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Nick the Hermit,” The South’s Most Famous Hermit”

It has been quite a while since I have written about Nick the Hermit who was one of Johnson County’s most unique residents. I was reminded of that re-cently when I found a Tomahawk newspaper clip-ping dated May 30, 1984 that featured a story con-cerning the restoration of his memorial on Cross Mountain. I’m sure most residents of Johnson County know about him but some might not, especially newcomers to our county’s borders.
Nick Grindstaff, better known as “Uncle Nick” was also referred to as “The South’s Most Famous Hermit.” Nobody knows why he chose to live a life of solitude, but his only com-panions for many years were his dog “Panter” and a steer. He was said to have had a pet rattlesnake for a short time and was extremely upset when a visitor killed it.
Nick Grindstaff was born in Johnson County on December 26, 1851 in the Doe Valley section of the county. His parents were Isaac Grindstaff and Mary Heaton Grindstaff. He at-tended nearby school and learned reading, writing and arithmetic. His mother died in 1853 and his father died a year later. He lived with relatives until he was 21 years old. He inherited a fourth of the family farm and lived there until 1877. He was a good citizen, and a hard worker. When he was 26 years old, he sold his farm, moved from the cabin he had build and went west. He came back to Johnson County and lived as a hermit for some 40 years. He came down from his mountain cabin infrequently and only then to pick up supplies that were necessary for his living.
Nick was found dead in his cabin July 21, 1923. He had died about four days earlier and “Panter” was standing guard over him. It was only after the dog was subdued and tied that Nick’s body could be re-moved.
R. B. Wilson, with the aid of Nick’s relatives and friends erected a monument built of cement and mountain granite and a nice slab of marble to mark his grave-site. On July 4, 1925, a host of people met at the monument for a memorial service. Many distinguished people were there for the occasion.
The Tomahawk clipping that I found reads that Nick’s monument had recently been restored due to the efforts of several folks. Spearheading the effort were Mr. and Mrs. Lillard W. Blevins. Upon visiting Nick’s grave they noted its deteriorating condition. Mr. Blevins was a former resident of Shady Valley who lived in Knoxville at the time. According to the article, others involved in the restoration were the late Jimmy Quillen who contacted the U. S. Department of agriculture who contacted the U. S. Forest Service and Ranger Barr who worked with Ray Hunt of the Tennessee Eastman Hiking Club to restore the monument.
I’ve never been to Nick Grindstaff’s grave, but I’ve been told that it is a scenic area of Johnson County. I want to visit it sometime and stand and reflect on the life of the man whose memorial stone reads: “Lived Alone, Suffered Alone, and Died Alone.”