The North Carolina legislature created Grainger County April 22, 1796. At the time the county included parts of present day Claiborne, Hamblen, Campbell, Union and Hawkins Counties. From 1801 to 1870, Grainger County was reduced in size to its present borders. In 1799 the county seat was established at Rutledge and the first courthouse was erected.
The county court was organized June 13, 1796 at the home of Benjamin McCarty, who lived approximately two miles below Rutledge. At the first meeting, permission was given by the county court to build the gristmills and saw mills.
Thomas Jarnagin served as a captain in Col. John Sevier’s army and fought in the Revolutionary War. Jarnagin was awarded 3,960 acres of land located on Richland Creek in Grainger County from 1794 through 1802. The land started at the Hickle House at Joppa School and extended to Lea Springs. He was also awarded land 12 miles east of White Pine at a place called Long Creek. Jarnagin, just like William Bean and Daniel Boone before him, traveled with Col. John Sevier through Long Creek during the Cherokee Indian War, Jarnagin himself never lived in Grainger County but rode in on horseback and divided his land with his seven children. The first track of land, Hickle House, was given to his son Noah Jarnagin. Noah built the Hickle House in 1794, two years before Grainger County was formed. Noah’s wife, Mary Russell Jarnagin, was the niece of Lydia Russell Bean, the wife of William Bean, first settler in Tennessee. Noah lived here until his death in 1849.
Boone Creek empties into the Watauga River and the Watauga empties into the Tennessee. A short distance above the spot where the Boone empties into the Watauga there was a falls. From the Watauga, passing Indians could see the falls but could not see the eight-year-old cabin which stood in a clearing, that had been built by Lt. John Bean, a brother of Capt. William Bean Jr, while on a hunting trip some years before, perhaps in 1762. In May 1769 this small cabin built on a Daniel Boone campsite would become home to the first white settler in Tennessee (William Bean). It was not entirely new country to Bean, for he had also been in parts of what is now eastern Tennessee some years before with his friend Daniel Boone.
The Great Warpath now lies under the water of Cherokee Lake. Many tribes centuries before the white man’s coming followed this warpath. Settlers traveled over these same paths in the 1700s seeking new land, and a community known as Bean Station was eventually established along the way. It’s location was strategic and made it one of the significant early settlements of East Tennessee.
Editor’s Note: Ken Coffey has made significant contributions in efforts toward securing a federal scenic byway designation for Highway 25E through Grainger County. His research details the original old Great Wilderness Road and points to significant contributions by Capt. William S. Bean Jr. and the importance of Grainger County to the development of the emerging United States. This submission by Coffey is a synopsis of the significant parts of that research and according to Coffey contains some previously unpublished information.
The Great wilderness Road begins at Wadkins Ferry on the Potomac River below Hagarstown, VA, and ends at Long Island (Kingsport). It is also known as the great Wagon Road; Irish Road; Valley Turnpike or Pennsylvania Road and today is know as Hwy. 11 or Robert E. Lee Hwy. Most of our ancestors traveled this great road, coming from overseas to ports on the east coast, whole families, fathers, mothers and children, indentured servants (quasi-slavery) for seven years.