Pioneering Johnson City


Pioneering Johnson City

By on Nov 17 2023

November 17, 2023

Johnson City, Tennessee is an open storybook for history buffs because of its rich history dating back to the early 1700s, when the first European settlers arrived in the area. Travel back through time, and explore the paths of those who settled Northeast Tennessee.

Early Settlements

Dive into exploration of Northeast Tennessee’s colonial history at the Tipton-Haynes State Historic Site, which features a restored antebellum mansion and grounds. The site includes over 40 acres and eleven historical buildings, a limestone cave, buffalo trace, and Visitor Center.

In 1784, the failed State of Franklin was formed and comprised parts of Western North Carolina and what is known now as Northeast Tennessee. Colonel John Tipton became a “leading loyalist” to North Carolina, and his property in present-day Johnson City became a climax of tension in February of 1788.


Conflicts with Native Americans

In the 1780s, the westward expansion of Franklinites into Cherokee territory created tensions. Governor John Sevier and his Franklin committee met with the Cherokee chiefs to discuss a peace agreement where the Cherokee Indians gave up land south of the Holston and French Broad Rivers.


Native Americans were displaced by the westward movement and the establishment of the Lost State of Franklin, as European settlers expanded territory and established new governments.

Animal trails became go-to routes for early American explorers, as they pushed further into Native American territory and prepared for settlement.

The Story of Le Roy Reeves and the TN State Flag

Le Roy Reeves, 1876-1960, was born in Johnson City in June 1876. He was a graduate of Johnson City High School and served as a teacher in the local public school system. While practicing law in the city, Reeves designed a state flag for the state of Tennessee. The flag was officially adopted by the State of Tennessee through an act of the Tennessee General Assembly, passed and approved on April 17, 1905. He is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery.

Founding of a City

In the 1850s, the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad Company began constructing a connector railroad between Knoxville, Tennessee, and Virginia. Henry Johnson founded the railroad station, becoming the main corridor for visitors and a major railway hub for commerce and culture entering the region. He dubbed the station “Johnson’s Depot,” later coined Johnson City by the State of Tennessee.

Johnson City is home to the East Tennessee State University Archives of Appalachia, which houses a collection of historical documents and artifacts related to the region.

Other nearby areas to explore history:

Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park

Bluff City Swinging Bridge at Choates Ford

Knob Creek Museum

Gray Fossil Site



For more fun trip ideas, check out things to do around Johnson City. (link to blog page)


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