October 17, 2018
By Jack Swift
Johnson County Historian
As we study the history of our great county and how it came to be, it is important that we in our imagination try to transport ourselves back to the time when there were no hard topped high-ways, modern automobiles or any easy ways to travel to distant destinations.The population was in-creasing in Northeast Carter County and there was more and more need to do business in Elizabethton, the county seat of Carter County.
Folks up in this part of the county became somewhat aggravated, to say the least, about traveling over the mountains and across the rivers and streams that lay between their home and the county seat. No doubt traveling was a grueling feat in those days. Walking and riding horseback were probably the modes of travel for most Northeast Carter County citizens.
It was thought at that time that a person should be able to travel to the county seat and back in the same day. The folks in Northeast Carter County petitioned the legislature for moving the county seat to a more centrally located site. After a number of attempts, the folks turned their attention toward forming a new county. I obtained from the Tennessee Archives a copy of a handwritten petition that was introduced to the Legislature in 1835. The petition has 336 names. Joseph Powell, a senator from Washington and Carter counties, put forth a petition from certain citizens of Carter County requesting a new county be formed in the Northeast part of Carter County.
The Bill was introduced in the Senate in December of 1835. It would be named Johnson County in honor of Thomas Johnson who had been a resident of that section for about 30 years. Johnson was a prominent landowner. Samuel W. Williams introduced the Bill in the House.
I also have a copy of the handwritten bill that was introduced to the Legislature in 1835. It was Private Bill No. 68. The Bill passed and Johnson County became a separate county January 2, 1836. Before the bill passed, there was discussion about the name of the new county. Some wanted it to be named for Colonel James P. Taylor. But ultimately the county was named Johnson County Taylor was honored by calling the new county seat Taylorsville. The name of the town was changed to Mountain City in 1885.
There is much that is unknown about Johnson. Some believe he came from Russell County, Virginia in about 1773. His parents are unknown. He acquired large tracts of land in Washington, Russell, and Carter Counties. He married Fanny Dickinson Scott in about 1787 in Russell County. My column last week was about Fanny and her ordeal of being captured by Indians before she married Johnson. Johnson married again following Fanny’s death in 1796. His second wife was Susanna Wright of Washington County. They were married on March 23, 1797. In 1803, he moved to what is now Johnson County, Tennessee, on the Little Doe Branch of Roan Creek near the present Doe School. According to my research, he was a remark-able man: a good citizen as well as being very enterprising. I’m glad our county was named for him. Taylor County just doesn’t sound right. Does it?