By Jack Swift
Johnson County Historian
Along with Johnson County, Tennessee, there are several counties named Johnson County in The United States of America. I found eleven: Arkansas, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, Wyoming and Texas. I’m sure the people of those counties are proud of their respective counties. But, I believe we would find that the fine folks of Johnson County, Tennessee are Just as proud of their county or more-so than any of the others mentioned. And well Johnson Countians should be!
Among Johnson County’s many great attractions is Backbone Rock that was hewn from a solid rock formation. It was originally carved out for a railroad bed. Now it is a source of fun for folks who want to get in on some camping, fishing, picnicking or hiking. As a child one of my favorite memories was when my family (my father, mother, brother and I) would get into our 1932 Ford coupe and set off with a visit to the “Rock.”
Watauga Lake is another attraction that is partially within Johnson County. Folks come from far and near to take advantage of the many activities that the lake affords.Watauga Lake was formed when the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) decided to build the lake to produce hydroelectric power, to curb flooding and to provide recreation. The dam that holds back the water was originally began in 1942 but because of World War II, construction was stopped. It was until 1946 that construction was resumed and the dam was finally completed in 1948. It was a sad time when many residents of Butler were displaced by the lake. While Jonesborough is the oldest town in Tennessee, Trade, Tennessee is the earliest settlement in Tennessee. It gets its name due to it being a trading site for the pioneers and Indians. Johnson County is surrounded by Carter County and Sullivan County, Tennessee; Washington County, Virginia; and Ashe, Watauga, Grayson and Avery County North Carolina. Mountain City, the county seat, was originally Taylorsville but was renamed Mountain City in 1885. Johnson County was named in honor of Thomas Johnson a respected Citizen of what was then Carter County.
The information in this column is to remind those of us who live here of some of the nice things about living in this great county. Moreover, it’s to define some of the great things about Johnson County for newcomers and visitors to this area.