Clark’s Creek

Contributed by Jessie Odom Vines

Located fourteen miles from Jonesborough on Highway 107 is the Clark’s Creek community.  It lies in the First Civil District of Washington County.  The creek itself flows into the Nolichucky River, which forms the northern border of the community; the beautuful Appalachian Mountains form its southern border.  The community was named for William Clark, who owned most of the surrounding land in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s.  William’s son, Henderson Clark (1785-1859), also owned land in the Clark’s Creek area, and is buried in the family cemetery on the E.J. Miller farm in the community.

John Sevier (1745-1815), the first governor of Tennessee, loved the beauty of the Nolichucky River and its fertile bottom land and settled about one half mile east of Clark’s Creek in the fall of 1783.  The house in which Sevier lived stood ther for many years until it was razed several years ago.

The Phil Taylor home is one of the oldest homes in the community.  It was purchased in 1808 by Edward West I and later sold to Jim Taylor.  Jim’s brothers, Alfred and Robert Taylor, both became Tennessee governors.  The home is currently owned by Mrs. Wade Guinn, who acquired it in the 1930’s.

Another old home still standing is owned by Clarence  Roberts, which was passed down through the generations from its early owner, Joshua Henley (1788-1876).  A small brook runs through the farm and is named Joshua Branch.  Mr. Henley is buried on a hill overlooking his home.

Prior to 1870, Major James E. Deakins owned much of the land near the creek.  The post office, called Clarkson, was located in his large, two story brick house.  Major Deakins’ wife, Elizabeth, was the postmaster.  This post office came into effect May 10, 1889 and was discontinued January 14, 1902, at which time it was moved to Embreeville.  Landon Odom, at the young age of 16, was among those who rode horseback delivering the mail from saddlebags.  The large brick house no longer stands, but a small outbuilding remains; this was called the “ice house.”  Blocks of ice were cut in the winter from the frozen Nolichucky River and stored underground in sawdust for summer use.

Enon Baptist Church was organized in 1870 and met in a log schoolhouse on the banks of Clark’s Creek.  Major Deakins donated the land for the school and the church, which was built in 1873.  The Smith family furnished trees which were cut and hauled to the sawmill to be prepared for use.  The total amount to build the church was $680.74; this included lumber, nails, paint, oil, glass, lamps and the entire labor.  The church stood as built for over one hundred years until it was remodeled in 1978 following a flood which struck the community.  The schoolhouse was later moved farther up the creek across from the Wiley Bell home.  This was the location of a store operated by Matt Ferguson in the early 1900’s.

A historical marker for the old blast furnace is located at the upper levels of the creek.  The Clarksville Furnace was built around 1835 by Elijah Embree, Montgomery Stuart and Edward West, Jr., and used ore hauled over and around the mountain from iron ore deposits at Bumpass Cove.  The furnace went out of blast in 1844; this was probably due to the greater ease of producing iron closer to the ore deposits at Embreeville.  Several interesting stories are told about the Clarksville iron operation which are colorful but undocumented.  One such story tells of how Wagon drivers would dump the ore at the top of the ridge so that it could roll down the hill to its destination; this shortened the trip from Bumpass Cove to Clark’s Creek.  Another story states that the reason the furnace went out of use was the breaking of the race or dam that supplied water power for the air blast bellows, thereby flooding the furnace and solidifying the molten iron inside.

A popular summer resort in the late 1800’s was located in the mountains of the community; it was called Clark’s Springs or Sulphur Springs by some.  The iron and sulphur waters were believed to be a cure-all in the 19th century.  Around 1873, twelve Jonesborough men bought 150 acres surrounding the springs; each built a summer home and started a development as a vacation and health center.  These developers were S.E. Griffith, R.H. Duncan, S.J. Kirkpatrick, I.E. Reeves, E.N. Griffith, George McPherson, A.J. Brown, H.H. Galligher, John Allison, Jr., M.S. Mahoney, E.S. Shipley, and John M. Brooks.  A two story, twenty room hotel was built and offered a variety of recreational activities: the mineral waters, playing ten-pins, swimming in the Sally Hole or dancing to the airs of The Chuck String Band.  Many people took refuge at Clark Springs after the cholera epidemic struck Jonesborough in the early 1870’s.  The popularity of the resort continued well into the 20th century; many people from all of Washington County and surrounding areas spent weekends there, and picnics were certainly a popular sight.  With the advent of good highways and the automobile, vacation habits changed.  The hotel and cabins fell into ruin.  Today, nothing more remais at Clark’s Springs except the springs themselves, which can barely be reached by foot.