Oldest Town in Tennessee

10 Oldest Towns in Tennessee

The State of Tennessee belongs to the Southeastern region of the USA, and it’s the 16th most populous in the country. This state borders Kentucky, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, and Missouri, and it offers mesmerizing sceneries, including the Smokies and Lookout Mountain. 

Besides breathtaking nature, Tennessee attracts visitors with its revered cultural sites, tasty food, and entertainment. After all, this state is the birthplace of country music and Blues. 

It is well-known for giving the world Dolly Parton and Elvis Presley, who moved to Graceland when he was 13. No wonder most people associate this state with The Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville and consider it the state with the richest musical tapestry. 

Tennessee is also the cradle of some of the tastiest hot fried chicken, sweet potato fries, and Moon pies. Food lovers can accompany these dishes with whiskey, as this state has 30 distilleries, including the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg. 

This state has a remarkable history, as its first inhabitants were Paleo-Indians, who settled at the end of the Last Glacial Period. That’s why this article explores the oldest towns in Tennessee. 

10. Franklin

Founded: October 26, 1799
Founder: Abram Maury Jr.
County: Williamson
Population: 83,454

Franklinphoto source: Visit Franklin

Abram Maury Jr. founded the City of Franklin in 1799 before becoming a state senator. Maury named the town after national founding father, Benjamin Franklin. 

This town has a rich history, as it was the location of a big battle in the Franklin-Nashville Campaign during the Civil War. But Franklin started growing in the early 20th century, as various factories opened and provided new opportunities for the locals. 

Did You Know?

According to the U.S. Census 2017, Franklin is the 8th fastest growing city. But Franklin earned various attractive titles over the years, such as the best southern town and the best place for job seekers. 

9. Elizabethton

Founded: 1799
Founder: Samuel Tipton
County: Carter
Population: 14,176

photo source: Britannica

Elizabethton is the birthplace of the first independent American government (the Watauga Association, 1772), and it lies within the Tri-cities zone, consisting of Bristol, Johnson City, and Kingsport.

Two American explorers – James Robertson and Daniel Boon, discovered the Watauga Old Fields in 1796 and planted the first corn, placing Elizabethton above Franklin City.

But Robertson only settled the area in 1799, after building the Forth Nashborough in a tribute to Francis Nash, who fought in the 1771 Battle of Alamance with Robertson. However, Samuel Tipton is the founder of this city, as he donated the land initially known as Tiptonville.

It was renamed Elizabethton after Tennessee became a part of the United States. 

Did You Know?

Tourists can visit many attractions and historic locales in Elizabethton, such as Buffalo Mountain Park, Sycamore Shoals State Park, and Tipton-Hayes Historic Site. Thus, they can also have fun at the Watauga Dam Campground, a large recreation center. 

8. Springfield

Founded: 1798
Founder: The General Assembly of Tennessee
County: Robertson
Population: 18,782

Springfieldphoto source: City of Springfield, TN – Government Facebook Fan Page

According to the official website of the City of Springfield, the first General Assembly of Tennessee authorized a county seat for Robertson County by the name of Springfield in 1796. But even though the town was founded in 1798, it was only incorporated in 1819. 

The town was a commercial center for the large surrounding region for over two centuries and the 7th largest tobacco-producing county in the USA.

Today, Springfield is among the five counties leading the hay, corn, and wheat production. 

Did You Know?

Springfield isn’t only known as the home of the world’s finest dark-fired tobacco. Tourists and locals can also visit the Robertson County Museum, play golf at the Legacy Golf Course, or experience farm life at Rabbit Circle Rural Farm. 

7. Rutledge

Founded: 1797
Founder: Information unavailable, but likely General George Rutledge
County: Grainger
Population: 1,321

photo source: kids.kiddle.co

Rutledge is the county seat of Grainger County and belongs to Knoxville and Morristown metropolitan areas. This town was the first county municipality with its own police department.

It prospered in the early 19th century due to the Federal Road that connected New Orleans and Virginia. 

It is home to many retirees, and locals are usually conservative. But the town is also safe, and residents don’t have to worry about crimes often common in larger cities. 

Did You Know?

Rutledge may be a rural town, but it still offers various locales tourists can visit. For example, people can enjoy the Appalachian Quilt Trail, Red Barn Produce, and the Richland Valley. 

6. Sevierville

Founded: 1795
Founder: Information unavailable, but likely John Sevier
County: Sevier
Population: 17,889

photo source: Wikipedia

Sevierville’s name was a tribute to John Sevier, a distinguished soldier, and war hero. He was the governor of the State of Franklin, but the state accused him of treason for resisting annexation. 

Even though the town had 150 residents by 1833, a fire in 1856 destroyed Sevierville’s vital records regarding early settlers. But Sevierville experienced growth and increased tourist interest after opening the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in 1934.

Did You Know?

Famous country singer, Dolly Parton, was born in Sevierville, and the town has built a statue to celebrate its favorite daughter. Every country music fan that visits Sevierville never misses the opportunity to see her statue. 

5. Maryville

Founded: 1795
Founder: John Craig
County: Blount
Population: 31,907

Maryvillephoto source: Wikipedia

Maryville is the county seat of Blount County and a Knoxville suburb. A revolutionary war veteran, John Craig, started the Forth Craig settlement to protect the settlers from Native American Tribes and donated roughly 50 acres of its land next to establish the town.

However, Maryville was only incorporated as a city ten years later, in 1795. Today, this town attracts tourists from different corners of the world due to being at the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. 

Did You Know?

Maryville locals often tell people from other cities they are from Knoxville. Even though this is an inside joke, locals do it because they assume others haven’t heard of Maryville. 

4. Knoxville

Founded: 1791
Founder: James White
County: Knox
Population: 190,740

Knoxvillephoto source: Extra Space Storage

Knoxville is the county seat of Knox County and the third-largest city, following Nashville and Memphis. This city is unique because it was settled in 1786 and is known as the first capital of Tennessee. 

Before the railroad arrived in Knoxville in 1855, causing an economic boom, the residents struggled due to feeling isolated from the rest of the country.

However, the most significant growth happened after Knoxville became the host city of the 1982 World’s Fair when various business leaders and companies invested in the downtown area. 

Did You Know?

East Knoxville is the birthplace of one of the revered American drinks — Mountain Dew. Brothers Barney and Ally Hartman started the Hartman Beverage Company on Magnolia Avenue in the 1940s, aiming to make a soft drink that would serve as a mixer for moonshine. 

3. Dandridge

Founded: 1783
Founder: Francis Dean
County: Jefferson
Population: 3,344

Dandridgephoto source: TNVacation

This town is the county seat of Jefferson County and belongs to the Morristown, Tennessee Metropolitan Statistical Area. However, most people consider Dandridge a suburb of Knoxville due to the proximity and fast connection via Interstate 40. 

The first permanent settlers choose the Dandridge area because they found the French Broad River and its spring attractive.

Not long after, Governor William Blount recognized that Dandridge was growing fast and created the new county of Jefferson. 

Did You Know?

Dandridge may be a small and quiet town, but its charming nature never fails to surprise tourists. People often come to visit the pristine Douglas Lake and the Smoky Mountains. 

2. Greeneville

Founded: 1783
Founder: Robert Kerr
County: Greene
Population: 15,479

photo source: Wikipedia

Greeneville is the county seat of Greene County and the only city in the USA with this spelling, as all others are named Greenville. It was also the capital of the short-lived and unrecognized proposed state, the State of Franklin, in the 18th century. 

But Greeneville is best known as the town where the 17th president of the USA, Andrew Johnson, started his political career after quitting his tailor shop.

Today, it’s the center of manufacturing, tourism, and agriculture (dairy cattle, tobacco, beef, corn).

Did You Know?

Even though Greeneville has mesmerizing natural sceneries, it typically attracts history buffs. After all, this is the town where people can visit the President Andrew Johnson Museum & Library, Doak House Museum, the Nathanael Greene Museum, and the Dickson-Williams Mansion.

1. Jonesborough

Founded: 1779
Founder: Information unavailable
County: Washington
Population: 5,791

photo source: Wikipedia

Jonesborough is the oldest town in Tennessee and the county seat of Washington County, but it belongs to the Johnson City metropolitan statistical area.

The city was founded 17 years before Tennessee became a state (1796), and it was named after North Carolina legislator Willie Jones.

Today, Jonesborough has rich heritage tourism due to the city’s remarkable historic preservation efforts. Besides Chester Inn, Jonesborough Historic District, and Christopher Taylor House, tourists can also visit the Watauga River, Nolichucky River, and Little Limestone Creek. 

Did You Know?

Historians see Jonesborough as the center of the abolitionist movement. For instance, Elihu Embree printed The Emancipator from this city, advocating for the abolition of slavery. 

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