Oakland is a rural community which has a store, a Cumberland Presbyterian Church, a Presbyterian Church USA, and several scattered houses. Its center is at a crossroads on the Old Stage Road about three miles northeast of Limestone.
The Oakland Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized in 1850. A second church building was erected using lumber cut and sawed by Thomas and Samuel T. Pleasant. In 1910 the Oakland Presbyterian Church USA was organized by local residents wanting ministers who had completed more rigid educational requirements than those of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Beside the Cumberland Presbyterian Church is a cemetery which contains over three hundred graves with legible inscriptions; there are a few unmarked graves and a few marked with plain fieldstones. Soldiers killed during the Civil War are said to have been buried there in unmarked graves. The earliest date of death found on the tombstones is 1858. Surnames of families buried there include: Hensley, Collier, Robertson, McCracken, Armentrout, Brabson, Squibb, Williams, Alexander, Knight, Moore, Morrow, Harris, Good, Luster, Morelock, Fellers, Poarch, Guinn, Campbell, Jordan, Tilson, Adams, Starnes, Aiken, and Miller.
One of the oldest houses still standing in the area is the Isaac Williams house, later the home of Joe Hyder, now the home of Rufus Luster. The Brookins Campbell house, located between Oakland and Bowmantown, was built in the 1840’s by Brookins Campbell, a member of the Tennessee Legislature for fourteen years. Campbell was elected to the United States Congress in 1853, but died before he could be seated. The Oscar Brabson house, built before 1906, was a “showplace” in the area for many years; it is now owned by Ed Cleek. Below the Brabson house is the Shanks house, which was earlier owned by the Remine family. An old log barn across the road was constructed before the Civil War; at one time, a cannonball was lodged in one of the logs at the back of the structure.
Several early homes built in the community are no longer standing. At the junction of the Old Stage Road and the Bowmantown Road stood the Barkley house, a brick structure built before the Civil War. The house was sold by the Barkleys to a Ward family, who kept tenants there for many years. As time passed, the house fell into ruin and was eventually demolished. Along the stage road stood the Thomas homeplace, a two-story log and frame house. This house had two bedrooms upstairs and a lean-to kitchen on the back. The Thomas home was last occupied by Molly Thomas Diehl and her sister, Maggie Thomas.
Two one-room schoolhouses stood near Oakland – Campbell’s, about one mile northeast on the Old Stage Road; and Arnold’s, at Eames Knob on an old road to Limestone. Arnold’s school apparently ceased operation before 1900. Campbell’s school was located on land originally owned by Hugh Campbell, who came to Washington County from Lexington, Virginia and purchased land from John Campbell in 1793. The school was originally a two-room log building. Later, clapboards were placed over the logs and a third room was added. Grades one through eight were taught there. During the 1870’s, the school was known as “Campbell’s Institute” and was sometimes used for meetings of The Trojan Society, a local debating society. In the mid-1930’s, Campbell’s School and Bowmantown School were consolidated and a new brick school was constructed about midway between Bowmantown and Oakland. Since that time, the Campbell School building has been used as a private residence.
During the Civil War, at least one skirmish occurred between Confederate soldiers encamped in Brabson’s meadow and Union soldiers encamped near the Old Stage Road to the northwest where it crosses Big Limestone Creek. Numerous Civil War artifacts have been recovered from these areas.
Samuel L. Broderick operated a country store in the Oakland area during the mid-1800’s. His son, Cornelius A. “Gus” Broderick, became sheriff of Washington County and owned the Chester Inn in Jonesborough for many years. Gus was noted for his humor and was in demand locally for debating and public speaking.
Dennis E. Miller operated a store in the community circa 1910; this store was later operated by Clarence “Banty” Williams beginning circa 1914. Williams operated the store until the late 1950’s or early 1960’s. In the 1960’s, Clifford Harris built a store at the crossroads. This building burned two years later and was rebuilt.
In 1801, Thomas Brabson purchased 118 acres of land on Mill Creek (now called Carson Creek). It is believed that he built a mill (presently known as Gray’s Mill) along the Old Stage Road. The exact date of construction is not known, but the mill is believed to have been built before the 1820’s. A post office was located in the mill in 1826 with Thomas Brabson as postmaster. The earthen mill race was dug using slave labor; a short wooden race continued up to the water wheel. The mill dam was constructed using large limestone blocks. In later years, the mill pond was used as a baptismal place and was a popular swimming hole. The mill was sold by the Brabson family to Isaac Williams, who later sold it to Aiken Squibb. John Keys purchased it from the Squibb estate and operated it for some time, then sold it to H. H. Gray in 1921. The mill was converted into an electric roller mill by the Grays, and is presently operated by Horace Gray. A large brick house built by the Brabsons was located near the mill, but has been gone for many years.
About halfway between Oakland and Bowmantown, on the Old Stage Road, stood Rocky Hill Tavern, owned and operated for many years by the Moses Carson family. The tavern was a two-story, all-log building, with a large porch running along the length of the front. The rooms had no connecting doors, so it was necessary to go out onto the porch to enter each room. The kitchen was large enough for the family to eat, sleep, and live in. The building stood until about 1940, when it was demolished.
An early physician in the Oakland community was Dr. Samuel B. Morelock (1865 – 1949), who practiced in the area from 1904 until the mid-1940’s. A graduate of the University of Louisville, he practiced first in Brownsborough (along the Nolichucky River), then in 1904 purchased the farm and medical practice of Dr. Jefferson D. Campbell in Oakland. This farm was part of two tracts entered on a land grant to the Campbell family. The Morelocks lived in a two-story, handmade brick house that had been constructed before the Civil War by slaves belonging to the Campbell family. Dr. Morelock traveled on horseback and also had a “gig” – a two-wheeled cart pulled by one horse – and a wagon for making his house calls. His practice extended over a wide area including Leesburg, Bowmantown, Clear Springs, and Jockey. – contributed by Pearl H. Squibb, Frances M. Dyer and Sarah P. Dykes