By: Jack Swift
Johnson County Historian
If you’re interested in history, especially the history of Johnson County, I can suggest to you a great organization that can whet that interest and provide a wealth of information about the Johnson County area.
That organization is the Johnson County Historical Society. The motto of that organization is “Bringing the Past to the Present”. And, that’s just what the society aims to do.
The Society meets every third Sunday of the month at 2:00 p.m. in the lower level of the Johnson County Welcome Center on South Shady Street (Hwy. 421). That is unless the meeting date is changed for some reason such as that Sunday falling on a holiday or other important reason.
On September 22, 1977 fifteen area citizens met at the First United Methodist Church under the leadership of Walter Wilson, to discuss the feasibility of organizing a historical society for Johnson County. Wilson, whose roots were planted deep in Johnson County, indicated the purposes of the organization would be to preserve our heritage, accumulate the county’s artifacts, collect folk tales and songs of the mountains, and to start a fund that would hopefully, grow into a historical library and museum.
The Society was officially organized at the November 1977 meeting. John Butler was elected President, Bob Morrison, Vice President, Elizabeth Wilson, Recording Secretary, Mary Ward, Corresponding Secretary and Rena Shoun, Treasurer.
The Society was officially chartered by the State on December 15, 1977. The certificate was available for examination by the members at the January 1978 meeting. At this point in its short history, the Society had 80 members. By August 1978 the membership had grown to 100. The membership grew until at one time there were some 200 members.
Other presidents over the years have also included Freddie Morley, Bob Morrison, Mac Wright, Dave Cantrell, Myself, Sue Howard, Malcolm Howard, Jessie DiProspero, Tom Gentry, Emily Millsaps, Haynes Wright, Janie Gentry and Bob Frei.
The Society has published three volumes titled “The History of Johnson County”. The first history was published in 1986 and the second one was published in 2000. The third was published in 2015. The first includes Johnson County history plus a great many family histories. The second and third include many family histories that didn’t get into the first book as well as updates on county history since 1986.
They are on sale at the Welcome Center as is a Pictorial History of Johnson County.