By Mike Steely
Now that we’re into the colder months of our East Tennessee year a car trip around our area can get a family out and about from being isolated in our homes. A day’s venture into the counties that surround us can be interesting and informative.
Our neighbor to the east, Jefferson County, offers many sites and locations that you might want to visit. The county was named for Thomas Jefferson, then secretary of state, and began in 1792 as Caswell County. It was part of the lost State of Franklin, an effort prior to statehood to withdraw from North Carolina.
In 1792 Tennessee was then the Southwest Territory and that federal territory pulled land from Green and Hawkins counties to form Jefferson County. Sevier County was later formed from Jefferson County.
When the state was formed in 1796 the state took part of Southeast Jefferson to form Cocke County and then, in 1870 part of Jefferson was taken to form part of Hamblen County.
The towns within Jefferson include Jefferson City, New Market, Strawberry Plains, Talbott, White Pine, Dandridge and Baneberry. The county is between two rivers and their lakes: the Holston River with Cherokee Lake and the French Broad River with Douglas Lake.
Dandridge is the county seat and this little town, which claims to be the state’s second oldest city, sports a historic courthouse and jail, and several older houses and a tavern. The town was protected by a long floodwall during the creation of Douglas Lake.
Jefferson City, the home of Carson-Newman College, seems to be the hub of the county and is closer to Morristown than Knoxville. Strawberry Plains sits on the Tennessee River and has an active public library, a very old cemetery, a high school and was the site of an attempted bridge burning during the Civil War.
New Market is also a tiny town along the Andrew Johnson Highway and can boast the childhood home of Frances Hodgson Burnett, author of “The Secret Garden.”
Talbott is near the Hamblen County line and has an elementary school. The community was named for John Talbott, the founder, who also built a church there.
White Pine developed along the route and was at first called “Dandridge Crossing.” Located on the eastern tip of the county on the French Broad River White Pine was incorporated first in 1870 and again in 1893 after a devastating fire destroyed the downtown.
If you’re not familiar with Baneberry it is a small resort town on Douglas Lake with about 500 residents and has an 18-hole golf course, a pro-shop, pool, tennis courts, a tavern and restaurant and a small motel. The community was incorporated as a city in 1986. There’s a historic Presbyterian church there as well.
You can get additional information about Jefferson County online at www.jeffersoncountytn.com or calling the chamber there at (865) 398-9642. A day’s drive with the family can tell you and them so much about our surrounding area.