Contributed by Nellie Phillips Fox
Conklin community is located in the Second Civil District of Washington County near the Nolichucky River and Jackson Bridge. The first post office was located in West’s store; Edward West served as postmaster in 1853. This post office was discontinued in 1866. The area was without a post office until 1876; at this time the name was Fains, changing to Conkling in 1881. The “g” was later dropped, leaving the spelling Conklin. Horace Lady and James West were postmasters while it was called Fains. After the change to Conkling, James West, E.I. Craigmiles, William Harris, Nerva Cloyd, Rufus Cloyd, Susan Bovell and Stephen Bovell were postmasters. The post office closed in 1900 and was moved to Jonesborough.
The first school began about 1870, teaching through eight grades. The building was built by Charlie Carson. In 1908, two years of high school were added, lasting only two years, then going back to the eight grades. In 1939, a brick four-room school was built across the road and was in operation until 1958, when the county schools were consolidated into a larger school. There was a pony shed on the grounds of the first school for the students to house their ponies or horses.
In 1862 the Methodists started a church in the community named Slemons Hill; it was a twenty or twenty-five square foot log church which stood on a spot that is now part of the cemetery. The Reverend George Cox was the first minister. Eighteen years later, in 1900, the second and much larger church was built. Conference changed the name to Mt. Wesley. The church was called “The Hill” for many years. A few years later, the first musical instrument, an organ, was placed in the church; this created quite a distrubance. The present church was built in 1954.
A large cemetery adjoins the church. The first grave was that of Hassie Tucker, August 1882, daughter of John and Fannie Tucker. Presently, there are about 800 graves in this cemetery.
Chucky Vale Presbyterian Church was organized in 1885 with eight members. It closed in 1896. The location was on the triangular lot between Conklin Road and Jackson Bridge Road. It was built of logs. The first minister was the Reverend Duncan J. Willoughby.
The oldest house still being occupied was built in 1835 by Edward West. It remained in the West family until 1902, when it was sold to B.B. Frazier. In 1910 the house was sold to the current owners, the Ervin family. When Mr. West owned the property, he had a general store, brickyard, tannery, blacksmith shop and carpenter shop to serve the community.
Another large house still occupied was built about 1898 by Ed Harris; it is a two-story frame house with gingerbread trim and a wrap-around porch. The house has had several different owners.
Jackson Bridge was constructed in 1890. Floods in 1901 and 1940 washed out a portion of the bridge. Before the bridge was built, a ford called “Wears Rock Ford” was used; this was named for a Mr. Wear who drowned in the river. The body was found under a rock at the spot of the ford. Construction of a new bridge was begun in 1987 and completed in February 1988. After the completion of the new bridge, the old Jackson Bridge was dismantled.
Keplinger Branch flows through Conklin, emptying into the Nolichucky River. In early days, this creek supplied power to three mills: Ruble Mill, Graham Mill, and a sawmill. Portions of both the Ruble Mill and Graham Mill are still standing. The sawmill, located near Graham Mill, was operated by Mr. Witt. The creek also provided recreation for the community – swimming and fishing.
Several different owners operated a general merchandise store near Graham Mill. Lola Broyles was one of the early owners; he also had a car dealership in the store.
A short distance from West’s store, another store was built in 1890 by A.J. Mackie. This store served the community several years, then burned. G.W. Ferguson, Sr. built and operated a store near the same location. P.C. Phillips leased the store from Mr. Ferguson for a short time, then built a new store about 300 feet from that location. P.C. Phillips and his father, R.E. Phillips, opened the store in 1921; it remained in operation until 1987. Mr Ferguson operated his store again for several years, selling to his son, George Jr.; this store was later closed.
The community was the home of John Sevier (1745-1815) – noted Indian fighter, land owner, Washington County court clerk, governor of the State of Franklin, six times governor of Tennessee and four times elected to Congress. His home was a large, two-story building with a rock chimney. The chimney stood until 1929. The logs from the house were used for firewood and a few were cut into walking canes.
About 1900, there were twenty-nine families living in the community. Some were: George Ball; Edgar and William Harris; Rufus Cloyd; P.C.; John and R.E. Phillips; G.W. Ferguson, Sr. and Jr.; John Graham; John Tucker; William Ervin; Charles Byrd; Robert Ruble; James Smith; E.E. Ruble; Rome McKee; and John Slemons.