Historical markers introduce  highway travelers to local history

By Rozella Hardin


   One of the most highly visible programs of the Tennessee Historical Commission is the Historical Markers Program which began in the 1950s and which has erected over 1400 markers commemorating the locations of sites, persons and events significant in Tennessee history.
   The historical markers, in many instances, tell the story of Tennessee's long and colorful history -- from its beginning on the banks of the Watauga and Holston Rivers to the Mississippi delta in West Tennessee.
   A number of markers previously erected are missing, and the Commission's budget for replacement markers is small. The Commission has three methods of funding the placement of historical markers. They are: 1) Markers may be funded in full by the sponsor; 2) They may be funded in full by Tennessee Historical Commission; or 3) Funding may be divided with the Commission paying 50 percent and the sponsor of a marker paying 50 percent.
   A number of these historical markers are placed in Elizabethton and Carter County. The most visible ones in the city are the markers located along Elk Avenue near Sycamore Shoals Park. They include markers for Robert Love Taylor and Alfred Alexander Taylor, who lived nearby; Transylvania Purchase, Watauga Purchase, Sycamore Shoals and Watauga Fort. Other prominent markers in the city include Sabine Hill, Carter Mansion, Duffield Academy on Academy Street, Greene Hill Cemetery, Covered Bridge and Samuel P. Carter.
   Markers located outside the city limits include Sinking Creek Baptist Church, Dungan's Mill, Powder Branch, Milligan College, Carriger's Landing, Andrew Johnson, O'Brien Furnace and "The Old Red Fox."
   Markers for O'Brien Furnace and "The Old Red Fox," located at Valley Forge, were removed when the new highway was built between Valley Forge and Hampton and were not put back up. The Old Red Fox marker pays tribute to Capt. Daniel Ellis of Civil War fame.
   Another marker calling attention to the Civil War is located near Watauga. The marker recognizes the burning of the bridge over the Watauga River by General Samuel P. Carter. Called "Carter's Raid," information on the sign states: "Arriving here near sunset, having captured en route, a locomotive in which Col. Love, CSA, was a passenger, Brig. Gen. Carter's task force dispersed or captured the Confederate garrison and destroyed the railroad bridge over Watauga River. Crossing to the south bank of the river, and with pursuit building up on flanks and rear, they moved northwest to Kingsport."
   Several persons in the community have called for the Tennessee Department of Transportation to replace the two markers at Valley Forge. Other markers which appear to be missing are the Isaac Lincoln Home, which was located in the Lynn Valley area; a marker denoting the William Bean Cabin, and a marker denoting the gravesite of Jessie Dungan. This marker read: "Two and one-fourth miles east on a ridge north of the road is the grave of this pioneer who was killed and scalped by the Indians in 1765. He was the first white man known to have been slain in this area."
   The markers feature a blue circle at the top centered with three white stars. They are made of cast aluminum, and mounted on a reinforced concrete post. The plaques are three feet by six inches wide and three feet and one inch at the peak. The legends appear on both sides.
   Recently, city employees, while cleaning an area north of the Bristol Bridge, discovered a broken monument by the side of the road. The marker simply read "Immigrant Trail." According to City Manager Charles Stahl, a plaque on the monument denoting that the DAR had placed the marker, had been removed.
   "The plaque is like or similar to the one placed on the small stone monument in the yard of the Harvest Baptist Church in downtown Elizabethton marking the Daniel Boone Trail. We would like for whoever took the plaque to return it so that the monument can be repaired and the plaque put back on the stone," Stahl said. "We need to try and keep our historical markers and monuments intact," he said.
   The Tennessee Historical Commission recently announced it has published its ninth edition of the Tennessee Historical Markers Guide. The Guide may be purchased through the THC. The historical marker program is very valuable in introducing highway travelers to Tennessee history.