CARTER COUNTY


This photo, taken at Martins Station in Virginia, shows what negotiations at the Transylvania Purchase might have looked like.
PHOTO: Harold Jarrell
County Seat: Elizabethton

Carter County has more than its share of history. A lot of it is centered on what is now the Sycamore Shoals State Park.

It was here, in 1775, that a man named Richard Henderson called a big meeting with leaders of the Cherokee tribe and “bought” much of what is now Middle Tennessee in exchange for lots of free things. Most of the Cherokee leaders agreed. But one of them – whose name was Dragging Canoe – was angry and stormed away from the meeting.


This painting shows what the gathering of the Overmountain Men at Sycamore Shoals might have looked like.
PAINTING: Lloyd Branson
The colonial governments of Virginia and North Carolina later declared this real estate transaction illegal--determining that Henderson had no legal right to buy this land. However, by the time this happened, Henderson had sent settlers west to places such as present-day Nashville.

A few years later, on September 25, 1780, about 900 fighting men from Virginia and present-day Tennessee gathered at Sycamore Shoals.

The Overmountain Men slept here, in front of Shelving Rock, on their way across the mountains. Shelving Rock is in the present-day community of Roan Mountain.
From there these "Overmountain Men" crossed the mountains, walking and riding 330 miles in two weeks. On the Tennessee side, they passed through the present-day town of Roan Mountain and then crossed the mountains at Yellow Mountain Gap.
The view of Tennessee from Yellow Mountain Gap
These Overmountain Men were an important part of an American army that fought a tory army led by British Commander Patrick Ferguson. The American victory at King's Mountain was decisive, and may have been the turning point in the American Revolution.

Click here for a virtual tour of King's Mountain National Battlefield.

The re-enactment of the crossing at Sycamore Shoals.
By the way, every year a group of reenactors associated with the Overmountain Men Victory Trail Association re-enacts the crossing of the Watauga River at Sycamore Shoals.

They would love for more school groups to come to this annual event.

National magazines covered the 1886 Tennessee governor's race, since it pitted one brother against another
Carter County also contains a town called Happy Valley that is known for two brothers who ran for governor against one another. In 1886, Republicans nominated Alf Taylor to be governor. Democrats nominated Bob Taylor. The two brothers conducted a good-natured campaign against one another, often known as the "War of the Roses" Since there were debates during the campaign that required the two candidates to be in the same town, the opposing candidates often shared a hotel room and slept in the same bed.

Democrat Bob Taylor won that election, serving as governor from 1887 to 1891 and later from 1897 until 1899. A generation later, Republican Alfred Taylor was elected, breaking a long streak of Democratic governors and serving from 1921 until 1923.

Hikers about to head out on the Appalachian Trail in Carter County.
Finally, Carter County is also one of seven Tennessee counties that contains parts of the Appalachian Trail, which runs 2,175 miles through Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee and Georgia.

Click here for a virtual tour of the Appalachian Trail in Tennessee.


The Carter County seat of Elizabethton contains one of Tennessee's only covered bridges, shown here.



A few blocks from there is the Carter County Courthouse.