MORGAN COUNTY is situated on the Cumberland Plateau, which has an elevation of about 1,500 feet above the sea. It is surrounded by the counties of Scott, Anderson, Roane, Cumberland and Fentress. The greater portion of the surface is very broken, especially in the southern part. The principal mountains are the Crab Orchard, Lone and Brushy, the general trend of which is about the same as that of the Cumberland Range. The largest streams in the county are the Emory and the Obed Rivers, with their respective tributaries, Crooked Fork and Clear Creek, and the Clear Fork of the Cumberland River and White Oak Creek.
The mineral resources consist in extensive deposits of coal and iron. The soil, except in the bottoms, is not naturally rich, but is susceptible of a high degree of cultivation. Experiments have been made, extending over a period of several years and it is found that nearly all valuable grasses can be successfully raised. It is believed, however, that the growing of fruit is destined to become the most remunerative industry of not only Morgan County, but the entire Cumberland Plateau. All fruits known to this latitude are grown here to perfection. Especially is this true of grapes for wine making and this crop rarely if ever fails.
The settlement of Morgan County began soon after the Indian title to the lands was extinguished. One of the first settlers, if not the first, was SAMUEL HALL, who located about seven miles northeast of Wartburg in 1807. He had a large family of children, among whom were DAVID, ELIJAH, ELISHA, LUKE AND GARRETT HALL. His brother, MARTIN HALL, located in the same vicinity. At about the same time DAVID STONECIPHER entered land and made a settlement on Crooked Fork. JOSEPH and BENJAMIN STONECIPHER entered land adjoining him, while EZRA STONECIPHER located on Beach Fork. In 1814 MICHAEL STONECIPHER made an entry on Big Emory. During the same year, JOHN M. STAPLES settled on the south side of Big Emory, near the crossing of the Cincinnati Southern Railroad. He had six sons: JOHN M., ABNER F., DAVID, WILLIAM, THOMAS AND BENJAMIN T. The first two removed to other States. The last named located near Sunbright, the site of which he owned. The first settlers on Flat Fork were Elijah REESE and Titus ENGLAND, both of whom located in 1808. The first to locate on White Oak Creek was John FREELS, who came in 1811. The next year Royal PRICE settled on Clear Creek, at its junction with Obed River, on land which, prior to that time, had been occupied by William SHOEMAKER. Among the other pioneers who came to the county prior to 1815 may be mentioned the following: Mathias WILLIAMS, Ephriam DAVIS and Nicholas SUMMERS, Who located on Crooked Fork. Squire and Morgan HENDRICKS, who located on Emory River above the HALLS; John WEBB, who lived below, on the same stream; Charles WILLIAMS, Lewis RECTOR, Littleburg BRIENT, John CRAIG, Charles and Andrew PREWITT, who lived on Little Emory, or its waters; Jesse CASEY, Zachariah EMBREE, Hartsell HURT, who located on Crab Orchard Creek; Jeremiah HATFIELD and Basil HUMAN, who settled on Bone Camp, and John BRASEL, Jacob and John LAYMANCE, Andrew SHANNON and Robert McCCARTT, whose locations could not be definitely determined. The house known as the "Indian Tavern" is said to have been built by William DAVIDSON, who came to the county about 1810. He had served in the Revolutionary war as captain of a company of North Carolina militia, and was one of the early settlers of Buncombe County. He was a friend of the Cherokees, could speak their language, and his house became a sort of resort for them, hence its name. As he did not own the land upon which the house was built, he soon removed to land which he entered about one mile south of Kesmet.
In 1817, the Legislature passed an act providing for the organization of a county to be named in honor of Gen. Daniel MORGAN. It's boundaries as then fixed, included a considerable part of what is now Scott, Fentress and Cumberland Counties. The first term of the county court was held in January, 1818, but as the records have been destroyed little is known of its transactions. Soon, however, a town was laid off, on land donated to the county by Daniel S. LAVENDER, and a jail erected. It was situated thirteen miles west of Wartburg, on the Nashville Road and was known as Montgomery. In 1832 Fentress County was erected and it became necessary to remove the county seat to a more central location. Accordingly, on July 18, 1826, a new town of Montgomery was laid off on ten acres of land purchased from William WALL and lying on the east side of Emory River, about one mile and a half west of Wartburg. The commissioners to locate the site and erect the county buildings were Jacob LAYMANCE, Chairman; John TRIPLETT, Benjamin HAGLER, John ENGLAND, Sharrach STEPHENS, Samuel SCOTT, and Sterling WILLIAMS. The first lot sold was purchased by Robert BUSH, a colored blacksmith. Among the merchants who were engaged in business then before the war were--Cox, John II, BRIENT, William STAPLES, James JOHNSON, and Constantine BRAUSE. Thomas S. LEA, a physician, and Levi TREWHITT, a lawyer, were also residents of the place. Hotels were kept by Julian SCOTT and John H. BRIENT. The land around the town, which had previously belonged to William WALL, was purchased by Samuel SCOTT in 1824. He also entered a large tract of land on Emory River, above the town. He was the father of Thomas, John, Samuel, Russell and Julian F.
In 1851 the first jail erected was replaced by a new one, and in 1852 the county court appointed commissioners to superintend the erection of a new courthouse which, however, was never entirely completed.
These buildings were used until 1870, when on March 26 of that year, an election was held to decide upon the removal of the seat of justice to Wartburg. This resulted in a vote of 195 to 149 in favor of the removal, and C.G. JOYNER, R.A. DAVIS, L.B. SNOW, E.H. McKATHAN, W.L.E. DAVIDSON, Amos TAYLOR and J.W. DAVIDSON were appointed commissioners to sell the property in Montgomery with the exception of the jail, and to contract for the building of a courthouse. This building was completed in the following fall at a cost of $3,132.36.
The town of Wartburg had its origin in a colonization company formed in New York in 1845. The leading members were George F. GERDING, Augustus GUENTHER and Otto KINBUSCH. A large amount of land lying in the vicinity of where Wartburg now is, was purchased and sold to colonists who came principally from Switzerland, though some from Germany were among them. Of those who came first, in 1845, may be mentioned, Joseph GSCHWEND, Jacob WESPE, Christian BREI, Simon SCHMIDT, Christian WALT, Andrew FISCHER, Z. FISCHER, Peter BARDILL, Anthony VOLMAR, Bernhardt ZOBRIST and five others. The next year about twenty-five families were added to this number. With the advent of these colonists, a town was laid out and names Wartburg, which in April, 1851, was incorporated with Charles KRAMER, John WHITE, Thomas, JONES, Charles HAAG, and William JONES as commissioners. The first settler on the site of the town is said to have been Walter DAVIS, who was succeeded by Martin HALL. DAVIS kept a public house which stood near the middle of the street nearly in front of the Central House. The first store was opened by F. HEYDELMAN on the lot where Mr. SCOTT now lives. Another store was kept by Mr. GERDING in the building opposite the lot now occupied by John HALL. Back of this building stood what was known as the Emigration House, a log structure erected for the accommodation of colonists until they could build houses of their own. Among the first emigrants were a number of Catholics, and at one time the building of a monastery was begun, but the war coming on, the work stopped and never resumed. About 1846 a congregation of the Evangelical Lutheran Church was organized and the building still standing east of the Central Hotel was erected as a house of worship. This was occupied until 1854, when it was converted into a schoolhouse and the present church erected. In 1876 a new schoolhouse was built and the old church has since been used as a dwelling. The pastors of the church have been as follows: Revs. George WILKEN, Theodore HIRSCHMAN, B.C. BRIGMAN and the present pastor. About 1879 a small Catholic Church was erected by Amelius LETOREY, who donated it to the bishop of the diocese. A few years ago a Presbyterian Church was organized with about twenty members, with John L. MASON, Jacob BONAFACIUS and G. SCHLICHER as ruling elders. The pulpit was supplied by Rev. Thomas ROBERTS until 1886 when he was succeeded by John SILSBY. A church building to cost $1,500 is now under process of erection.
Since the opening of the Cincinnati Southern Railroad several thriving villages have sprung up along its line. The two most important are Sunbright and Kismet. In the northwest part of the county, at the junction of Clear Fork and White Oak Creek, is the famous Rugby Colony. This colony originated with a company organized in 1877 in Boston, Mass., uner the name of "The Board of Aid to Land Ownership" with which Thomas HUGHES, Q. C. and John BOYLE, barrister at law, and other English capitalists afterward became associated. Large tracts of land in Morgan, Scott and Fentress Counties were purchased, and October 5, 1880, the colony was formally opened by Mr. HUGHES in the presence of a large number of English and American settlers. The board at once began and carried out a large amount of useful work. Among the improvements were the Tabord Hotel, the Newbury House, Vine and Pioneer Cottages and a turnpike road to the railroad. In 1881 Christ Church, with a schoolroom below it, was completed at a cost of nearly $5,000 and on June 5, 1882, the corner-stone for the HUGHES Public Library was laid by Mrs. HUGHES, the mother of Thomas HUGHES. The library consisting of 6,000 volumes, was donated by the publishers of Boston, New York and Philadelphia. In 1884 the old Tabord Hotel was burned, but in July 1887, a new building, one of the finest of the kind in the South, was opened under the name of the Tabord Inn.
The village of Rugby now contains a population of from 200 to 300 and is fast becoming known as one of the great health and pleasure resorts in America.
The following persons have been the officers of the county since its organization, so far as their names could be obtained:
Sheriffs: Garrett Hall, 1818-1820; James McClintock, Thomas England, Albert Hurt, 1836-1840; Garrett Hall, 1840-1842, Julian F. Scott, 1842-1843; James Wilson, 1843-1848; Jessee Triplett, 1848-1851; Hausley Human, 1851-1856; James M. Melton, 1856-1858; Meshack Stephens, 1858-1860; E. Lavender, 1860-1861;
James R. Stanfield, 1861-1864: Julian F. Scott, 1864-1866; J.H. Byrd, 1866-1868; J.F. Scott, 1868-1870; John Williams, 1870-1872; G.D. Joyner, 1872-1874; John Williams, 1874-1876; J.F. Scott, 1876-1877; J.M. Staples, 1877, (January to September); John Williams, 1877-1878; John B. Williams, 1878-1880; G. W. Green, 1880-1885; H. Davidson, 1885-1886; Benjamin Brasel, 1886.
Clerks of the County Court: William Wall, 1818-1825; Elijah Lavender, 1825-1836; E. G. Kingston, 1836-1839; Samuel P. Vaughn, 1839-1848; G. W. Keith, 1848, 1856: H. Human, 1856-1857; Simon Hurst, 1857-1858; James M. Melton, 1858-1861; John H. Brient, 1861-1864; John L. Scott, 1864-1874;
John Hall, 1874-1877; H. C. Wilson, 1877-1878; M. F. Redman, 1878-1885; J. A. Morris, 1885.
Clerks of the Circuit Court: Robert A. Dabney, A. F. Cromwell; H.G. Bennett, 1836-1840; Thomas S. Lea, 1840-1844; John H. Brient, 1844-1846; W.H. Williams, 1846-1852; John H. Brient, 1852-1856; William J. Scott, 1856-1860; M. Stephens, 1860----; William J. Scott, 1804--1866; M.F. Redman, 1866-1870; S.H. Staples, 1870-1882; J. W. Scott, 1882---.
Clerks and Masters: B. T. Staples, 1858-1860; H. H. Lansdon, 1860---; John H. Brient, 1865-1870;
G. W. Keith, 1870-1882; S. H. Staples, 1882.
Registers: Benjamin C. White, 1818-1824; Daniel S. Lavender, 1824-1836; Herndon Lea, 1836-1845; Albert Hurt, 1845-1846; J.D. Bennett, 1846-1855; M.M. Brown, 1855-1856; John Williams, Sr., 1856-1860; L.H. Mosier, 1860-1864; Garrett Hall, 1864-1870; W. B. Crenshaw, 1870-1878; John L. Scott, 1878-1886; H. Davidson, 1886.
Trustees: William D. Fields, 1842-1848; J.C. Martin, 1848-1850; Constantine Brause, 1850-1853; Julian F. Scott, 1853-1854; Albert Hurt, 1854-1860; Jesse Stonecipher, 1860-1866; John McCartt, 1866-1868; M. Lyons, 1868-1872; John Shannon, 1872-1874; William Howard, 1874-1880; John D. Kreis, 1880-1886; M.B. McCartt, 1886.
COL. REUBEN A. DAVIS
DANIEL M. KELLY
Transcribed and contributed by Julie Cromwell
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