As treaties were made with the Indian tribes and land companies opened vast tracts of land west of the Appalachian Mountains, an increasing flood of settlers moved into the western country of North Carolina and Virginia. General settlement of what is now Hawkins County began in the late 1760s and early 1770s. Following the Revolutionary War in 1784, North Carolina ceded its western lands to the US Government to help pay for its share of the war debt. Soon after, a convention of delegates from Washington, Greene and Sullivan Counties met to from a new state, Franklin. But North Carolina then repealed its law and reclaimed its western lands. The State of Franklin existed in opposition to North Carolina’s claim until 1788 when it finally collapsed and the area submitted once again to the rule of North Carolina.
In 1787, Hawkins County, North Carolina was created by the NC legislature. County commissioners voted to locate the county seat at Joseph Roger’s place on Crockett Creek. A combination courthouse and jail were built where the old Presbyterian Cemetery now stands, and the community was known as Hawkins Court House. In 1790, North Carolina again ceded its western lands to the United States, and Hawkins County then became part of the Territory South of the River Ohio. William Blount was named territorial governor and established the territorial capital at James White’s Fort in present day Knoxville. Tennessee became a state in 1796.
Rogersville’s founder, Joseph Rogers, was born in 1764 in Tyrone County, Ireland. He immigrated to the US in 1781 and came south to this area where he found work at the plantation of Thomas Amis, located on Big Creek, just east of the present town of Rogersville. In 1786, Rogers eloped with Mary, Amis’ 16-year-old daughter. Relations between Thomas Amis and his son-in-law Rogers were never cordial.
In 1786, Rogers purchased a 281-acre tract of land from Robert Crockett (David Crockett’s uncle) following the death of Robert Crockett’s parents (David Crockett’s grandparents) in an Indian attack at the site of Crockett Spring Park. That piece of land was the site of the soon-to-be established town of Rogersville.
In 1789, the North Carolina Legislature passed a bill, which was presented by Joseph Rogers and his partner, James Hagan, to change the name of the town from Hawkins Court House to Rogersville. Thomas Amis was one of the surveyors who laid out the 30-acre town on Rogers’ land.
Hawkins County was a great thoroughfare as settlers bound for Kentucky and middle Tennessee made their way through the area following the Holston River or the great Wilderness Road through Cumberland Gap into Kentucky. With the traffic came new settlers and trade for the Inns in Rogersville. Joseph Rogers built his first Tavern and Inn on present-day Rogers Street in 1786. In the 1820’s, Rogersville’s Absolom Kyle started a stagecoach line from Bristol to Knoxville, and the Atlanta to Washington stagecoach line also passed through the town. In 1827, attorney and landowner John McKinney built what is now Hale Springs Inn.
George Roulston and Robert Ferguson printed the Knoxville Gazette, thefirst newspaper in the Territory South of the River Ohio here in 1791. In 1792, Roulston moved the press to Knoxville, the new capital of the Territory. Rogersville’s Tennessee Newspaper and Printing Museum reflects the area’s long involvement with the printing industry. Sawmills and gristmills were an important factor in early industry. The marble industry began in Rogersville in the late 1830s. The unique pink and red marble quarried in the area was used in the Tennessee state house and in the National Capital in Washington.
Rogersville has had an illustrious career, reflected both in the brilliant statesmen and businessmen it has produced and in its many productive industries. Today, it reflects its gracious past in its homes and buildings and in the cordial manner of its citizens. It is a genial place to visit and, even more, a delightful place to call home.