Bob Jarnagin of Dandridge, in July of 2006, officially became the Jefferson County Historian. He graduated from Wake Forest University and returned home in 1977. Bob was influenced by the county’s first official historian, George Bauman. Bauman recruited Bob to help do some research when he got involved in what were then called “founding festivals” –Restore Our County (ROC) celebrations to honor the unique history of this area. It was through participation in ROC that Bob realized the more he learned, the more he wanted to learn. He began examining deeds, land grants, and old buildings. Through all this, he discovered his own roots in Jefferson County go back to a 1783 land grant to Captain Thomas Jarnagin. Bob is a seventh generation Jefferson Countian. He has presented countless historical programs. On becoming the County Historian, he said he is honored to be added to the list of Jefferson County Historians with such great former historians as George Bauman, Jean Bible and Dr. E.P. Muncy. Bob was the 2002 Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Volunteer of the Year, received the Senior Citizen Home Assistance Service award in 2008 and was the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year in 2010. He is married to the former Susie Blanc. When Bob is not somewhere searching through history records, you can find him at Jarnagin Insurance Company in Dandridge.
Archives for Hall Of Fame
Helen Gray has been a long-standing member and former board member of the JCHS. She is a native Tennessean who grew up in Knoxville, but has lived in Jefferson City since 1963. She is married to Charles Kenneth Gray and has three children. She has been an active member of the Jefferson County Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities since 1971. She is active in other organizations also, and one of her stellar accomplishments was spearheading the moving and restoring of the 1850s Mossy Creek log school to its present location between Jefferson Elementary School and Jefferson Middle School. She was actively involved in the formation of Jefferson County’s League of Women Voters’ chapter and many other organizations. Helen has a deep love for the history of our county.
Joseph A. Swann is a native of Maryville, Tennessee, born in 1950 to Eugene Swann, originally of Dandridge, and Sue Morton Swann of Maryville. Joseph’s father, Eugene, grew up in an old house in Dandridge, where Eugene’s mother, Nina Gwinn Swann lived until 1963. The house was built by Nina’s great uncle, Major Samuel S. McCuistion, about 1838. The family often went to see Joseph’s grandmother Nina there, and his father (Eugene) told him that their ancestors, the McCuistions, had lived on Long Creek and were neighbors of Davy Crockett when Davy lived there. Eugene was told that his great-great grandfather, James McCuistion, ran a sort of store there and that Davy Crockett gave him his rifle in payment for money owed to him at the store in 1806. It remained in the family through the years. In 1978 Joseph bought the rifle from a relative that had inherited it. The restored rifle was loaned to the Museum of East Tennessee History in Knoxville. Joseph turned to the job of finding out more about the rifle. Through his research, he was shocked to find out how very little history there was on the early life of East Tennessee’s most famous native son. In 1979 he began the process of collecting information to write a book on the life of David Crockett in East Tennessee. His Crockett research has made him quite familiar with the people and places of Jefferson County. He has looked at thousands of public records such as wills, deeds, court minutes, church records, etc., for Jefferson County and its rich history will always be a great fascination for him.
Cleve Smith, beginning with his earliest memories, was always a collector of any item that interested him. He collected folding match books for years as a young boy and had a collection that numbered in the thousands. Later, old letters and postage stamps fascinated him, and soon replaced the interest in match books. He pursued this hobby until by the time he entered the Air Force in the Korean War, he had amassed an astounding collection of postal items. Even while in service, he and his wife Betty continued to add to this collection. While hunting one day in 1956, he found an ancient stone arrowhead and carried it home. He was intrigued by the item. He returned to the same spot and found more. This newfound collection were of articles that had a story to tell. They were a pleasure to collect and an important source of ancient history of our area. In 1977 he bought a metal detector in hopes of finding a few old coins. He found some, but in the process he found something else. He found a bullet from the War Between the States. His curiosity was aroused and he returned again and again, finding more bullets along with uniform buttons, gun parts, and other items just as they were left by the soldiers long ago. Cleve had an interesting group of ancestors. Joseph Beeler was a veteran of the Battle of King’s Mountain, and Cleve had family in the War Between the States. Since 1977 he has endeavored to search for, recover, document and record everything possible about the War Between the States, for so much of it is now being destroyed by the advance of civilization. Cleve has written several books on the War Between the States, books which include lots of pictures.
Roy Rankin was born into the Rankin Family that knew its history and heritage well, and made a continuing effort to pass these from one generation to the next. Three Rankin brothers, Samuel, Richard, and Thomas II, along with John Bradshaw, were the four pioneer settlers of the Dumplin Creek headwater area. They came to the valley about 1785. Roy was born July 15, 1917, at his parents’, Frank W. and Lula Rankin, home on what is now C.H. Rankin Road near White Pine. His home training was centered around these primary principles-the religious life of the family, the Scots-Irish work ethic, and the continuous promotion of the need for education. He grew up on a 400+ acre farm. He graduated in 1935, then attended Maryville College and in 1936 transferred to the University of Tennessee. But due to severe illness, he was forced to drop out in the middle of the year and take a year to regain his health. In the 1940s he enlisted for three years in the Army Air Corps, later to become the Army Air Force. Because of World War II, his service time was later extended to five years. The December 7, 1941 Pearl Harbor bombing immediately brought a sense of urgency to the Air Force training. While stationed in Birmingham, he married Marguerite Justus of Knoxville, in Knoxville, on June 26, 1942. He returned to White Pine after service life and he began to work on the family farm again. Due to continuing sever back problems, he turned toward the electronics field. They had one son and three daughters. The greatest tragedy of their lives came in 1978 when his son Don and two daughters were killed by a house explosion in Knoxville. Marianne, his wife, lost both legs below her knees but after rehabilitation returned to her job at TVA. Retirement had given him more time for his interests in family and county history, and he enjoyed being a member and sometimes an officer of the Jefferson County Historical Society.
Tom Gentry came from middle Tennessee to Jefferson City in February 1956 when he purchased three small local newspapers from Circuit Judge George R. Shepherd of Newport. The newspapers were the Jefferson Standard, the Dandridge Banner and the Grainger County News. In the early 1960s, Tom sold the Grainger County News and combined the Standard and the Banner into what is still The Standard Banner. When Tom began researching his family tree, he learned that one of his great-grandfathers, Robert Gentry, was an early settler of Jefferson County. Before coming to Jefferson County, he was editor and co-publisher of the Putnam County Herald in Cookeville. A Navy veteran, he participated in some of the major amphibious landings in the Pacific theatre in World War II while serving as an office and later the captain of an LCI. Tom had said “we are always aware that today’s news is tomorrow’s history.”
Jean Patterson Bible was born in Russelville, Tennessee. After high school graduation, she attended Salem College in Winston-Salem, NC. Jean graduated in 1934 with a B.A. degree in English, French and Spanish. In June 1936, she married Lloyd Bible, also from Russellville and a graduate of the School of Pharmacy at the University of Tennessee-Memphis. Jean and her husband settled in Dandridge, where he was a pharmacist. She taught at Maury High School for several years and was active in a number of patriotic, educational, civic and social organizations in Dandridge. In the 1970s she was listed in Who’s Who of American Women. She was the Jefferson County Historian for several years. Many of her articles were published, along with a column, “This and That” which was published in the Standard Banner newspaper for nineteen years. Her book “Bent Twigs” was based on her research and experiences through the years. Not long after “Bent Twigs” came out, the New York Public Library requested a copy for the family division of the genealogical section. A short time later, the Mormon Genealogical Library, one of the most prestigious in the United States, requested copies of both her books for their family section. Her next book, “Melungeons Yesterday and Today” is a non-fiction book about this historic ethnic group. Her husband died in 1986. Their daughter is Laura, who has two daughters.
Francis L. Bettis was of the direct line of John Bettis of England. His parents were Frank E. Bettis and Lana Estell Morgan Bettis, and both lived in Dandridge most all their lives. Francis served in the military service from 1941 to 1945. He married Hillis Blackburn in 1942 and had three children. He lived in Blount County for fifty-two years and retired from Alcoa after working there thirty-five years. His hobbies were photography, genealogy and collecting old pictures and materials about Dandridge. He had a life long interest in Dandridge, having been born there, and had an extensive collection of pictures of Dandridge which he shared at many meetings.
W.W. Bass was born in Warren County, Tennessee. His father, Magnus Thomas Bass, operated the Tennessee Woolen Mills there from about 1904 until his death in 1938. His grandfather, William Bass, was a widely known preacher who pastored many Baptist churches in Wilson County. When W.W. Bass was born, his grandfather put a silver dollar in his hand, and when W.W. clutched the coin, his grandfather said, “He’s going to save his money.” W.W. was educated in the McMInnville city schools. He later received degrees from the University of Tennessee-Knoxvlle and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He taught English at Carson Newman College for thirty-nine years, about half of them as departmental chairman. On December 24, 1938, he married Madeline Walsh. They had two sons and five grandchildren. He was a long time member of First Baptist Church of Jefferson City. He always felt Jefferson County was one of the richest in history and was thankful that he belonged to an organization that appreciated its history. He enjoyed his vegetable and flower garden along with walking and nature observation, and classical music over WUOT.