson, father of President Thomas Jefferson. Peter Jefferson traveled as far west as Steep Creek which is now called Laurel Creek on the top of Pond Mountain. He wrote in his journal that he would go no farther since, “this is as far in the wilderness as any white man will ever go.”

       In 1761 Daniel Boone came through the area that is now Johnson County. He wrote in his diary that he met Mr. Honeycutt. Honeycutt was a long hunter and and an Indian trader. Honeycutt built a cabin in 1769 near Roan Creek. Boone also met Andrew Greer and Julius Dugger. They were long hunters as well. John Rogers is given credit for building the first cabin in the Gentry's Creek area. These men are the first white men to settle in the area that is now Johnson County.

     In 1770 John Honeycutt was visited by James Robertson, later know as the Father of Tennessee. Robertson lived in the area that is now Johnson County for one year to raise crops. He was on his way to the newly established Watauga Settlement near what is now Elizabethton, Tennessee.

     In the early 1770's Joseph Gentry move to the area. He opened an iron ore business on Roan Creek. His neighbors were Jesse, John, and Josiah Hoskins settled in the area just two years after Andrew Greer and Julius Dugger.

     In the mid 1770's a settlement was established in the area called "The Trade Gap". This area was a swapping ground for Indians and fur traders. It was located on an old buffalo trail between Snake and Rich Mountains. This was the easiest route through the mountains to the West. The settlement became a community and a stopping point for travelers. Trade is the oldest community in Tennessee. After 1771 more and more settlers began to move into what is now East Tennessee looking for affordable land. At this time Johnson County was part of the North Carolina Colony, which went all the way to the Mississippi River. By 1970 the Trade community had grown. You could find a country store, post office, blacksmith shop and several log cabins.

     By 1778 the area that is now Johnson County had a population of around 150. Some of the leading citizens included the following:

George and Samuel Heatherby

Thomas, John, and Charles Acher

Richard and Benjamin Wilson near Roan Creek

Leonard Shoun (which Shoun's Crossroads is named.) Note:  father of 20 children

John and David Wagner

David and Michael Slimp

Daniel Baker and John Vaught (owners of a mill and still-house)

John and Henry Grimes

John Higgins

     By 1794 enough settlers had come to the area that is now Johnson County to establish a church. The church was called the Roan Creek Church of Christ. The church was located at the foot of Rainbow Mountain between where Mountain City and Shouns are now. The church began with a membership of 65. Its name was changed several times. It moved to Mountain City in 1843. This church is now the First Baptist Church of Mountain City.

     One of the first communities was Wards Forge. It was named after Major John Ward who fought in the War of 1812. He went into the iron ore business. In 1882 the community was named Laurel Bloomery by Joseph H. Grace.

reprinted by permission from Mountain City Elementary Home Page


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