Claiborne County, Tennessee

Claiborne County was established on October 29, 1801, created from Grainger and Hawkins counties and extended the southern boundary to Anderson County.   It was named for Virginia tidewater aristocrat William C. C. Claiborne, one of the first judges of the Superior Court and one of the first representatives in Congress from Tennessee.   Claiborne County is located in the northern part of Tennessee.   Claiborne County is bounded by Bell County, Kentucky; on the northeast, by Lee County, Virginia; on the southeast and south by Grainger and Union County, Tennessee; and on the west by Campbell County.   Two rivers, Powell and Clinch, both rising in Virginia, flow through the county.   The Clinch River bounds the county on the southeast and forms one of the largest embayments of Norris Lake.   The Powell River, shorter of the two, shears away several miles from the Cumberland Mountains, but no longer flows into the Powell Valley, which is separated by a back valley ride.

The first government was organized at the Powell Valley home of John Owens.   The Court of Pleas and Plenary Sessions elected Walter Evans as clerk.   He served the county faithfully and expertly for many years.   John Hunt was chosen as high sheriff, an extremely important office.   Luke Bowyer was appointed solicitor with a salary of $12 for each court session.   Soon the need to establish the county's government nearer to the center of the county's population, so Tazewell was selected as the county seat over Springdale.

Throughout the first half century of its life, the Claiborne County Court of Pleas and Plenary Sessions meted out frontier justice for such common offenses as trespass, bastardy, assault and battery, murder, libel, theft, and disputes ariising from interpretations of agreements between individuals and groups.   Trespass was not a common offense, but bastardy often engaged the attention of the court.   Assault and battery was the most frequent of all charges, but few actualy found their way into court since it was tacit assumption that each man was the keeper of his own honor.   The first jail was built in 1816.

Many settlers had knowledge of grist mills and other mills that could be powered with water. There were millwrights and raftmen among them who saw great opportunities to prosper.   Settlers built homes along the creeks and rivers which also offered a means to transport products to market at little cost.   In 1917, a flood created from a cloudburst-size rainfall burst the upstream dams and swept away the mills.   Sixteen people was drowned.  

David William Rogers (1799-1833) was the first family to settle in the valley.   They built a log dam to impound water and also built a grist mill.   The mill remained working throughout the century.

A major problem at the county's beginning was road building due to the area's hilly topography and heavy rainfall.   In December 1802, Elnathan Davis had the responsibility for constructing and maintaining a road from Barren Creek at Sandlick to the Straight Creek Road. All males 21 years old and over that was able, along that road, had the duty to furnish labor for five days.

The area's primitive transporation system were ferries.   Bullards operated a ferry across Clinch River.   The charge allowed was 12 1/2 cents for each man and horse, 50 cents for a two-wheel carriage, and 6 1/4 cents for each head of cattle.

About 1802 the Court of Pleas and Plenary Sessions set a real estate tax of 12 1/2 cents per 100 acres, 25 cents for each black person and $1 per capita for white person and for each stud horse.

In 1830, the county's population was about 8470 people, with many more people than any neighboring county, except Knoxville.

In 1843, elections were held within the corporate limits of Tazewell to select a mayor and aldermen to govern in accordance with Tennessee Law.   James P. Evans was elected Mayor, William Neil, Wesley Chittum, William Kirkpatrick, Jesse B. Lane, A. A. McAmis, and Joseph White as aldermen.

A small frame courthouse was errected in 1804.   In 1810, the Circuit Court of Claiborne County ws organized.   When the ante-bellum courthouse was burned in 1862 Tazewell was left without a palace of justice until 1867 and during that time the Masonic Hall served.   A. M. Cloud and his father, Benjamin Franklin Cloud saved the county records from destruction in the fire of 62.   Most of the town bured that day and when Cloud discovered the fire at the courthouse he called to his son and they moved the records and piled them in a vacant lot where Dr. Nelson Stone's residence later stood. After the fire the court records were stored in an old frame building back of the courthouse until the completion of the courthouse in 1867.   The Claiborne County Courthouse was destroyed by fire on September of 1931, located on the site of the present courthouse that was built in 1932 in Tazewell.

During the Civil War, the people of Claiborne County often were divided.   Division often happened within families, and many neighbors took opposite sides.   Without the pressure from Washington and the southern states, the Claiborne County people possibly would not have taken arms.   There was strong Unionist sentiment throughout the county, and slavery was not as important in this area than in other parts of Tennessee.   The National election of 1860 indicated divisions in the political parties, and slavery gained importance.   Claiborne County furnished thousands of troops to the Union Army. The Union Army organized its Tennessee recruits into three calvary and four infantry regiments.  No major military operations took place in Claiborne County.   The devastation of Claiborne County was less than what occurred in other parts of the South.   Confederate soldiers came back after their commands surrendered as did those who served in the Union Army.

Following the war, assaults against poeple were not uncommon in Claiborne County.   One of the assault cases presented to the court was one which changed from common assault to murder, which ended in public execution of Annanias Honeycutt in 1875.   Honeycutt murdered Thomas Ausmus and was arrested about a week after the murder.   Honeycutt claimed his actions had been in self-defense following a dispute over a hog.   5000 to 6000 people witnessed the hanging, many families arriving in wagons supplied with picnics.   The hanging took place in "Academy Hollow", near the Kentucky Road.   Honeycutt maintained his innocence to the last.   Fifty guards stood guard over the wagon that carried the doomed man on his coffin accompanied by two preachers.   The proceeding was opened by Reverend Billy Cruthfied with a reading from the Bible and a hymn, followed by a prayer and an hour long sermon about heaven and hell.   Then Reverend Greer spoke.   Honeycutt was asked to speak and he invited the crowd to meet him in heaven.   The Sheriff put a black cap over Honeycutt;s head and face and adjusted the noose, the wagon moved forward leaving him struggling in the air.  The body was cut down and his family took it home for burial.   Since this day in 1875, no person has suffered capital punishment in Claiborne County.

In 1917, United States entered World War I on the side of England and France.   From June 1917 to September 1918, Claiborne County Draft Board selected 4649 men to to induction camps, mostly to Camp Oglethorpe in Georgia.   253 of these men were disqualified, 84 given limited service and 303 were classified for general service.   During the course of the war 41 were wounded and the following 22 men were killed: Leonard T. Brewer William Hobart Leach Robert B. Carpenter Ballard Columbus Linch Fred Cawood Estell William Look Oscar P. Cupp Harvey Miracle Lafayeet Day Hagen Moore Samuel H. Duncan William F. Moore Major G. Ellison William C. Parkey Lewis F. Pearson James I. Francisco, Jr. Carben A. Keck Onie Sanford Arthur V. Kilbert George W. Singleton William Lasley Henry V. Soard

The attack of Pearl Harbor in 1941, ended in victory for the United State and her allies, but the casualty list for Claiborne County was much greater than in World War I.

The following men were casualties of the Navy: William Brooks Charles L. Echols Roscoe L. Fortner Robert N. Johnson James Thomas Lynch Lillon Buford Lynch Clifford Osborne Charles H. Patterson Kermit C. Taylor

The following men were casualties of the Army: William J. Aye Tom Messer Lee Berry John H. Miracle Sherman H. Braden Owen Money, Jr. Lowell E. Brockman Maynard L. Nunn Wesley L. Brooks Edwin E. Overton Harry L. Buis Cordell Partin Cleo Cain Evert W. Pierce Roy l. Campbell Loyd J. Powers Bill J. Clark Aaron Rains Millard O. Cline Carl R. Reece Ross T. Collingsworth Kenneth B. Robinson George J. Davis Vernon W. Robinson Harold D. Douglass James M. Rogers Edward G. Douglass Ernest E. Seal Neil England Elvert E. Shiflet Nathan E. Fisher Edward R. Shugart, Jr. Austin S. Francisco Roy W. Sivils Lonnie E. Grady Riley L. Sutton Ernest Friffen Clyde S. Taylor James E. Hamblin Cecil C. Terry Roy E. Hatfield Louis W. Treece Henry A. Hooper Harold C. Turpin Samuel L. Houston William Weaver Neil E. Ingle Daniel Weaver Ralph C. Jordon Harold W. Welch Claude B. Keys Pat M. Williams Kels Laws A. F. Wolfenbarger Conley Leach Woodrow W. Wright Austin M. Long John D. Yeary John Manning

In 1960, economic life had sunk to its lowest point after World War II.   The county population sunk to slightly over 19,000 with many going to cities, both north and south, and many going west.   Agriculature was the primary vocation of about 80 percent of the population.   Except for tobacco, there was little cash inducement to grow traditional crops, and tobacco warehouses determined the outcome of the chief cash crop.  Dairy products was the next biggest money maker.



Arthur, Claiborne County was named for Col. Alexander Arthurs, a native of England who settled in this section and errected the first buildings on the present site.   Arthur is located on State Highway No. 63.   Arthur is devoted to farming and produce.   The historical point of interest in the community is the grave of James Robertson, early pioneer, in the local cemetery where a monument was errected to his memory.   Mr. Robertson was shot by Indians here at Butcher Springs and was buried near where he was found by friends.


Clairfield, Claiborne County ws first known as Ibex, but its name ws changed to Clairfied. It is taken from Clear Ford Creek which flows through the section, "clair" being the early settlers vernacular fro the word "clear".   Clairfied is located on State Highway 90.   It is one of the largest coal mining districts in the county and has four mines.   It was settled in 1825.


Clouds, Claiborne County received its name from the Cloud family who were the first settlers.   Cloud is located in the central portion of Claiborne County on a county road 5.9 miles west of Tazewell.   It was established in 1900.


Cumberland Gap, Claiborne County was named for a passage in the Cumberland Mountains between Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia, discovered in 1750 by the explorer, Dr. Thomas Walker, and named by him in honor of the Duke of Cumberland of England.   It is located in the extreme northern part of the county near the border.   Cumberland Gap is flanked on one side by Pinnacle Mountain (Elevation 2, 565) from which summit six states and seven towns can be viewed.   The town was settled in 1800, unincorporated in 1907.


Eagan, Claiborne County is named for a. M. Eagan, financier of Atlanta, Georgia, who was an official of the local minimg company.   Eagan is located on Clear Ford Creek in the northwestern portion of the county near the Campbell County line.   It was established in 1905 when the coal mine was opened by Mr. Eagan.   Prior to this time, it was unsettled, practically wilderness country.


Fork Ridge, Claiborne County was named from a nearby mountain spur.   It is located in the northwestern portion of the county on the Kentucky border.   Fork Ridge was settled in 1890 when the Fork Ridge Coal & Coke Company opened a mine in the section.


Goin, in Claiborne County was settled early.   The post office was established in 1844 and named after the first postmaster.   It is located 44 miles north of Knoxville.  The post office was discontinued on May 21, 1965.


Harrogate, Claiborne County was named for the city of Harrogate, England.   It is located in the northern part of the county near the Kentucky border.   Harrogate was founded in 1888 by an English Land Company, and was part of their original plan to establish the site as an all-the-year-around-resort.  This company's former Four Season's Hotel is now part of Lincoln Memorial University.


New Tazewell, Claiborne County, grew up a railroad station located just a mile north of the town of Tazewell, and adopted the name of New Tazewell to distinguish between them.   It is located in the south central part of the county.   New Tazewell was established in 1890.


Pruden, Claiborne County was named for Thomas Pruden, of the Pruden Coal Company.   It is located in the northwestern part of the county.   It is exclusively a coal mining community.   Pruden was settled in 1906 when the Pruden Coal Company began operation.


Shawanee, Claiborne County was first known as East Cumberland Gap and later changed to Shawnee for the tribe of Shawnee Indians which used the site for its camping ground in the early days.   When the post office was established the aname was changed to Shawanee because another village already had prior claim to Shawnee.   It is located in the northern part of the county near the Kentucky and Virginia state lines.  It was settled in 1890.


Speedwell, is an unincorporated village in Claiborne County. It is located in the western part of the county.   Agriculture is the only industry.   Speedwell was settled about 1790.


Tazewell, Claiborne County was named for Henry Tazewell, a prioneer United State Senator.   It is located in the central part of the county.   Tazewell was settled in 1802.


Tiprell, Claiborne County, a suberb of Cumberland Gap, was first called Hamilton Springs from an early settler named Hamilton, and a series of springs at the foot of the Cumberland Mountains.   It is located in the northern part of the county.   Tiprell was settled about 1880.


Valley Creek, a unincorporated village in Claiborne County, was named for a stream of water in the section called Valley Creek by the early settlers.   It is located in the northwestern portion of the county.  Valley Creek was settled in 1906, and was alumber camp until 1919 when the coal mines were developed.

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