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A history of Hamblen County

Hamblen County is located between the Holston and the Nolichucky Rivers in a fertile, well-watered valley only an hour’s drive from the Great Smoky Mountain National Park.

Hamblen County was formed in 1870 from parts of Jefferson, Grainger, and Hawkins Counties. It was named in honor of Hezekiah Hamblen, a lawyer in Hawkins County.

Morristown, which was incorporated in 1855, was named county seat in 1870, but it would be four years before a county courthouse was constructed at a cost of $21,750.

This building, designed by architect A. C. Bruce, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Cherokees, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Shawnee Indians roamed the East Tennessee hills and valleys in the days before settlement began in what would become Hamblen County.

In 1783 Robert McFarland and Alexander Outlaw migrated from Virginia to claim land grants on the “Bend of Chucky.” Gideon Morris and his brothers, Daniel and Absalom, were the next settlers, and they took land grants within the present city limits of Morristown, providing the community with its name.

Perhaps the most famous of those early settlers was Davy Crockett, the son of John Crockett, who rose to fame as a frontiersman and later met his fate at the siege of the Alamo in 1836 in Texas

More settlers arrived when a road connecting the stage routes from Abingdon, Virginia, and Knoxville was constructed in 1792. By 1800 several communities had been established, including Russellville, Whitesburg, Springvale, and Panther Springs.

According to legend, Panther Springs acquired its name after an early explorer shot a panther that fell into the springs. The area boasted a store, a church, and an academy in addition to several residences. The ever-flowing spring, with its vast volume of water, continues to be an object of interest.

Panther Creek State Park, encompassing two thousand acres, is located on this historic spot. Nearby Cherokee Lake, created by the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Cherokee Dam, provides additional opportunities for outdoor activities.

Russellville, another early settlement, is rich in colorful history and, at one time, was larger than Morristown.

The famous Boone Trace and Buffalo Trail of the Indians, running from Kentucky through Tennessee to North Carolina, passed through Russellville.

Colonel James Roddye built the first home in Russellville soon after his return from the Revolutionary War battle of Kings Mountain.

The first industry in the county was Shields’ Paper Mill, located at Marshalls Ferry on the Holston River. The mill operated from 1825 to 1861.

Along with Crockett, a number of Hamblen Countians have risen to prominence. DeWitt Senter served as governor of Tennessee, 1869-71.

U.S. Senator Joseph Anderson lived at Lowland from 1797 to 1815 and became comptroller of the U.S. Treasury after 11 years in the Senate. Helen Topping Miller, noted author, lived at Arrow Hill until her death in 1960.

Herbert Sanford Walters served in the U.S. Senate and was chairman of the State Democratic Executive Committee and a member of the National Democratic Committee. Z. Buda, Mayor of Morristown, 1972-78, was noted for his efforts to keep taxes low and for his fight to prevent the construction of a regional prison in the city.

Two residents of Hamblen County, Alvin WardandEdwardR.Talley,receivedthe Congressional Medal of Honor in World War I.

As of 2000, the population was 58,128. The 2005 Census Estimate placed the population at 59,898.