Have You Taken a Stroll Along Main Street in Tennessee’s Oldest Town?

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1. What home is the oldest known building in Tennessee’s oldest town, built in 1790 on a limestone foundation?

Answer: Did you visit me? I am the Rees-Hawley House located next to the Salt House, now home to the Tennessee Hills Distillery, at 114 E. Woodrow Avenue. In 1781, James Rees, an attorney, was awarded Lot # 1 by lottery and began constructing his home of dove tail chestnut logs on a limestone foundation in 1790. Rees was appointed Solicitor for the Territory South of the River Ohio by Territorial Governor William Blount. The Rees-Hawley House is the oldest standing home in the town of Jonesborough. Even though my neighbor across town, the Christopher Taylor House is older than I am by a few years, it hasn’t lived in town as long as I have. The Christopher Taylor House was moved to Jonesborough in 1973, almost two years after I was built. In 1818, Dr. Spencer Gibson added an addition to the east side of me and duplicated my size. From 1890-1917, the home had several upgrades and became a modern home. In the 1980s, my current owner, Marcy Hawley and her husband R.I.C. Hawley, purchased me and brought me back up to great shape through restoration and preservation. Since this time, I’ve seen many people come and go from our lovely town and its easy to do from my very large second story porch! 

2. What commercial building is the oldest known commercial building in Jonesborough? 

Answer: Did you visit me? I am the Chester Inn Historic Site and Museum at  116 West Main Street. Dr. William P. Chester built me in 1797. Over the years, I have been many things including a library, barbershop, and apartments, but today, I am owned by the state of Tennessee as a state owned historic site and museum ran by the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. I am also the oldest commercial building in town and seen many prominent figures including three presidents Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, and Andrew Johnson. My grand porch was used for lots of speeches after it was built in 1883. Stop in and learn about Tennessee’s Oldest Town today! 

3. What Tennessee Historical Marker honors William and Matthew Atkinson and their gift to the State of Tennessee?

Answer: Did you visit me? I am the State Seal Tennessee Historical Marker located at 112 Boone Street. Originally, I was placed on Highway 11E, near the current Walgreens, by the Tennessee Historical Commission. After some nips and tucks, I was restored and moved to this location near the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center, where people can see me a little better! I honor the first state seal of the state of Tennessee designed in 1801 by William and Matthew Atkinson, who’s silversmith shop stood near the Old Jonesborough Cemetery near the Deadrick House on East Main Street. This seal was first used by the second governor of the state of Tennessee, Archibald Roane in 1802. 

4. What home is the Tennessee Historical Marker honoring the first abolitionist newspaper in front of?

Answer: Did you visit me? I am the May-Dishner House! On my site stood Jacob Howard’s print shop. In 1819-1820, the first abolitionist newspaper was printed in this shop for Elihu Embree. The Manumission Intelligence and the Emancipator were edited and published by Elihu Embree and printed by Jacob Howard were the first abolitionist newspapers in the United States. Yet, Embree passed away the same year and the newspaper was sold to Benjamin Lundy in Greeneville. Embree, himself, remained a slaveholder even though he believed and preached abolition. 

5. In what building did a debate on Women’s Suffrage happen on January 16, 1915 in which the committee decided against suffrage in Tennessee’s Oldest Town?

Answer: Did you visit me? I am the Washington County, TN Courthouse at the center of Main Street. on Saturday, January 16, 1915, I was home to one of the greatest debates on Women’s Suffrage. Yet, the town was undecided on the issue and determined that women’s suffrage was not beneficial to Tennessee’s Oldest Town. Yet, I was only built two years earlier in 1913. My cornerstones were laid in 1912 during the Jonesborough Homecoming. A copper box was inserted into a cornerstone, which contains many items including coins, a Grand Army of the Republic badge from Judge Newton Hacker, a Confederate Veteran’s badge from H. C. Jackson, a Testament and history of Jonesborough and Washington County. My clock tower has been a photo spot for over 100 years and you can see the inner workings of the previous clock at the Jonesborough-Washington County Museum inside the Jonesborough Visitors Center. 

6. What is the only remaining home on the East end of Town in the Commercial District?

Answer: Did you visit me? I am the Naff-Henley House, located in the heart of the Commercial District. I am located at 127 E. Main Street and was built in 1840 by Jacob Naff, who ran his tailor shop in the basement of this house and had his residence in the upper floors. The original deed to this property dates back to 1807, but Jacob and John Naff bought the property in 1836. Naff sold the home to the Baxter Family and it eventually ended up in the hands of some very good people, the late Gerald and Sue Henley. 

7. Jonesborough has three buildings that were moved to town, which building was moved first? 

Answer: Did you visit me? I am the Christopher Taylor House at 124 W. Main Street. I am a two-story log house, built circa 1777, on what is now Old State Route 34, south of Jonesborough. President Andrew Jackson later lived in this house while practicing law in 1788-1789, during the last years of the State of Franklin. Taylor purchased one of the first lots in Jonesborough. In 1973, his home was move to downtown Jonesborough next to the Chester Inn and the Presbyterian Church to preserve it from demolition, where it is a landmark to the pioneer period. 

8. Where did Buffalo Soldier Alfred Ray purchase a lot and a home in 1904 and lived?

Answer: Did you visit me? I hope you visited my home site and Tennessee Historical Marker at 215 West Woodrow Avenue. In 1904, Buffalo Soldier Alfred Martin Ray purchased this lot, after an extensive military service. Ray was born a slave of Dr. Joseph Rhea on the Rhea-Hoss Farm on Old Boones Creek Road circa 1849. Ray went on to be the soldier that planted the U.S. Flag on San Juan Heights, Cuba, during the Spanish-American War. He is buried in College Hill Cemetery. 

9. What building was the site of a school for girls, a school for boys, and lastly a school for freed slaves? Hint: Today, a historical marker stands in front of the site. 

Answer: Did you visit me? I am the Warner’s Institute at 233 E. Main Street. In 1858, I was built by the Holston Association of Baptists a top of Rocky Hill. The Holston Baptist Female Institute was moved into me the following year where women were taught until 1859. Circa 1866, Rev. J. D. Tadlock conducted a school for boys inside of me for about a year before Col. Robert H. Dungan purchased me for Dungan School for Boys, which lasted until 1876. I was again sold this time to Yardley Warner of the Society of Friends (Quakers). I was then used for probably one of my greatest missions to teach freed slaves of all ages at what they called me Warner’s Institute until 1910. If you visit the Heritage Alliance, be sure to ask about the teacher Mrs. Julia Bullard Nelson. She did great things in our town as well as nation for women and men of all colors, even speaking before the Judicial Committee of Congress in Washington, D. C. After being a school for 52 years, I finally became a residence, which I have been ever since. I recently under went some loving care renovations, and have a new family inside of me! Be sure to stop by my Tennessee Historical Marker for a photo or two! 

10. What school closed in 1965, after Washington County, TN Schools were desegregated? 

Answer: Did you visit me? I am the Booker T. Washington School, known today as the McKinney Center, at 103 Franklin Avenue. In 1938, the Works Progress Administration offered aid in the construction of schools across the country. During this process, Washington County got many new brick schools in 1939 and 1940. In April of 1940, a contract was passed to J.D. Elliot to construct me at a rate of 75 cents per hour. My land was purchased from John A. and Dell A. Vines for $500. My previous owners, Mr. and Mrs. Vines, also owned Warner’s Institute! Making a connection between one former African American School to another, sort of! Anyway, On Monday, October 7, 1940, Booker T. Washington Elementary School was dedicated. On July 26, 1941, African American teachers Ella Sherrill and Ethel Brown were hired as well as Mr. Connie Kiser as principal. In 1956/57, Ernest McKinney, Sr. served as teacher and principal. McKinney would later become the first African American Alderman in Jonesborough. He is the namesake of the McKinney Center today! In 1965, the school system was desegregated and I was closed. Desegregation meant that white people and African Americans could now go to the same schools like you do today! I pretty much set by myself until 2013, when I was renovated by the Town of Jonesborough and opened as an art center under the name the McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School. 

11. What tree in town is believed to be between 500 and 800 years old? 

Answer: Did you visit me? I am the Shanks Oak Tree located at 539 W. Main Street. The Shanks Home beside me was built circa 1895, with a wood frame and clapboard siding. The home builder is still unknown today. Yet, I have stood the test of time! I am estimated between 500 and 800 years old and one day, you all will know how old I am when I pass away… or if I every do that is! haha! You could then count my rings inside of me! I have received the nomination as one of Tennessee’s oldest trees and am listed as a legacy tree! My oak leaves are the symbol of the latest historic survey of Jonesborough by the State of Franklin Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution. The Heritage Alliance also has oak leaves in their logo, but I doubt they thought of me! 

12. What building was the site of a school just for girls opened in 1833?

Answer: Did you visit me? I am the Old Jonesborough Female Academy, located at 205 W. College St. I opened in 1833 as the Jonesborough Female Academy. Other schools for girls were operating as early as 1818. According to the National Register of Historic Places, I was built circa 1834, while some records indicate the school was built as early as 1818, as a one-room brick school with a side room. This building was used as a school until 1852 when the Academy joined with the Odd Fellows Female Academy. Since this time, I have been used as a private residence. The Ell addition was added circa 1854, while the porch dates to the 1890s.

13. What is the site of the headquarters for a heritage organization that was formed in 2001?

Answer: Did you visit me? I am the Duncan House at 212 Sabin Drive across from the library and behind the Visitors Center. The Duncan House was built circa 1840. The original dwelling was a basic two-room structure. John and Mary Naff purchased the home just after 1840, and started a family. The outbuilding on the property was built about the same time and used as a tailor shop. Zachariah Burson bought the property in 1848. In the 1870s, an “L” shaped addition was completed. Between 1886 and 1901, Joel B. Thomas purchased the property. In 1901, Robert C. Thomas bought the property. In 1890s, the second floor was added to the home. On March 22, 1904, Robert Mitchell Duncan purchased the home. Duncan did not live in the home and died in 1917, willing the home to his wife, Mary Louise, and daughter, Blanche. Blanche became owner of the home in 1946, after her mother died and lived in the home until her death in 1964. John and Ruby France was willed the home upon her death, and they sold the home to the Town of Jonesborough in 1980. The town deeded the home and the outbuilding to the Jonesboro Civic Trust in 1990. The Civic Trust restored the home and Tailor Shop for a museum space. In 2001, the Civic Trust, Jonesborough-Washington County Museum and the Historic Jonesborough Foundation combined to form the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia. Today, the home is the office space for the Heritage Alliance. 

14. Where is a genealogical and historical collection housed that was the main objective for the formation of the Jonesborough Genealogical Society?

Answer: Did you visit me? I am the Washington County-Jonesborough Library, 200 Sabin Dr. Since 1990, the Jonesborough Genealogical Society has worked to establish and maintain a genealogy and history collection at the Washington County-Jonesborough Library. The Library genealogy and history center was started in 1990, as a central objective of the society, and contains around 2,200 books, approximately 1,900 genealogy journals, vertical files, microfilm, maps, etc.  Approximately 40% of this collection has been donated by over 200 individuals, groups, organization, etc.  The genealogy collections began with the collections of Mary Hardin McCown and Charles Marion Bennett, but many others have been added including part of the late County Historian Mildred Kozsuch’s collection. The Society has continued funded projects, books, and materials for this collection as well as continued to work thousands of hours on projects to better serve our community and patrons with this resource.

15. What park is named for the original water source for the town of Jonesborough? Hint: Those who drink here always return to Jonesborough!

Answer: Did you visit me? I am Mill Springs Park, 111 Fox St. The Old Mill Spring was a site in the town from which anyone could receive water. It became a part of the town’s landscape and legend as well as a spot for social gatherings… I’ve seen a lot happen down here! I probably could tell you a lot of tells! In 1912, the town celebrated homecoming in a large grand scale of a celebration of the laying of the cornerstones of the new courthouse. The Jonesborough Homecoming Committee sent out a printed invitation near and far that included a photograph of the matriarchs of Jonesborough in front of me, with a phrase, “Whoever drinks at the Old Mill Spring is sure to come back and drink again.” The matrons were identified as Mrs. Eliza Jackson Murphy, Mrs. D. T. Wilds, Mrs. Mary Dosser, Mrs. S.J. Kirkpatrick, and Mrs. M.S. Mahoney. Today a bridge protects the Old Mill Spring. Mill Springs area has been home to many businesses include Green’s Mill (1850s), Jim Walker’s Blacksmith Shop (1870s), and the foundation for the Mill Springs Ice and Ice Cream Company.