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Johnson County – Historical and beautiful

I have written a number of times about Johnson County in this column and I have never become tired of featuring what I consider interesting facts about that area of Northeast Tennessee that I call home. I was born in Johnson County and lived here except for a two-year hitch in military service. I’m not well traveled, but the places I’ve visited haven’t impressed me any more than what we have right here in Johnson County. The county has drawn folks back here that left many years ago. Often I run across someone who I knew in the past whom after succeeding in their chosen field, returned to Johnson County, the place of their birth and upbringing. Nostalgia and local economics are catalysts in their decision to relocate here.
Johnson County is blessed with an abundance of mountain scenery. Some folks like to hunt or camp in the mountains and Johnson County is an ideal place to do just that. Rippling streams flow down through the valleys. I can relate to the fun of being around creeks or streams as there was a creek that flowed in front of the small farm I grew up on in Johnson County. I remember dangling my feet off the bridge in the cool water, wading in it and skipping stones on its surface. The stream was part of the headwaters of Doe Creek and during severe thunderstorms could swell into a raging stream. I kept away from it when that happened. As I remembered playing in the creek as a youngster, it occurred to me that those were carefree moments and I cherish the memory of those times Kids lives are so structured these days, that they have little time or opportunity to just be kids.
There are facts of history concerning Johnson County that make it a unique county. Old Butler, “The Town That Would Not Drown,” is one such interesting aspect. Located in Johnson County, Old Butler was covered with the waters of Watauga Lake. Memories of Old Butler reverberated down the halls of history last Friday and Saturday during “Old Butler Days,” conducted by the Butler Ruritan Club and on Sunday at the Watauga Academy/Old Butler Reunion planned by the Butler Museum and Watauga Academy boards of directors. Watauga Lake, a great place for relaxation and recreation, is shared by Johnson County and Carter County.
Johnson County’s stand during the Civil War was unique. Although Tennessee seceded from the Union, a large majority of Johnson County’s citizens committed to the Union. In fact, Johnson County and a number of Northeast Tennessee counties tried to form a new state, but were thwarted by Tennessee’s Governor Isham Harris and his supporters in Nashville. As you know, the state of West Virginia was formed due to its citizens’ distaste for the war and its alignment with the Union.
Another interesting aspect of Johnson County’s history is that when the short lived State of Franklin was formed, the area that is now Johnson County was named Wayne County. The name was chosen to honor the Revolutionary War General “Mad” Anthony Wayne. Franklin, which lasted for about four years, was never admitted to the Union.
Johnson County was once a part of Washington County and later Carter County before it became Johnson County in 1836. Named for Thomas Johnson, a prominent area citizen, Johnson County came to be because of the distance from what is now Johnson County to Elizabethton, the county seat of Carter County, and the difficulty of travel in that time. Of course Johnson County’s county seat, Mountain City, has a very interesting history. Originally named Taylorsville — named for Col. James P. Taylor, a prominent Carter County citizen. Taylorsville was laid out shortly after Johnson County was created in 1836. The name was changed to Mountain City in 1885.
So, I believe you will agree with me that Johnson County is a very interesting county from the standpoint of its history as well as it scenic beauty.