The present South Central community comprises a strip of land in the First Civil District of Washington County located on the south side of the Nolichucky River and stretches from the Greene County line on the west to Clark’s Creek and Enon Church on the east. Originally, this vast territory contained several communities, such as Mauktown, Liberty, Philadelphia, Enon and others. The name “South Central” was given to the new consolidated school built in the late 1930’s about the time electricity came to the valley. The new school combined four small schools (Mt. Carmel, Enon, Liberty and Philadelphia) and was named by M. M. Mauk who was then serving on the county school board. From that time on, the larger community began to be called South Central.
Some of the earlier settlers migrated across the mountain from North Carolina and others came down the Shenandoah Valley from Virginia into East Tennessee. Some of the very early names dating back into the late 1700’s were Bailey, Broyles, Dunbar, Jones, Mauk, Adams, Painter, Taylor, Copp, Moore, Walters, Mathes, Saults, Foster, Stanton, Masters and others. The rich soil along the Nolichucky was probably the main attraction.
Mauktown, settled in 1799 by Samuel Mauk, was one of the first settlements. It was located on the river just below the present Bailey’s Bridge. Mauktown boasted a general store, a blacksmith shop, a saloon, and a grist mill and lumber mill run by water. A forge was operated by Samuel Mauk, where the iron which came from Embreeville was made into “pigs” and floated by barge down the river and sold in Knoxville. Mauktown washed away in the May flood of 1901.
Even though the majority of the people were farmers, there was need for other services and skills and someone always arose to the occasion. Verge and Watt Copp had a general store which stocked everything needed for people in a remote area. A customer could buy hardware, groceries, feed and seed, ready-made clothing or materials for the do-it-yourself housewife. One could buy for cash, credit or exchange chickens, eggs, butter, etc. for the goods. Other stores of the same type were owned by Joe “Kooch” Bailey, Willie Walters, and Frank Bailey, who owned a store and grist mill on Painter Creek. This later became known as “Adam’s Mill.” Bud Saults had a blacksmith shop and worked with such skill that even today many of his tools can be found in the area.
Another important industry from almost the beginning has been sawmilling. The Bailey sawmill has been here since 1909, started by the Reverend Henry Bailey. In the beginning, the mill made only chestnut shingles, but as time passed growth and expansion included all types of lumber supplies. In more recent years, Sanford Bailey, a brother to Henry, and his son, Ray, developed a church furniture business. Ray now builds and furnishes church furniture over a wide area.
In the 1930’s Moody Dunbar, an enterprising young man who grew up in the community, built a small pepper processing plant and encouraged the farmers to grow peppers. The pepper business grew. A large modern plant is now in operation.
The people in the area have always been God-fearing and have built churches accordingly. At present there are seven churches in the community. Before 1850, there were congregations at Mt. Carmel Methodist, Liberty Freewill Baptist, Enon Baptist and Philadelphia Cumberland Presbyterian. Later, Philadelphia United Presbyterian, Church of the Nazarene and Cassi Full Gospel were added.
In the early days, fishing and hunting were done mainly to supplement the family dinner table, but as time passed, these activities also became recreational. The Clark’s Creek area, which has always boasted one of the best trout streams in the region, became popular as a picnicking and camping area. In the 1930’s Baxter Austin constructed some rough cabins in the Painter Springs area on Painter Creek and for several years this establishment drew many campers and outdoorsmen.
The first district has produced many outstanding citizens. For example, Jim Taylor, a brother to the famous Taylor brothers who were governors, lived and owned a farm here. The story is told that Jim did not have the oratorical powers possessed by Bob and Alf, but that he wrote many of the speeches used by the famous brothers. – contributed by Grace J. Mauk