Johnson County Citizens Have Made Bold and Impacting Decisions During the Course of History
As I research the history of Johnson County in my job as Johnson County Historian, I am pleasantly surprised to find so many unique things about this Northeast corner of Tennessee I am proud to call home. One of the most interesting things about Johnson County is its history. From its formation from a portion of Carter County in 1836 until today my county has been in the forefront of change. Its citizens over the years are to be commended for their foresight and endurance.
It is interesting to me how Johnson County came to exist. Somewhat disgruntled because of the long and treacherous journey to Elizabethton, the then county seat, to do necessary official business, the folks of what would become Johnson County sent petitions to Nashville asking to move the county seat closer. Those petitions availed nothing. Finally a large number of folks from here sent petitions to Nashville requesting that a new county be formed to be called Johnson County in honor of Thomas Johnson, a prominent citizen of what would be the new county. After two such requests, the answer was positive. Officials then moved forward to create a new county. That is one part of Johnson County History that stands out to me when I think of the vision the people of this county had when they decided to take such a bold move.
I will mention one more. Every time I study Johnson Countys history, I am drawn to the unique and courageous stand the county took during the Civil War. Along with some 26 other East Tennessee counties, Johnson County was very much against secession from the Union. That firm stand brought much hardship and bloodshed to the inhabitants of Johnson County, folks who just wanted to be left alone to go about their daily lives. Thousands were wounded or lost their lives in that four-year conflict. But, at the wars end the Union forces had prevailed and the Union was preserved.
The sentiment in Johnson County was against secession, although Tennessee proceeded to secede, becoming the last to do so. In February of 1861, a referendum was held to decide whether Tennessee would secede. The vote was against secession statewide 54% to 46%. Eighty-two percent of east Tennesseans voted against secession. A second referendum was held on June 8, and the measure passed. Still, East Tennesseans voted in that referendum against secession by 70%. In fact, Johnson County voted 787-111 against secession. Some historians believe the second referendum on secession was successful due to much intimidation and harassment against those who didnt want Tennessee to join the Confederacy.
Last year marked the 150th anniversary of the beginning of that war. It began April 12, 1861 and ended April 9, 1865. Bravery and Commitment were exhibited during the war, and the people of Johnson County who fought as well as the people who manned the home front were no exception.