A tale of two markers and too many Reynoldses

Beth KinnaneGibbs/Corryton, Our Town Stories

Faith and beggorah and saints preserve us, Nannie Lee Hicks got something wrong. I am speaking of the well-known history teacher from Central High School who authored A History of Fountain City and Historic Treasure Spots of Knox County, Tennessee. I do wish our late colleague, Dr. Jim Tumblin, was still around so we could have a chat about it (see his story about Hicks here).

The marker for “Mr. Anderson’s Log College” on Murphy Road in north Knox County (photo by Beth Kinnane).

Anyway, I went down a rabbit hole chasing the wrong John Reynolds of north Knox County, and it’s all Miss Hicks’ fault. Her Treasures book mentions a historical marker on Murphy Road for the location of “Mr. Anderson’s Log College” which was actually named Union Academy. If you were previously unaware, The Rev. Isaac Anderson, who started his school between Washington and Tazewell pikes, eventually moved it to Blount County and it became Maryville College. The school’s time on Murphy Road lasted from 1802-1812, and Hicks had singled out Reynolds as one of its distinguished graduates.

Hicks wrote that Reynolds “was born on Little Flat Creek near Harbison’s Crossroads.” Well, the first problem is, no he wasn’t. The John Reynolds of my interest was born in 1885 in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania. A son of Irish immigrants, he moved here with his family at the age of six months. There were already a good number of his father’s extended family in residence in this, then, sparsely populated area north of Shannondale Road between Copper Ridge and House Mountain. Which, of course, could explain part of the problem with keeping all the Reynoldses straight.

This Reynolds family moved north of Harbison’s Crossroads just off Tazewell Pike. Per John Reynolds’ memoir My Own Times, they lived in a cabin near the bottom of Copper Ridge Mountain. Now, Copper Ridge runs from west of Heiskell Road well into Union County. But its highest point (second only to House Mountain in Knox County) is up on the high end of Wood Road near where it intersects with Harvey Henry Road. So, it’s in the Gibbs/Corryton vicinity.

Which brings us to our next historical marker, the one for George Mann. Mann, reportedly, was the last white settler in Knox County to be killed by members of an indigenous tribe. The Revolutionary War veteran went out to investigate noise in his barn one night and was ambushed.

Though wounded, he managed to escape and attempted to hide in nearby Campbell’s cave. His efforts were in vain, and he met a horrible end. His wife, Betsy, had just that day (May 25, 1795) learned to use her husband’s rifle. She shot two of his attackers when they returned to the cabin for her and the children, and off they ran. She eventually moved back to Virginia.

Mann’s marker is about two miles north of Harbison’s Crossroads. He hadn’t lived in the area long before his gruesome death. As it turns out, according to Reynolds’ memoir, Mann lived on the very homestead he and his family left in 1794, eventually making their way to Illinois. So, the marker serves two purposes, commemorating Mann and getting roughly in the spot of where both families lived. Mann’s lonesome grave is on private property.

An image of John Reynolds from his memoir.

Though he left Knox County at age 9, Reynolds returned here at age 20 to continue his schooling at Union Academy, which speaks to how well Mr. Anderson’s college was regarded. He went on to study law here in Knoxville before returning to Illinois. He eventually become the state’s fourth governor. He made another visit to Knoxville around 1850 and went back to search for the home of his youth. Nothing was left but some flagstones where the hearth used to be. He died in 1865.

For the record, he is not the same John Reynolds who moved from the Gibbs area to Bearden and whose son Robert built Knollwood at the top of Bearden Hill. He is also not the John Reynolds who operated Reynolds Station, as yet unlocated but reportedly somewhere west of Harbison’s on Emory Road.

The memorial for Anderson’s college says the school was about one eighth of a mile west of the marker, which would put it somewhere between Stoneyhurst Lane and the back end of Shannon Run subdivision. The marker sits on a strip of grass near one of the bricked and landscaped entrances to Shannon Valley Farms subdivision. Attempt to get near it at your own risk.

Though the school has been gone for decades, Anderson’s two-story log home still sat behind a house in Shannon Valley as recently as seven years ago. Threatened with demolition, it was saved through the efforts of Knox Heritage and Maryville College and relocated to the Smoky Mountains Heritage Center in Townsend.

Beth Kinnane writes a history feature for KnoxTNToday.com. It’s published each Tuesday and is one of our best-read features.

Sources: Historic Treasure Spots of Knox County, Tennessee, by Nannie Lee Hicks; My Own Times, by John Reynolds; The Dailly Times digital archives

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