Grainger Historical Society hosts Haints and History night

The gravesite of Grainger County Sheriff Samuel Greenlee rests at Rutledge Memorial Church Cemetery. The Civil War veteran is the only sheriff to have died in the line of duty in the county, dying in an ambush on Clinch Mountain in 1889. The grave is a tour stop at the Grainger County Historical Society Haints and History Night on Sept. 28.

Grainger County will be celebrating its history, while putting a little fear into those who will attend.

The Grainger County Historical Society is hosting its fourth-annual Haints and History Night on Sept. 28 from 6 to 9 p.m. The event will be a walking tour in downtown Rutledge. The word “haints” is a Southern term derived from a Welsh word for spirits, GCHS President Ginger Spradlin said the tour has grown each year.

“Every year, (the Haints and History Night) has grown, and we’ve had a great increase in attendance,” she said. “Two years ago, we had 80 people. Last year, 284 people showed up.

“It’s the history of the whole area. It’s the combination of history and ghost stories.”

A new tour will be leaving the historic Grainger County jail, located on Highway 92, every 15 minutes through 9 p.m. DVDs, the county’s 2020 historic places calendar, and GCHS T-shirts will be on sale. Funds from the sale of these items will go toward the purchase of the Tennessee History for Kids books for students.

The tour is divided into six stops, beginning at the keeping room at the Nance House, where GCHS member Adrian Cameron will tell about Granger County Dalton Gang member, Christopher “C.C.” Dalton. After killing a man in Grainger County in 1889, he joined his relatives in the gang as it robbed banks and trains in the Old West, before being captured in a shootout in Jackson. Once apprehended and taken to Knoxville, several unconfirmed stories have surfaced as to what became of Dalton, though it is known he was mortally wounded with a bullet into his lung during the shootout.

“We couldn’t find out whether or not he was ever transferred to Grainger County,” Spradlin said. “We do know he either died in Knox County or in Grainger County.”

Stop No. 2 is narrated by County Historian Ken Coffey, who will provide attendees with an update about the tourism grant and the kiosks that are currently under construction at the Andrew Johnson Tailor Shop and the Veterans Overlook at the top of Clinch Mountain. Food concessions will be sold on the Nance House porch and restrooms will be available.

The Marshall House, owned by Dr. and Mrs. Mark Holland is the next stop on the tour. The Hollands say the historic home is haunted, saying they have heard the voices of ghosts in the historic home, and will share stories of those hauntings.

Lisa Ray will tell attendees about the Scots-Irish roots of the county, and the many superstitions and customs concerning death and dying as visitors walk down the driveway of the Marshall House.

Visitors will then walk to the Rutledge Presbyterian Church where city native Roy Lovin will give a eulogy for Grainger County Sheriff Samuel Greenlee, who was killed in an ambush on Clinch Mountain in 1889, the only elected Grainger County sheriff to ever die in the line of duty. There will be an ornate glassed-in hearse that was pulled by horses at the church during the funeral of the Civil War veteran for visitors to inspect. The final stop of the tour is located in Rutledge United Methodist Church Cemetery, where Greenlee is buried.

“(Rutledge Presbyterian Church) is a beautiful church that is on the National Register of Historic Places,” Spradlin said. “It’s a perfect place to hold the eulogy for Sheriff Greenlee.”

Guests may park above the old jail or in the Smith-Reagan Funeral Home parking lot. Adult ticket prices are $5, students are $3, and children under five are free. Spradlin said the event has become a favorite for high school students, calling it a “cheap date night” for those in attendance.

“Students have been asking their teachers about the evening. We might need some more volunteers (to accommodate them),” she said.