Carter County

The Carter County seat of Elizabethton contains one of Tennessee’s few remaining covered bridges.

This reenactment shows what the Transylvania
Purchase might have looked like.


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 objects worth a lot of money.

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 the gathering of the Overmountain Men at Sycamore Shoals.
ARTIST: 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.

Shelving Rock, where the Overmountain Men stopped
on their way to King’s 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.

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.

Reenactors crossing the Watauga River

Every September, 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.

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.

A magazine cover about the “War of the Roses”

The two brothers conducted a good-natured campaign, 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 even 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.

Three men about to hike the Appalachian Trail
in Carter County

Finally, Carter County is 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.



Here is the Carter County Courthouse.