The coronavirus pandemic is responsible for dramatic changes in virtually every aspect of life. Local officials report a noticeable shift that started before the pandemic and significantly increased as of late – families moving to the mountains of East Tennessee, particularly Johnson County. Whether it is to enjoy a quieter life, four distinct seasons, or pay lower property taxes, people continue to flock to Mountain City.
“We are assisting many new residents,” said Tammie Fenner, County Clerk, whose office is one of the first to visit when moving to the area to get Tennessee license plates. “There has definitely been an increase in the number of people moving to the county.”
Fenner notes the influx is not from any particular region but from “all over the place.”Paula Snyder and husband, Ken, grew up in the Midwest before loading up a U-Haul forty years ago and relocating to the Gulf Coast of South Florida.
“We raised our three children and made a life,” said Snyder. “A couple of years ago, Florida became overgrown, and we decided to move.” She relates they weren’t interested in returning to the Midwest and liked the absence of state tax and cost-of-living Tennessee offered. “We fell in love with Mountain City,” she said, complementing the slow pace, the lack of traffic, and the convenient proximity to larger cities.” We love Mountain city and adore its people, “said Snyder. “I’m not sure if I’ve heard a horn blow. People pull over for funerals. And they put their grocery carts away.”
She says her family loves the four mild seasons.
“Each brings its own beauty,” she said. “Our kids and grandkids thought we were a little crazy to pack up and head north. All of them have been to visit multiple times, and they love it here, too!”
Craig Fox was born and raised in the Chicago area.
“The last place I ever thought I’d end up is in Mountain City, Tennessee,” said Fox, “but here we are.” Family helped guide the couple to their new mountain home. “We came here because it was close to my wife’s mother,” explained Fox, who happens to live about thirty minutes away in Creston, North Carolina. “She’s getting up there in years, and Creston is where she was born and raised. After working for Borg Warner, for thirty years, in Illinois, she retired. It was then that the mountains called her back home.”
When it became clear their family member needed daily assistance, they began toying with the idea of relocating. “During our search of homes, in an acceptable distance from Creston, we found Mountain City,” said Fox, who was elated to find an affordable home close enough to be able to care for his mother-in-law.
While Fox acknowledges the scarcity of local high-wage employment opportunities, he considers it an “ideal area” to live the simple life if willing to travel.
“Mountain City is far from the rat race of Michigan,” said Fox, commenting locals are “far from rude, have a big heart, and are willing to help a neighbor at a moment’s notice.”
He states they were not accustomed to southern hospitality. “It’s a more pleasant way of life,” he said, “I’m glad we came here, and I don’t ever picture us leaving.”
“Location, crime rate, schools, and convenience” were what brought Emilee Stonecipher and her family to Johnson County. “I like the isolated location our home is located on,” said Stonecipher. “My husband loves that we are walking distance from the lake.”
She also likes the school system for their children. “I’d say the only downfall is that Mountain City doesn’t have a store like Walmart or Target,” said Stonecipher. “If it had something like that, I’d never go to Elizabethton or Boone.”
When Terry Meeks, a professional dog trainer, decided to retire partially, he relocated to Johnson County in late July from St. Petersburg, Florida. He explains he always had a dream of fostering senior dogs.
“A friend has a hound rescue in Carter County,” said Meeks, “and had several seniors that needed a quiet place to land.”
He sold his place and moved to a local two-acre property where he lives with his three personal dogs and six fosters.
“I have transferred my dog training business here and am working to, at some point, open a board and train facility,” said Meeks. “I love the area!”
While the pandemic keeps most residents inside and practicing social distancing, don’t be surprised to see some new faces when we are finally free to roam this beautiful place in the East Tennessee mountains we call home.