Town History

Rogersville is one of the oldest towns in the state of Tennessee. It was settled in the early 1780’s by an Irishman named Joseph Rogers. He met and fell in love with a local girl named Mary Amis. She was the daughter of a wealthy landowner and Revolutionary War hero in Hawkins County. The land that forms the town of Rogersville was originally part of Spencer County in the state of North Carolina, then the state of Franklin, and finally Hawkins County, Tennesse in 1786.

Rogersville is a small town full of history. Our downtown historic district buildings stand as a testimony to all that has taken place in the past 200+ years. The Rogers Tavern at 205 South Rogers, built in 1786, was owned and operated by Joseph Rogers. It was along a major stagecoach route leading to Kentucky and the Cumberland settlements which allowed Rogersville to prosper.

Davy Crockett’s grandparents had a cabin alongside Crockett Creek running through the town. They were massacred by Indians in 1777 and buried in what is now the Rogers Cemetery in Crockett Springs Park, along with Joseph Rogers. A Heritage Trail is being bult now which passes these and other important historic sites. The Hale Springs Inn at 110 West Main Street was built in 1824 by John A. McKinney, an early settler, lawyer, and judge – it is under the process of being reopened under the auspices of the Rogersville Heritage Association. He was also responsible for building the Clay-Kenner House, c. 1835, 403 East Main Street, as a wedding gift to his daughter, Susan.

Schools have been an integral part of the Town’s history. McMinn Academy was an exceptional military school built in 1806. The Rogersville Synodical College, built in 1849, was a private Presbyterian finishing school for women and is now the site of the Rogersville City Elementary School. Swift College, 200 North Depot Street, a world-renowned Presbyterian college for blacks operated from 1883 to 1955 and as a high school until Hawkins County integrated in 1963. Some of the Hawkins County Board of Education offices are housed in the remaining college buildings.

The Town Square is the center of downtown Rogersville. On each corner of the square is a historic site. The Hawkins County Courthouse is the oldest original courthouse still in use in the state. It was designed by John Dameron and built in 1836. Its brick columns and palladin windows over the front door have attracted the attention of many architects.

Just across Main Street in the Masonic Temple, site of the oldest continually operating lodge in Tennessee, chartered in 1805. Overton Lodge #5 Free and Accepted Masons was named for Andrew Jackson’s law partner, John Overton. The building was built in 1839 as the first branch of the Bank of the State of Tennessee, failing just after the Civil War because all its assets were in Confederate bonds and money. This building has been home to many enterprises, including a funeral home.

The Hale Springs Inn and Kyle House are on the other corners of the square. The Kyle House was built in 1837 as a twenty-two room mansion for William Simpson. During the Civil War, Confederate officers and soldiers were housed here. Just across Main Street, Union officers and soldiers were housed in the Hale Springs Inn.

The first Tennessee newspaper, the Knoxville Gazette, was printed in Rogersville on November 5, 1791, where it remained for one year before being moved to Knoxville. A Tennessee Newspaper and Printing Museum has been newly opened in the old Southern Railway Train Depot at the corner of Depot and Broadway Streets. The Depot building was built in 1890 and currently houses the offices of the Rogersville Heritage Assocation.

Rogersville is a small town nestled in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee between Knoxville and Bristol, only a short drive to Gatlinburg, the Great Smoky Mountains, and other family vacation sites. Cherokee Lake, known for its fishing and camping, is close by between Rogersville and Morristown.

There are many other things that make Rogersville a unique place to live and visit, too numerous to mention on this site. Just come and see for yourself – you will receive a hearty welcome and invitation to return!