By John L. Kiener,
Washington County Sessions Judge
Education in “Old Jonesboro” in the 1850s is described by Captain Ross Smith in Reminiscences of an Old Timer, privately printed in 1930. Smith says, “In my early years I went to two free schools taught by an Irishman by the name of O’Donnell; one to a teacher by the name of Grimsly who taught in an old Baptist church, now the residence of James A. Cummins; one to the widow of Judge Emerson, now the property of the Mottern heirs; then to the old Martin Academy on the hill (one the south side of the town) to James Davies and his daughter, Alice. Alice taught the primary classes. There were no graded schools in those days. Pupils were placed as to fitness or knowledge. I remember the following teachers; Peter H. Grisham, D.B. Barkly, H. Cady, and W.L. Lampson. This seat of learning was the second institution of its kind built in East Tennessee after the erection of Washington College by the Rev. Sam Doak.
In “Old Jonesboro” in the 1850s, Parts I-IV, we traveled down the North side of Main Street, going West. As Captain Ross Smith continues his account of the residents of Jonesboro, he writes: “We will now cross to south side and go east; Joseph Naff, tinner,: two-story frame. Little remembered of this family. Now the home of widow Taylor.
Hosea Renshaw, cabinetmaker: two-story log house. One son, Frank. House stood on the corner of this lot now owned by H. Keeber.
The residence of W.H. Blair: two-story frame. Replaced by a new one by Peter Miller whose widow lives there.
Grisham home: two-story frame. In this family I remember was Peter Grisham, bachelor, clerk and school teacher, was a clerk for the government in Washington for a long time. Matt Grisham married a Miss Kenedy. One son: two daughters, Mrs. Murray and Miss Mary. Site now of a new building owned by F.S. Britton, druggist.
Jerry Boyd, cabinetmaker: two-story brick and basement. Five boys: William, Leslie, David, James and John; two daughters. Now owned by D.T. Lovegrove.
Cabinet shop of Jerry Boyd: two-story frame, burned about the year 1855.
L.W. Keen, photographer: two-story frame. Two sons: Milton and Alva. Now occupied and owned by the grandchildren.
Samuel Greer, job and printing: A long one-story frame, burned in the fifties. Now replaced by the modern home of S.S. Kirkpatrick.
On the lot on which Dr. Dulaney lives stood an old vacant house owned by Dr. Edward Armstrong.
The Methodist church, another old landmark of the town, is still in flourishing condition, with a good membership and Sunday School. The Rev. David Sullivan served in the pulpit for many years.
Three sisters of Gen. Alfred E. Jackson lived in an apartment house, two-story brick with basement, which their father had built for them. All became widows, Mrs. Aiken, Mrs. Walls and Mrs. Watkins. Contractor was Cherokee Smith, who also built the John Simpson Hotel.
Dr. D. J. Gibson, druggist. Two-story brick. The home of John Bowman; owner, J.D. Cox.
Gosnall family: two-story frame. Little is remembered. Now Hotel Russell.
Dr. S.B. Cunningham: two-story brick sits back some distance from Mai Street. Married twice. Two sons; Samuel married a daughter of Thomas A.R. Nelson; Cornelius, a bachelor, one daughter married a missionary named Rhea and went to China; the other daughter married S.C. Duncan, Presbyterian minister. This property is still in good repair, and is owned by L.M. Broyles.
Naff and Coffman, tin shop; two-story frame, in which worked William and Henry Cate Atkinson, John Butt, and Henry Babb. Site now occupied by the Bank and Trust Company.
A.Cone, of the firm of Cone & Adler, a two-story frame, where now live Mrs. Hunter Elsie Mathes.