Rogersville, But What’s a Name?

The evolution of receiving, keeping, and changing names can be complicated, but some of us experience it multiple times throughout our lives. My song for this blog is “Changes” by David Bowie:

The Crocketts
If you enjoyed my blog about Davy Crockett and his ties to Morristown, you might be interested to learn that in 1775 his grandparents settled Crockett Springs near the Watauga Colony that was eventually named Rogersville. 

126274237_128787015690747_4508370443862766151_n

Crockett Springs Park & Arboretum was named after the Crockett family, and remains a busy park for locals. 

228207762_302035405032573_6185526958735583820_n

You can visit the Crockett Tavern Museum and family log cabin in Morristown, about half-hour drive away. Here is my blog entry about Morristown if you care to learn more. 

126802116_128788352357280_7918402228860596178_n126803072_128788382357277_5340182804473888020_n

 

The Amises
I would be remiss not to mention that Native Americans and especially the Cherokee were the original inhabitants of the Rogersville area, but there is an alleged rare case of this land being purchased from the tribes rather than stolen. Three separate treaties of Hopewell, Dumplin, and Holston attempt to substantiate this but were only signed after many long years of battle and strife. 

During one such battle of the French-Indian War, the elder Crocketts were tragically murdered, and their land was sold to a French Colonel named Thomas Amis. He built a stone fortress and opened several businesses to serve his community including a distillery, general store, blacksmith shop, and various mills. 

Just a few miles from downtown, visit the Thomas Amis’ Historic site and estate. Amis Mill Eatery is the most popular feature of the historic site, and the entire grounds are on the National Register of Historic Places.

228540478_302032068366240_8916939592933009748_n

The restaurant is known for its crisp, square, grilled garlic bread and plentiful outdoor space.

228841071_302031741699606_171967645121138004_n

This is the grilled chicken marsala over pasta, and the queso macaroni and cheese was fantastic too. 

228791780_302031788366268_7879442920954625283_n

A large multi-level patio wraps around the side of the building, overlooking the Amis Mill and Dam. 

228421506_302032111699569_4959115794143454629_n229065354_302031655032948_4342870315926847258_n

Each menu also has a map for touring the rest of the grounds. A gravel road runs up the hill beside the restaurant past an antique blue truck and continues to the rest of the historic site markers.

228062446_302031561699624_6997127862027644425_n

A wedding arbor, pavilion, art structures, and barns line the path. Walk the short Birdhouse Trail loop that runs between the arbor to the pavilion, if you need some exercise after your meal.

223858896_302031528366294_6106414961336075255_n

At the top of the hill you will see the Amis family cemetery and Thomas Amis’ circa 1781 house, which the owners of the Amis Mill Eatery now live in. This family purchased the property over a decade ago with intentions to preserve and curate Rogersville history, and quickly became local favourites.

223294558_302031328366314_6814989824879810001_n229625964_302031458366301_160695629476235485_n

After passing the house, follow the gravel drive downhill until you reach the main road again. The Big Creek Visitor Center will be across the street and there are a few places to sit near the water or have a picnic. 

228841064_302031691699611_7082088208964895296_n

From here, the Ebbing and Flowing Spring is hardly one minute away. It was previously named Sinking Spring and is one of only two known tidal springs in the world. What this means is that the water volume oscillates between a trickle and a flood; from nearly standing still to gushing up to 500 gallons per minute.

The change has been extensively observed and timed to note that it occurs roughly every 2.5 hours, or every two hours and forty seven minutes according to some studies. Regardless of the weather, the water maintains an icy temperature of 34 degrees Farenheit.

227699524_302031601699620_8954055907349507573_n

Ebbing & Flowing spring actually flows across its namesake, the residential Ebbing & Flowing Road leading to Amis Mill Eatery and the Thomas Amis Historic Site.

During heavy rains it can become too flooded to pass. That was the case for my first attempt to visit, but the second time it was low enough to cross. 

222954142_302032298366217_2631057038987660542_n

The Rogerses
When Thomas Amis’ daughter married an Irishman named Joseph Rogers, Amis gave them some of his land and Rogers was appointed postmaster.

As was common back then, towns were named after the postmaster, so the growing settlement was named Rogersville. 229193117_302035371699243_8468495771956040507_n

The old Rogers Tavern still stands, barely, over on south Rogers Street. 

If you are especially interested in the Crocketts, Rogers, Hales, and other OG Rogersville families, you can visit some of their graves at the Rogers Cemetery, First Presbyterian Old Cemetery, and a few others in town.

229055047_302035325032581_7638564894474034208_n

Rogersville was officially founded in 1789, earning its status as the second oldest town in Tennessee.

Before being named Rogersville, the settlement went by a few different names; Frankland, Franklin, Spencer County of Franklin, Hawkins County of North Carolina, and finally Hawkins County of Tennessee.

125978173_128787782357337_4502604177608731849_n

To get to that point, you need to know about the Lost State of Franklin.

A few years after Amis created his fortress and gifted land to his son-in-law Rogers, settlers in the western part of the colony had become fed up with government officials ignoring their demands for resources and rights, so they petitioned for secession from North Carolina.

213446632_282964660272981_1500530114389996925_n

Earliest efforts to secede were led by Virginian officials John Sevier and Arthur Campbell but a multitude of quarrels led Campbell to back out. Sevier begged favour from Benjamin Franklin and suggested the new state be named Frankland.

Joseph Rogers joined in and petitioned to make Rogersville the municipal center of the State of Franklin. He laid out a plan for the town square, and even offered his own property and tavern up as official buildings.

After gaining Franklin’s support, John Sevier became the state of Franklin’s first governor and later the first governor of Tennessee. 

Check out this entertaining breakdown of events:

Franklin was never granted autonomy as its own state but the small victories and losses of its two short years will be remembered. I passed a medical clinic named after the State of Franklin, and the town is full of info plaques noting important sites of that time.

This documentary by Nolpix Media, a friend’s film company that I have had the honour of working with many times, has more info and professional reenactments. 

The Hales
Two of the most famous Rogersville natives are the siblings named Richard and Ruth Hale, born respectively in 1892 and 1887.

Richard Hale was an opera singer and actor for several decades in the 1900s but could not seem to get his name credited on most of his work. He sang in Broadway shows and appeared in Star Trek, Perry Mason, and countless films.

Remember that scene in To Kill a Mockingbird when Nathan Radley angrily fills the tree knot with cement? That was Richard Hale.

Remember the kooky old mystic who yelled “Beware the Ides of March!” in the original Julius Caesar film? Also Richard Hale. 

The list of Richard Hale’s uncredited work goes on throughout his entire opera and film career, even as recently as his role in the 1975 film Escape to Witch Mountain. Since his death in 1981, fans have been continuously working to fill the blanks and create a full compilation of this celebrated performer and to give him his name. 

Richard’s sister Ruth Hale fought to keep her name.  After her marriage to sports columnist Heywood Broun, she was frustrated that all of her legal documents suddenly renamed her as “Mrs. Heywood Broun” and because of this new name, she needed Heywood to be present or give his consent to almost everything she needed to do.

After all, women were not permitted to vote, open bank accounts, take credit, own assets, or make any legal or medical decisions back then, but at least she had a name of her own before she got married. 

S/NPG.93.82

Image of Ruth Hale shared from the National Portrait Gallery

When Ruth moved to New York in the early 1920s, she founded the Lucy Stone League. Its mission was to maintain:

equal rights for women and men to retain, modify and create their names, because a person’s name is fundamental to her/his existence, equal actual frequency of name retention, modification and creation between men and women at marriage and throughout life, and equality of patrilineal/matrilineal name distribution for children.

With combined efforts of Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the Suffragettes, the “Lucy Stoners” and other feminist organizations Ruth secured the right for women to vote and posses some legal agency over their lives though this fight unbelievably continues in 2021. 

Members of the collective were often also Abolitionists and pursued other human rights issues. though Ruth always focused on maintaining the rights of women to keep their surnames and, more importantly, their autonomy in tact after marriage. 

Watch this video to learn more about Lucy Stone and how she influenced these fierce women:

Ruth Hale’s passionate work and writings led to her joining the famous Algonquin Roundtable of writers that largely centered around Dorothy Parker. The 1994 film named Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle stays rather true to the Roundtable’s documented history. 

Hale does not get a lot of screen time in the film but there is one scene where another character gossips about her, asking “What’s a name? It’s simply a name!” Ruth’s famous reply was “A wife should no more take her husband’s name than he should hers. My name is my identity and must not be lost” which became the motto of the Lucy Stone League.

She is buried in Rogersville at the First Presbyterian Church’s Old Cemetery. 

A223235246_302030791699701_964804805700323668_n

Fun Facts: Actress Jennifer Beals played a role in Mrs. Parker and the Vicious Circle, and she is known for her work onscreen and in her personal life advocating for LGBTQ+ and women’s rights. Dorothy Parker herself was highly vocal of  her disdain for inequality and segregation, and producers took care to include that in the film.

229078815_302032598366187_1555046013905861582_n

Hale Springs Inn was built in 1824 and was first named McKinney’s Inn after its owner John McKinney. Union soldiers used the inn as a home base during the American Civil War, a battle between citizens who were polarized by their views on slavery and rights.

After the war ended, the Inn was renamed Hale Springs Hotel to attract tourists visiting hot mineral springs at the now defunct Hale Springs Resort.

228694351_302035185032595_2858632161681165269_n

In 1998 the inn closed, but five years the later Rogersville Heritage Association purchased the property. They spent millions of dollars on renovations and reopened in 2009 under the new name of Hale Springs Inn.

228989719_302035228365924_9049729939130079841_n

This lovely inn has its original 1824 heart pine flooring, an antique library, and prides itself on hosting presidents James K. Polk, Andrew Johnson, and Andrew Jackson who once addressed the people from inn’s main suite balcony. 

125979715_128787512357364_5749670276828113553_n

You can stay overnight in one of the nine rooms or three presidential suites, or just stop in at McKinney’s Tavern for a meal.

228540478_302035065032607_4120728324684630770_n

The Hale Springs Inn also offers an outdoor event space in the gardens. 

212829458_282964706939643_6702562223546196202_n

Across the street from Hale Springs Inn is the historic Kyle House, built in 1837.  

212174698_282964680272979_5508364592888401777_n

Confederates took control of Rogersville during the Battle of Big Creek in 1863 and set up camp in the Kyle House, directly across from the Hale Springs Hotel. 

126474671_128787625690686_3043108610223311000_n

Kyle House is now the home of a café named Coffee at the Kyle and it functions as the town meeting spot for people and pets alike. 

228970705_302030675033046_3230640937922076846_n

We had hot lattes and two of the café’s gigantic “muffins” but these delicious treats are legit cupcakes under a thin disguise of breakfast. Muffins, cupcakes, what’s a name?

Below are the Toffee Coffee and the Apple Strudel. 

126055576_128787439024038_3265751914645539099_n

Other Names and Places
Rogersville will thrill any type of history lover, as the entire historic district is listed on the esteemed National Register of Historic Places.

126159560_128787299024052_8613279080675738941_n

Rogersville Heritage Association shares its home with the Newspaper & Printing museum inside the old Depot.

One new fact I learned here is that the first newspaper published in Tennessee was the Knoxville Gazette, and it started in Rogersville in 1791. 

227987567_302030928366354_1670596592014998483_n

The Heritage Association preserves Rogersville history by hosting the annual Heritage Days Festival, various luncheons, tours, lectures, and other events year round.

Check out the Rogersville mural in the tiny Pocket Park on Main Street to guide your journey to historical sites. 

126262657_128787035690745_8574458169477798813_n

The Hawkins County Courthouse was built in 1836 and is one of only six active antebellum courthouses in Tennessee. 

211700382_282964633606317_1667581867255720711_n

The historic Swift College for African Americans is now the Price Public Community Center and Swift Museum, preserving over eighty years of African American history and achievements in the Rogersville area. 

I can not glorify institutions like Swift College that were created specifically for African Americans and Freedmen because places like that just added clout and perpetuated segregation. You can read the super churchy history of the place here, but whoever wrote it still seems absolutely oblivious or in denial of the role that the institution and the church they speak about have played. 

Nevertheless, I like what the museum is attempting to facilitate.

229078815_302032385032875_4621536871537262155_n

The historic Alexander Building on Main Street is now named Mountcastle Arms, leasing apartments upstairs and an art gallery on the ground floor. 

125955298_128787255690723_3567870110354223629_n

Main Street has dozens of shops and other businesses to keep you busy.

126224473_128787692357346_6648319008809616284_n

Many of them are in lesser-known historical buildings but often have plaques by the entrance that tell its year of construction and other facts. 

223280469_302030745033039_8260734113331939231_n228850296_302033075032806_2544732301853961779_n

I really enjoy the different architectural features mixed in with the overall Federalist style buildings, with lots of art and small parks between the old brick and concrete. 

229471734_302034908365956_2222557275519136207_n

125411876_128788015690647_584626219338639621_n

Drive or walk down Depot Street and some of the other roads right off Main Street to see some adorable Victorian and Colonial style homes.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If you are up for exploring an abandoned place, check out the Pressman’s House about nine miles north of Rogersville. The site was former headquarters for the International Printing Pressmen and Assistants Union of North America. It began in 1911 and was in operation until it lost funding in 1967.

228024798_302030185033095_59524146925607452_n

Pressmen’s Home contained the union’s hydroelectric power production plant pictured below, as well as a training school, utilities, post office, chapel, hotel/lodge, store, sanitarium, and everything else this self-contained community could need back then. 

228729162_302030338366413_2850310683666547741_n

State Route 66 is a wild, miles-long hairpin curve, then the gravel road leading to the Pressmen’s Home site is full of pits and potholes so take caution. Also watch out for other creeps hanging out in a rural East Tennessee ghost town where arsonists, vandals, graffiti artists, and who knows which other types have taken over. 

Castle Barn was once the dairy barn on the Pressman’s House complex, and it is now an eclectic concert venue. It also hosts one of those “come-as-you-are” churches with the hip youth pastors, if that’s your thing. 

Oh, but I wish movie theatres and restaurants and venues would stop doing that…

229374390_302030135033100_4576372516873138685_n

 

In the area for a while? Follow me to Morristown or Greeneville!

********************

© Copyright Fernwehtun, 2015- Current. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Fernwehtun and Fernwehtun.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

4 thoughts on “Rogersville, But What’s a Name?

  1. Pingback: Monkeying Around Rhea County; Evolution, the Scopes Trial, and a Secret Garden | Fernweh

  2. Pingback: Greeneville, with an E. | Fernweh

  3. Pingback: Morristown; Home of a Bear-Grinnin’ Hero, The Evil Dead, and the Last Two-Story Sky Mart in the USA | Fernweh

  4. Pingback: Jonesborough; Abolition, Tall Tales, and Whiskey in Tennessee’s Oldest Town | Fernweh

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s