Leesburg – Fairview – Stuarts Hill
Leesburg, on the Old Stage Road, and Fairview, on Tennessee Route 81, only one mile apart, are about two miles from Stuarts Hill, which is on Route 81 about two miles northwest of Jonesborough.
About 1796 Michael Fraker (from Frederick County, Virginia), Abraham Campbell, and John Campbell set aside ninety acres of their properties for a town. The town site was divided into one hundred and one lots and was first called Washington or New Washington. Space was reserved for a “Publick square,” a school house, and a public spring. The Main Street was the Old Stage Road, with Back Street on the north, parallel to Main. Intersecting these streets from east to west were Broad Alley, Second Street, First Street, Rocky Alley and Water Alley. Lots were sold as early as 1797 and a town charter was obtained in 1799 from the State of Tennessee, which named the town Leesburg in honor of Leeroy Taylor, a prominent local citizen. The commissioners appointed by the state to design and improve the town were: Alexander McLin, John Blair (a local miller and Revolutionary War veteran from Pennsylvania), John Cowan, John Ferguson, and Joseph Tucker. Owners of lots before 1809 include; David Rice, Samuel Brewer, James Temple, William Hall, Robert Moore, Jonathan Barcroft, William Glass, Thomas Charlton, William Shields, William Smith, Alexander Adams, John Simonds, Andrew Steele, George Pain, Thomas Brabson, George Bowman, Samuel Stanfield, Hanry Hair, John Cosson, Thomas Embree, William Miller, John Patton Jr., and Anthony Patton, a blacksmith.
Leesburg and Stuarts Hill were thriving areas until 1858, when traffic along the Old Stage Road decreased sharply due to the coming of the railroad through Jonesborough. Until that time, there were several business establishments located from the top of Stuarts Hill to Leesburg along the Old Stage Road; most of them closed before 1900. Several must have existed about which nothing is known. Businesses on or near Stuarts Hill included Isaac Sherfey’s blacksmith shop, Campbell’s tannery, Foy Smith’s gristmill, Scott’s or Stuart’s furniture factory, and Zeke Banner’s casket shop. Near Fairview were Bud Ward’s gristmill, Hepner’s sawmill and flour mill, and Henry Jones’ factory for making cedar buckets, a profitable business before the days of metal pails. Leesburg boasted the Stevensons’ general store, Anthony Patton’s blacksmith shop, Carmack’s hat factory, Isaac Hair’s wagon factory, Barkley’s hotel, DeVault Tavern, a pottery and five distilleries. Christian Henry Diehl made barrels near Stuarts Hill, but quit when he learned they were being used for ageing liquor. In the 1870 U.S. Census of Washington County, the following businesses were located in Leesburg: William Smith, blacksmith; Robert Staton, shoemaker; Samuel S. Guggenheim, produce speculator; Isaac Gilley, shoemaker; Samuel E. Lyons, physician; Sampson Cone, retail dry goods merchant; John S. Rothrock, shoemaker; Mathias Nead, physician.
There are three active churches in these communities today – a Methodist Church at Fairview, organized in 1908; a Presbyterian Church at Leesburg, organized in 1818; and the New Hope Church of the Brethren near Stuarts Hill, organized in 1890. A very old Quaker church is located at Fairview, but has not been used for church services for many years. Two churches which were once in the area no longer exist: a Seceder Church near Stuarts Hill, and Mount Zion Methodist Church near the site of the Mountain View Schoolhouse at Leesburg.
A very old cemetery is located near the Fairview Methodist Church. It has about 2000 graves with legible tombstone inscriptions and many unmarked graves and graves with plain fieldstone markers. The cemetery in Leesburg beside the Presbyterian Church has over 100 graves with legible inscriptions and several unmarked graves; the unmarked graves of slaves are located behing the church building. Near this cemetery is the DeVault cemetery, containing four graves; one is the grave of Frederick DeVault (born 1778; died 1847), builder of the DeVault Tavern. A cemetery at the site of the Seceder Church had 47 legible markers in 1958. The Elias Bowman cemetery, near the Old Stage Road between Stuarts Hill and Leesburg, had ten legible markers in 1960. The cemetery at the site of Mount Zion Methodist Church had 17 legible tombstones in 1954, but most, if not all, are now covered with grass and soil. A single grave, that of William Taylor, is located beside Muddy Fork Road near Leesburg Presbyterian Church. About two miles from Leesburg and one-fourth mile from the Old Stage Road southwest of Leesburg are the graves of Solomon Garber (born 1808; died 1854) and two Brubakers; the tombstones are now covered with soil.
Soon after 1860, David Diehl conducted a subscription school near Stuarts Hill. About two miles west of Leesburg, Richard McLin started a subscription school as early as 1850; it was still in operation in the 1870’s. The school building was a log structure with a large fireplace at one end, one large window, and a door with a wooden latch instead of a doorknob. A brick schoolhouse once stood across the road from the Leesburg Presbyterian Church, but was orn down in the early 1900’s. The one-room schoolhouse still standing at Fairview was built in 1882; not long afterward, a similar schoolhouse was erected near Leesburg and called Mountain View. The Fairview and Mountain View schools were replaced about 1942 by a larger brick building between Leesburg and Stuarts Hill; that school was used only a few years, closing when pupils began to go by bus to the country school in Jonesborough. The building is now used for Ruritan meetings, church dinners, family reunions, and other community activities.
Five post offices existed for various periods in Leesburg, Fairview, and Stuarts Hill before Rural Free Delivery began in 1900. The Leesburg Post Office was established in 1816 with Matthew Stevenson as postmaster, closing in 1900 when Gideon Carmack was postmaster. Crookshanks Post Office was established about two miles northwest of Fairview in 1880 with Moses Montgomery Crookshanks as postmaster; in 1881 his brother, William A. Crookshanks (who had been postmaster at Leesburg since 1874) became postmaster. Carson Post Office, about a mile from Mountain View Schoolhouse, was operated in the store of C. F. Carson in 1897 and 1898. Droke Post Office, located at the foot of Stuarts Hill, was established in 1897 with John Bell as postmaster for about six months; he was succeeded by John T. Bacon. Both the Droke and Crookshanks Post Offices closed in 1898 when Mayflower Post Office was established at Fairview with John A. Jones as postmaster; this post office also closed in 1900 when Rural Free Delivery began.
Surnames of families who were in these communities before 1850 include: Barkley, Blair, Browning, Buchanan, Campbell, Charlton, Chase, Carmichael, Cochran, Collom, Cowan, Crookshanks, Cunningham, DeVault, Duncan, Ferguson, Garber, Glass, Good, Gwin, Gray, Holloway, Powell, Robinson, Russell, Ryland, Seehorn, Sherfey, Shields, Stuart, Speare, Strain, Taylor, Thompson, and Wyly. Names appearing on local records between 1850 and 1900 include: Barger, Armentrout, Bacon, Bayless, Beard, Byers, Bell, Carmack, Carson, Cecil, Collette, Conley, Crawford, Doak, Droke, Farnsworth, Henderson, Jones, Keys, Leab, Moore, Morrow, Range, Rankin, Rogers, Shaver, Slonaker, Smith, Stephens, Tadlock, Wattenbarger, Welsh, Whitlock, Wilhoit, and Willett.
The many transfers of property and boundary changes since the early deeds and land grants make identifying all early landowners infeasible. Many early deeds refer to Big Limestone Creek, which begins near Leesburg and flows into the Nolichucky River near Limestone. Much of the land was purchased from North Carolina for fifty shillings per hundred acres, the purchases being recorded as land grants. The following early properties were located generally within a five mile radius of Leesburg: Thomas Mitchell, 200 acres in 1782; James Allison, 100 acres in 1786; Leeroy Taylor, 318 acres in 1786; William Allison to John Strain, 100 acres in 1784; James Stuart, 350 acres in 1784; Alexander Campbell, 200 acres in 1789; William Stevenson, 191 acres in 1792; David Stuart, 50 acres in 1793; James Carmichael to Michael Fraker, 450 aacres in 1796; William Hall to Alexander McLin, 254 acres in 1793. These are only a few of the land transfers, and many of the persons listed above owned other property in Washington County.
Most noticeable among the buildings which are over 100 years old is the DeVault Tavern, built in 1821 from bricks fired on the place. It served as a stagecoach stop and tavern for many years, and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
On what was once Back Street in Leesburg, near First Street, stands the house of Dr. Samuel Lyon, a physician in Leesburg in the middle 1800’s. At the crossroads in Leesburg is the oldest log house in the immediate area, said to have been built by Michael Fraker in 1797 and sold for $410.00 to Andrew Steele in 1799; it was recently covered with wood siding, and the interior was modernized. Across the road from this house is an old brick house built circa 1860 by Samuel Guggenhaim, in the early 1900’s, it was the home of Payton Knight. About a mile from Leesburg on Muddy Fork Road is the old log house lived in by pioneer John Campbell, a Revolutionary War veteran; it is now enclosed in a larger house, but the logs can still be seen inside as walls. It is occupied by a descendant of John Campbell, Mrs. Jack Keys, daughter of Louise Campbell Walker. The Hepner house, a large, two-story brick structure, still stands near Fairview. Near Leesburg on Mountain View Road is a two-story brick house built by Henry Marsh, now the home of Mrs. Nell Deakins Carson. West of Leesburg on Morelock Road is a large two-story brick house built by David Stuart, now the home of Mrs. Jessie Martin Moore. A half mile further west on Morelock Road is a brick house built by Richard McLin before 1850 and the site of the McLin Schoolhouse. In Sugar Hollow near Stuarts Hill is a two-story log house, said to have been built in the 1700’s by William Campbell. The brick house in which the Carmack family lived stood near Leesburg; recently the home of the Frank Knight family, it burned a few years ago. Across the road from this house stood a log building used as the Carmack hat factory.
The Leesburg – Fairview – Stuarts Hill area was once the center of several large farms, many of which have been subdivided into sites for new houses. The area has always been known for its responsible citizens and the friendliness and hospitality of its families. A good example of the cooperation among the people in the area was shown by the response to a “Grow Your Own Food Program;” in 1941 the women of the neighborhood prepared a dinner consisting of 185 kinds of food produced on the local farms. There were thirty-four kinds of meat, eighteen kinds of bread, seven kinds of nuts, thirty-six kinds of desserts, eleven kinds of fruit, twenty kinds of preserved food, and forth-three kinds of vegetables. The dinner received nationwide publicity through the pages of Reader’s Digest. . – contributed by Mary Sue Going and Clarence Chase