Powell Station founded as Menifee’s Fort

Sandra ClarkOur Town Stories, Powell

Ron Evans had a surprise guest at the Oct. 28 meeting of the Powell’s Station History Society. Jon D. Smith, a descendant of William Menifee, the brother of Powell’s founder, John Menifee, dropped by with a really neat family photograph and his personal research into his family’s genealogy.

Jon D. Smith

Smith said family names like Collier and Conner and Cox and Roberts can be traced back to the early days of European settlers in the Powell area.

Evans heads the group which meets at 7 p.m. on the last Monday of each month at the Community Center on Emory Road. The next meeting will be Monday, Jan. 27, after holiday breaks for Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Evans reported a busy week. First, he discovered a picture of the 1930 Powell High School football team. Now he needs to get names for each player. “Those guys all look alike,” he said. Ron’s father and uncle played on those early teams. Ron says Powell’s first team got used uniforms from the University of Tennessee, “back when General Neyland was a major.”

Those uniforms were orange, white and black, so orange and black became Powell’s official colors.

“This close,” Evans said, holding his thumb and forefinger about an inch apart. A major project for the group is the reinstatement of the John Menifee sign. The previous sign fell victim to a hit-and-run driver (or two).

When Ron noticed a circle of black tape near the old Weigel’s store at the corner of Emory Road and Clinton Highway, he suspected the Menifee sign was ready to install. So, he phoned Nashville. The sign was ready, for sure, but it had a 100-year typo on the date that Menifee built his fort (1787).

“A year or two off, we could live with,” Ron said. But 100 years sent the sign back to the shop. And now Ron suspects Powell won’t see the sign until spring.

Menifee was a soldier in the Revolutionary War. He and others received land grants for their service. “They started as soldiers and became statesmen,” said Evans. A more complete account of Powell’s founding is here.

A horse and rider could travel about 10 miles per day, Evans said. So, forts were established about 10 miles apart. Emory Road was built when East Tennessee was part of North Carolina – starting in Blaine (now in Grainger County) and running through what later became Corryton, then Halls, then Powell, then Oak Ridge and across the Cumberland Plateau.

Operating with about a dozen militia, Menifee’s Fort provided shelter for travelers and for outlying residents in case of Indian attacks.

“Part of Emory Road was built straight through Indian territory,” Evans said, “and the Indians tried to charge a toll.”

The state of Tennessee was formed in 1796 with its capital in Knoxville. John Menifee was elected speaker of the House. “Then it got a little crowded for him,” Evans said with a smile, “and he moved to Alabama.” Menifee died in Decatur, Ala., and is buried there, with a memorial stating he fought in the Revolutionary War.

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