The Telford community, located about five miles southwest of Jonesborough in the Fifth Civil District, has a long and interesting history. The area that is now Telford began to be settled about 1780. Early landowners in the area were: Aaron Burlson, Samuel Fain, James Stinson, George Barkley, Joshua Greene, Thomas Embree, Adam Willson, James Campbell, John Campbell, Alexander Campbell, Nicholas Starnes, James Moore, Robert Moore, James Pearce, Jacob Brown – “wagonmaker”, Jacob Brown, Jr., George Brown, Abraham Brown, Samuel Bayless, Daniel McCray, William Calvert and William Nodding.
A branch of the “Great Stage Road” passed through the community, roughly following State Highway 34. Traces of the old roadbed can still be seen a few hundred feet south of the present road. The stage road was heavily traveled; as a result, several blacksmith shops were located along it. Jacob Brown Sr. (1731-1807) came to the area in 1796 and had a wagonmaking business on his farm bordering the stage road. His son, Jacob Brown, Jr., (1752-1841), a blacksmith, came to the community in 1791 and ran a shop just east of his father’s farm. In the 1830’s, John Graham set up a blacksmith shop near the Brown farms.
Little Limestone Creek, along with its numerous branches, flows through the community. In the early 1800’s, several mills were operated in the area. In the 1820’s, the Moore family operated a mill along Little Limestone in the community. At about the same time, Alexander Campbell ran a mill on Brown Branch, located just east of Telford on land now owned by Carl Osborne. Traces of the mill dam and mill race can still be seen at the site. Another early mill was located on the farm of Samuel Bayless (1751-1825), near the present site of David Crockett High School.
In the early 1780’s, a Baptist Church was located east of Telford; its exact location is unknown, but it is believed to have been in the vicinity of the present David Crockett High School. Known as the Limestone Church, its early members were Samuel Bayless, Nicholas Fain, William Nodding, Daniel McCray, Francis Baxter, John Bayless, Mary Nodding, Sarah Wood, Eliz. Dilling, Sarah McCray, Lynn Russell, Ann Bayless, Martha Hannah, Mary Bayless, Priscilla Nodding, and Mary Baxter. These members joined Cherokee Baptist Church, located about one mile south, in 1783 and the Limestone Church apparently ceased to exist. No further information about it has been found.
About 1830, a Quaker church was located near the present site of the Young farm. An 1830’s deed from John Stormer to Stephen Brown mentions the “Quaker meeting house and cemetery.” The names of the early members of this church are not known.
The community was called Millwood in early times and continued so for many years. It was not until 1855, when Colonel George Whitfield Telford donated about four acres of land to support local operations of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad, that the name Millwood was changed to Telford Depot. At a date sometime after 1876 the word “Depot” was discontinued and the single name Telford adopted.
George Whitfield Telford was born in 1803, the son of Thomas Telford of Charleston, South Carolina and Miriam Mathes, daughter of Captain Alexander Mathes. Colonel Telford was a member of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church and a senator in the Tennessee Legislature representing Washington, Greene and Hawkins counties. He was also commandant of the 130th Tennessee Militia, Washington County, receiving his commission on Christmas Eve, 1833. He and his wife were the parents of 12 children, all of whom were daughters.
In 1876 Colonel Telford established the Telford Agricultural Manufacturing Company. The company was organized as a stock or cooperative business in what was then known as Telford Depot. The factory included a large three-story building for woodworking and an attached foundry building on the west end. These buildings were completed about 1880 and from that date until about 1890 a variety of farm tools, household utensils and other items were manufactured. Between the years 1880 and 1890 in East Tennessee, there prevailed very favorable conditions for business growth. However, towards the end of this period there was mounting evidence of increased business failures. The over-building of railroads, with many bankruptcies, and the discovery of rich deposits of iron ore in Minnesota and Alabama led to a severe depression followed by several years of no growth. Probably because of these conditions, the Telford Agricultural Manufacturing Company failed in 1890 and was sold at auction to W. A. Maloney III, a Mr. Self and a Mr. May. Later Mr. Maloney bought out the shares of Mr. May and Mr. Self and changed the use of the factory building to that of a roller mill in 1894. The mill was named the Eureka Roller Mill and stayed in the Maloney family until 1969 when it was sold out of the family.
W. A. Maloney III was a mule trader and a farmer by occupation, but he knew that the growing community was in need of a mill and that the water was available for power. Maloney installed a large over-shot water wheel which was turned by water from Little Limestone Creek. Just up the creek and across the road from the mill was an under-shot water wheel that powered a turbine, producing electricity for the community. The water then flowed across a second dam and powered the Maloney wheel. The power wheel was phased out after the Tennessee Valley Authority made electric power available on a mass scale.
Near the northeast corner of the mill stand two old sycamore trees that were used to support a crossbar and an “A” frame from which hogs were hung for skinning and butchering. This community operation was last used about 1969.
The railroad came to Telford in 1858 with the completion of the East Tennessee and Virginia Railroad between Knoxville and Wytheville, Virginia. Colonel Telford was a strong supporter of railroad construction and was a heavy investor in the East Tennessee & Virginia Railroad. In 1855 he donated land in Telford for a railroad depot and livestock holding pens. He also donated a water supply from the creek and a woodyard for storing fuel for the locomotives. During the Civil War, the railroad suffered frequent disruption of service by sections of track being destroyed by both Union and Confederate armies to prevent its use by the other. After the war ended there was one daily round trip train from Knoxville to Bristol that took nine hours each way. This schedule continued for many years, offering transport of people, freight and mail. The Telford Depot was demolished in 1962. Passenger service was continued as a flag stop until 1974, when all passenger service was discontinued.
For about one hundred years, there has been a general store in the same building in Telford. About half of that time the store was owned and operated by W. G. Keys, who purchased it from J. L. Humphries in 1916. When Keys first acquired the store, it was on the main road, which was dirt and gravel. He put in the first gasoline pump between Jonesborough and Greeneville shortly after he went into business. Keys handled eggs and chickens, shipping them to markets in Baltimore and New York. He had a warehouse where the chickens were milk feed and processed. He also bought between 35 and 40 thousand pounds of walnuts to ship to other markets.
Other general stores in Telford included Telford and Ayers groceries, presently in operation and Byerly’s Grocery, operated by C. K. Byerly in the 1930’s, 40’s and 50’s. George Maloney operated a service station from 1935 until 1953. There was a bank in Telford from 1921to 1929 which was called the Telford Bank. Also, there was a drug store owned by Dr. Patton. A hosiery mill was built in Telford by a stock company and when the bank closed it also closed. The hosiery mill later reopened and stayed in operation until 1945.
Blacksmiths in Telford during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s include Will Henley, Bill Baruba, George Foster, Clyde Waddell and W. C. Waddell. Clyde Waddell operated his shop from 1921 until 1946, after which the shop was run by his son, W. C., until 1950. Other businesses included a sawmill owned by W. A. Maloney and a coalyard owned by Jim Miller. Physicians practicing in Telford were Dr. Robert L. Patton, Dr. C. W. Brabson and Dr. Blevins.
At least four schools have served Telford over the years. Brown’s Schoolhouse was located just east of Telford on land owned by Jacob Brown, Jr. (1752-1841). In 1830, he deeded a small tract of land to the common school commissioners, John Murr, Alexander Campbell, and Robert Million, “for the use of a schoolhouse forever.” Brown’s Schoolhouse was a focal point of the community for many years, often used by candidates for public, state and national offices as a site for political speeches to the local people. During the Civil War, the school was used as a campsite by Confederate soldiers. Another school building (name unknown) is now incorporated in the C. L. Clark house on the west end of town. This school, along with the Brown School, were consolidated into the Telford School. The Telford school was a small, frame building located on the old Jacob Brown, Sr. (1731-1807) farm; the structure is now a woodworking shop owned by John W. Howze. The last school, a brick building, was built in Telford in 1939 and was used for more than two decades. It is now used as a community center.
Telford is presently served by two churches. Telford Baptist was organized in 1936 and the first minister was the Reverend John Good. The inside of the church building was gutted by fire in 1959, but was refurbished and currently has more than 200 members. Telford Methodist was built about 1860. It was a wooden structure that burned to the ground in 1953. It was rebuilt of brick on the same site.
The Telford cemetery is located beside the Methodist Church and is used by both churches. It started as a family cemetery on land donated by Fannie C. Carson. The first burial was that of Charles Nelson Self in February 1903.
The oldest house still standing in the Telford community is the Embree stone house, built about 1790 by Seth Smith, a stonemason from Pennsylvania. Smith built the house for Thomas Embree and his wife, Esther Coulson, who came to Tennessee from New Jersey in 1769 or 1770. Embree manufactured iron from a forge near the old stone house. He mined the ore from the hill behind the house, this being the first iron mine in this area. This mine produced the ore for iron that shod the houses used by soldiers at the Battle of King’s Mountain. The Embree house was also the scene of a Civil War skirmish in September 1863. Two Ohio Infantry regiments were attacked by a superior Confederate force from an encampment at Brown’s School House. Six or seven were wounded on each side before the Union troops moved on to Limestone and the Confederates returned to their camp at Brown’s School House.
Another old home still standing in the community is located on the John Howze farm. Built circa 1850 by Stephen Brown, it remained in the Brown family until the 1940’s. The Howzes purchased it in the 1950’s and bricked the exterior. – contributed by Bill Fox and Nell Fox
References: Telford Homecoming’86 Album, compiled by Telford Ruritan.; Johnson City Press-Chronicle.; The Greenville Sun.; “Telford Community,” a report by Mark Littleton.; Interviews with W. C. Waddell and W. A. Maloney, IV.