Contributed by Billy H. Campbell
Among the ancient hills that descend from the Cherokee Mountains flows the gentle Cherokee Creek as it courses its way through the deep woods on its trek to the Nolichucky River. Cherokee Creek derives its name from the Cherokee Indians who used this area as a hunting ground for many years.
The air here is filed with history’s echo. If one listens, one can almost hear the first steps of James Needham and Gabriel Arthur as they traveled along the Cherokee Mountains in 1673. These two English men were the first known European explorers of the Cherokee Creek area.
Nearly one hundred years later, in 1771, Jacob Brown settled on the north side of the Nolichucky River on John Ryan’s 1768 claim. In 1775, Brown negotiated a series of purchases with the Indians for two large tracts of land that cover most of the present counties of Washington and Greene, including the Cherokee Creek area.
By the late 1770’s and early 1780’s, other settlers began moving onto the land along Cherokee Creek. Included among the early landowners were Moses Brooks, William Cannon, John Hunter, Sr., John Hunter, Jr., John Bayless, William Murphy, Aaron Lewis, Ambrose Hodges, Robert Rogers, James Wray, William Thornton, Micajah Mayfield, Frederick Anderson, Hosea Rose, Edward Sherley, John Sherley, Joseph Pinson, John North, John Shields, Jacob Hunter, David Lemon, Samuel Wood, James Keele, Benjamin Brown, Nicholas Foos, Reuben Bayless, Daniel Bayless, Samuel Bayless, James Moore, John Fine, James Cash, Charles Robertson, Henry French, Johh Gilleland, Colvin Finch, Peter Ruble, John Tadlock, Hannah Hartsell, Abraham Anthony, John Keele, William Ingle, George Stormer, John Fain, Philip Ausmus, Casper Sliger, and many others.
Some of the early settlers began to meet for worship services and formed the Cherokee Creek Meeting House. Although the exact date of organization is not known, some historians believe this Baptist church was started circa 1780 or earlier. The first recorded meeting took place April 2. 1783 when the Reverend William Murphy was installed as pastor. By September 4, 1783, the members of Cherokee Church had pledged that “we do not look upon ourselves (as) infallible (but) we still look to be further taught by the word and spirit of God….and in testimony of our sincerity and that we have no reserve, we have hereunto set our hand.” The signers of this covenant were: James Keele, John Lemon, Ann Bruner, Magdelen Hasting, Barbary Bass, Agnes Purcifull, Francis Baxter, John Bayless, Mary Nodding, Eliz. Lemon, John Brown, Caty Osamus, John Hunter, Barbary Hunter, Daniel Bayless, Zurial Keele, Samuel Bayless, Nicholas Fain, William Nodding, Daniel McCray, Sarah Wood, Eliz. Killin, Sarah McCray, Ann Bayless, Richard Keele, and Lydia Keele.
Cherokee Baptist Church is the oldest continuously operating Baptist church in the Tennessee Baptist Convention. It has its original records and has been located on the same site since its organization. In 1786 Cherokee and six other Baptist churches formed the Holston Baptist Association, the oldest in the state, at Cherokee Meeting House.
Since the church’s organization, the land on which Cherokee Baptist Church stands had been owned by Samuel Bayless (1751-1825). In his will, Samuel Bayless gave his daughter, Hannah Bayless Hoss (1784-1859) “a certain tract of land out of which is excepted one and one fourth acres more or less for the (Cherokee) meeting house and burial ground.” In 1840, Hannah deeded this land to the church. Among the church’s early pastors was the Reverend Reese Bayless (1787-1864). The Reverend Bayless was Moderator of the Holston Baptist Association for twenty-two years and served as the pastor of many Baptist Churches in the area; among these were Buffalo Ridge, Sinking Creek, Indian Creek, Limestone (now Sulphur Springs), and others.
Another early church located in the community was the Immanuel Lutheran Church, also known as the “Old Dutch meeting House.” Organized about 1807, the church became a charter member of the Tennessee Lutheran Synod in 1820. Services were held in both German and English until the church was disbanded about 1870. The cemetery at the site of the church contains the graves of many of its early members.
Uriel Methodist Church was located a the present intersection of Old Embreeville Road and Greenwood Drive. It was established before 1829 on land donated by Jeremiah Reagan. The church has been gone for many years; only a cemetery remains at the site. Among the persons buried there are Russell Bean (1769-1829), the first white child born in what is now Tennessee; Dr. John C. Harris (1773-1842), an early minister and physician in the community; and the Reverend George Eakin (1782-1857), who received 13,000 souls into the church during 34 years of ministry. Other families buried here include Walter, Miller, Saylor, and Armstrong.
Several physicians have served the community. These include Drs. John C. Harris, James Hunter, John Hunter, Edwin Hunter, James Miller, John Smith, Hardin Jones, and Arthur J. Willis. Dr. Cyrus Royston was an early dentist and served as a state representative in 1904.
Natives of Cherokee Creek who later became prominent in state and national affairs were: Nathaniel E. Harris, governor of Georgia from 1915 to 1917; Phillip Parks Carson Nelson, Tennessee State Senator; and Elijah Embree Hoss, well-known bishop of the Methodist Church.
In the late 1860’s (possibly earlier), a school was established in the community. Known as Cherokee Seminary, its trustees included Calvin Hoss, D.W.F. Peoples, Isaac Garber, F.W. Dove, I.W. Hartsell, Calvin R. Jones, John Walter, M.P. Boring, and Jeremiah Miller. This school operated through the 1870′ and early 1880’s; the date of its closing is not known. Cherokee Seminary also served as a polling place for the community.
A woolen factory was established in the mid-1800’s along the banks of Big Cherokee Creek and was converted to the Cherokee Creek Rolller Mill in 1898 by Henry Miller. Some of the persons who owned the mill were; Henry Miller (1898), Nat Miller (1904), Grissom Miller, Birch Taylor, Upton Campbell, Will Jones, Flavey Moon, and Marvin Campbell (1938). The mill then was closed for a short time and reopened under the operation of David Millian, who was the last person to operate it. Llewelln May built the last water wheel for the mill in 1937.
The water-powered saw mill, located on Big Cherokee Creek near Cherokee Baptist Church, was established in the early to mid-1800’s, probably by Calvin Hoss (1812-1870). The will of Calvin Hoss gave two of his children, Fannie and Henry, each one-half ownership in the saw mill. In 1894, a new water wheel was made for the Hoss Saw Mill. Owners and operators of the saw mill include: Calvin Hoss (before 1870), Henry Hoss (before 1914), Fannie Hoss (before 1937), Alpheus Green, Harris Green, Bob Berry, and Charlie Parker.
For several years before the Civil War, Thomas Jefferson Wilson manufactured edge-tools at his home on Cherokee Creek, across the road from the present Lamar school. The factory sills are still under the water in the creek. He married Eliza Embree, a daughter of Elihu Embree and for twenty years was employed in iron manufacturing with the Embree family.
References: Tipton-Haynes Historical Farm; North Carolina Colonial Reocrds; Washington County, Tennessee records; Cherokee Baptist Church records; Writings of Bishop E.E. Hoss; Writings of Landon Carter Garber; Arnold Agnes Jones Campbell, Marvin J. Campbell, Betty B. Senn, and Robert Whaley