Unicoi County

Uncle Johnny’s hostel is a well-known stop on the Appalachian Trail in Erwin.


Unicoi County is famous for having once executed an elephant.

In 1916, the Sparks Brothers Circus came to Kingsport. A 9,500 pound elephant named Mary brutally killed her trainer in a parade that took place after the show.

A sign on the Appalachian Trail in Unicoi County

At first it looked like nothing would be done to Mary, but a couple of days later circus officials bowed to public pressure and agreed to put her to death at the next stop, in Erwin. Mary the elephant was hung from a railroad derrick at the Clinchfield Railroad Yards.

She’s still buried there, although (oddly enough) no one is exactly sure where the gravesite is.

Also: Unicoi County is one of seven east 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.

A view of the Nolichuckey River from the trail

There are people who have hiked the ENTIRE Appalachian Trail; it takes about four to six months to hike its entire length.

When the Appalachian Trail crosses the Nolichucky River in Unicoi County, it passes very close to Erwin. It also crosses the Nolichuckey River, passes a well-known stop called Uncle Johnny’s hostel and climbs up for some wonderful views of the valley below.




Here is the Unicoi County Courthouse.