Locust Mount – Oak Hill
The area known as Locust Mount encompasses parts of the Seventh, Thirteenth, and Seventeenth Civil Districts of Washington County, stretching from the junction of the Bowmantown and Sulphur Springs roads along State Route 81 to Haws Cross Roads. It is near the Sulphur Springs, Fall Branch and Harmony communities. After 1909 it also began to be known as the Oak Hill community, since in that year the Oak Hill Missionary Baptist Church was organized and a church building was erected on a hill among beautiful oak trees.
The area is mainly agricultural and was settled by sturdy Scotch-Irish (Scots who had temporarily lived in Ireland) and who are best described by Chaucer as “landed gentry.” Family names of early settlers include Brown, Hicks, Odell, Martin, Shipley, Walker, Kincheloe, and Whitaker. Descendants of some of these early settlers live in the community today.
The Locust Mount Store, a well-known landmark of the area, served for years as a trading place and as a community center where folks gathered to trade and visit. The store building was renovated and remodeled into an apartment house; it burned in July 1988. Some of the early storekeepers were: Jake Hicks, Jim Deakins, Will Keys, George and Ella Mae Babb, Chester and Becky Adams, and the Harrisons. Over the years other stores were operated for periods of various length, owned by Ruble Baskett, Orland Whitaker, Arthur Carey, and Dewey Oliver.
Across the road from the store building stood a lodge building, used by the Odd Fellows and later by the Junior Order of United American Mechanics, Locust Mount Council Number 17. The building was still standing in 1934, but has since been removed. The land now belongs to Jim Martin.
The community’s first post office, Locust Mount, was established in 1836 with Thomas C. McAdams as postmaster. It was discontinued in 1845, but reestablished in 1847 with Robert A. Thompson as postmaster; he was succeeded in 1855 by Thomas C. McAdams. In 1878 Joseph D. Lyon became postmaster, serving until the appointment in 1888 of Nelson Duncan. In 1889 Gabriel J. Sylvester was appointed as postmaster. In 1891 William H. Sylvester became postmaster and served until 1900 when rural post offices were discontinued. Part of the community was served from August 1880 to December 1890 by a post office known as Pettibone with John S. Walker as postmaster; the name of this post office was changed to Christie in 1890 when Susannah Baskette became postmistress. By October 1894 John S. Walker was again in charge and served until 1900, when the Limestone Post Office began to provide Rural Free Delivery. The writer has a letter, dated 1864 and bearing the Locust Mount address, written by Newton Ferguson to his parents. He was a soldier in the Confederate Army and was killed in the Battle of Missionary Ridge. All of these early post offices were located either in the homes of the postmasters or in stores.
In 1845, “Pleasant Grove Scientific School” was established a short distance west of Locust Mount. An 1849 advertisement in the Jonesborough Whig described its location as “in a beautiful, healthful, pleasant and retired grove 9 miles West of Jonesborough, Tenn, of course free from the vices common to institutions of a similar kind in and about towns and villages.” Under the charge of M.H.B. Burket, the school offered the following courses and tuition: “Orthography, Reading, Writing and Oral Arithmetic, $5 – Practical Arithmetic, English Grammar, Geography, History, Rhetoric, Logic, Natural Mental and Moral Philosophy, Geology, Mineralogy and Astronomy, $6.50. Algebra, Geometry and Surveying, $8.” Students could either board with families in the neighborhood or live in cabins on the school grounds at two dollars per session. Each cabin was described as “sufficiently large to accommodate 3 students.” In order to discourage absenteeism, “one dollar extra for unnecessary irregularity” was charged. The school was under the general supervision of a committee consisting of William Walker, Joseph Duncan, Sr., Josiah Conley, R. Humphreys, S. B. McAdams, Richard Basket, R. A. Thompson, Thos. McAdams, John T. Smith, H. Buchanan, Joseph Milburn, and Charles Lisenby. It is not known how long this school operated, but it was still in existence in 1849.
Another early school in the community was Rubush, a grade school located on land lying near the Oak Hill Baptist Church. A large spring on this land furnished water for the school. The school building was also used as a meeting place for a group of United Brethren. The property on which the Rubush School stood is now owned by Paul Baskette.
Cherry Grove School replaced the Rubush School and was located on land now owned by David and Janis Dukes. One of the well-beloved teachers at Cherry Grove was Calloway Hartman. In 1912-13 the school had an enrollment of 42, an average attendance of 30, a 120 day school year, and a salary of $41.00 per month for the teacher, S. T. Wilcox. At that time E. S. Depew was Washington County Superintendent of Schools. In that year, the graduates of this elementary school were Don Campbell, Clyde Campbell, Will Jones, Clarence Hale, and Austin Odell.
Glendale School, situated nine miles southwest of Jonesborough, was one of the few consolidated schools in the county. Land for it had been donated by S. T. Martin and family and a 75-foot corridor to the spring was donated by Davis Barnes. In 1914, Glendale School had three teachers – Principal E. C. Hicks, Myrtle Leonard, and Frances Walker; there were 126 pupils and a daily average attendance of 91. In 1943 the land on which the school was located was sold to Dora Martin and the corridor to the spring was sold to Roscoe Lynch.
In 1922 an elementary school, called Allegheny, was built on the fringe of the Oak Hill community on land donated by Will and Dora Phillips “to be used for a school and a church.” The community matched a $500.00 contribution from Washington County; lumber was given by Cicero Whitaker; and local citizens furnished the labor to erect the school building. The first teacher was Hettie Payne from Erwin and the last was Mary Miller Taylor. In 1952 the school property was sold by the county to Emerson Morelock and in 1953 a Freewill Baptist Church was dedicated there.
Students from all of these schools who continued their education went to high school at Sulphur Springs, either riding horseback daily to school or living in cabins rented at the school. A dormitory was later built where some students could board.
Since the Oak Hill community was far from any hospital or clinic, it was fortunate to have three local doctors. These doctors were held in high esteem. The first to practice here was Dr. Talbert Ferguson, son of Henry Attison Ferguson; he built and lived for a while in the house now owned by Rose and Eden White, later moving to Johnson City and then to the State of Washington. The second doctor was Dr. George Columbus Horne, who moved to Jonesborough about 1920. The last doctor in the community was Dr. E. Blaine Mitchell, son of John Mitchell, who lived at the family homeplace from about 1932 to 1963, when he moved his practice to Sulphur Springs.
The only church in the community, Oak Hill Missionary Baptist Church, was organized in 1909 under the guidance of the Reverend J. M. Whitaker. The six charter members were S. H. Howard, the Reverend J. M. Whitaker, Mollie Odell, Mrs. J. E. Hale, Jacob Hicks, and Annie Hicks. Appointed to a building committee were Chairman Albert Odell, James B. Jobe, Jacob Hicks, Robert A. Ferguson, James Cashman, Robert Walker, and J. M. Whitaker. The church building was dedicated in July 1912 by Elder Wheatley from Greeneville, Tennessee. The first trustees were R. A. Ferguson, S. A. Tadlock, and Albert Odell. In 1966 a new brick building replaced the old church structure. The church continues to be a strong spiritual influence on the people of the area. . – contributed by Rowena Odell