An American Family History

Piney Flats, Tennessee


Washington County, Tennessee,was established in 1777 as Washington County, North Carolina. From 1784 to 1788,it was part of the State of Franklin.

East Tennessee is part of Appalachia. At the end of the French and Indian War, colonists began drifting into the area. In 1769, they first settled along the Watauga River. During the Revolution, the Overmountain Men defeated British loyalists at the Battle of Kings Mountain. The State of Franklin was formed in the 1780s, but never admitted to the Union.
Learn more about Piney Flats.
American colonists continued to use British monetary units, namely the pound, shilling and pence for which £1 (or li) equalled 20s and 1s equalled 12d. In 1792 the dollar was established as the basic unit of currency.
The Holston River flows from Kingsport to Knoxville.
map by Kmusser

The Cherokeewere indigenous people who lived in the southern Appalachian mountains. European Americans called their towns in eastern Tennessee, the Overhill Towns. The towns included Chota, Tellico and Tanasi.

In 1776, the Cherokee planned to drive settlers out of the Washington District. The settlers were warned and stopped the first attack at Heaton's Station. The second attack was stopped at Fort Watauga. In response to these attacks, the militia burned Tuskegee and Citico.

In 1780, while the militia was away at the Battle of Kings Mountain, the Cherokee raided the setttlements. When the militia returned, Colonel John Sevier's men defeated the Cherokee at Boyd's Creek and destroyed most of the remaining towns.

Piney Flats is in Sullivan County, Tennessee. The line between Washington and Sullivan Counties is near the village and some residents changed counties without moving. Prior to 1779. the portion of what is now Sullivan County north of the Holston was believed to be in Virginia, and the first grants were issued by that state.

The village which is between the forks of the Holston and Watauga Rivers was called The Forks, Shell's Crossing or Shell's Crossroads until the mid-1800's. According to Historic Sullivan, the area of Piney Flats was "infested with packs of vicious and destructive wolves."

According to Historic Sullivan in 1767 Joseph Womack built Fort Womack two miles east of Bluff City. It offered protection for the settlers who lived in the area from the Cherokee.

Daniel Boone blazed his trail through what is now Austin Springs Road in 1769. See Austin Springs Road on the map of the Piney Flats area.

Henry (Hal) Massengil, Sr. came to the area in 1769 from Virginia and built a log cabin. The History of Sullivan County

said that when on one occasion [when] the people were forted [at Fort Womack] a marriage took place between Hal Massengill [Jr.] and Penelope Cobb.

The Malone family came before 1777 when John Sr., George, John Jr., and William signed the 1777 Washington County petition asking Virginia to relocate the county seat.

Between 1770 and 1772, William and Barsheba (Whitehead) Cobb settled in the area. They brought their family from North Carolina and settled at Rocky Mount (see map). Their children included Penelope Cobb who married Hal Massengill. The Massengills continued to live at Rocky Mount.

The Reverend Joseph Rhea came to the Holston settlements from Maryland. He accompanied the Christian expedition of 1776 as chaplain. Reverend Rhea returned to Maryland, but in 1776 he came again with his oldest son, John Rhea, and bought land on Beaver Creek. Henry Massengill wrote that

We hailed his coming with great joy for our souls were hungering and thirsting for spiritual nourishment. He urged the settlers to build a house of worship which we decided to do.

The original log church was completed by July, 1777.

Mathias Little, Valentine Little, George Little, and Andrew Little were granted land in Sullivan County by the state of North Carolina in 1792. They arrived about 1777. The Littles, Patrick Cragun and George Webb all arrived about the same time.

Reverend Rhea died before he could come back, but in 1778 a group of his followers including, Elizabeth McIlwaine Rhea, came to Piney Flats. Robert, John and Finley Alison and John Scott were members of the Maryland congregation. William and Mary McKinley from Maryland probably came at this time, but did not buy land until 1785.

The Reverend Francis Hodge and his wife, Martha (Sally) Sproat came from Ireland by way of Pennsylvania and Maryland and built a log cabin at the head of Sugar Hollow near Pickens Bridge (see map) in 1778.

Henry Massengill wrote that in

1779. While I was away Tories came, abused my family, destroyed my property, burnt the Massegill House of Worship to the ground.

The New Bethel Presbyterian Church was organized in 1782 by Reverend Samuel Doak (1749).

In 1782, Arnold Shell (Schell) and Edward and Elizabeth King were granted land in what would become Piney Flats.

John Nicholas and Margaretha Mottern migrated from Berks County, Pennsylvania to Sullivan County in the late 1780's. Mottern Cemetery is on the map.

George Milhorn (1783-1872) came from Virginia and bought land in 1788.

George (Johan Jorg) Emmert came with his famly to the Piney Flats area from Pennsylvania.

George Emmert, Sr., and George Emmert, Jr., with Henry Massingill, Henry King and John King worked to lay out a road from Beans Ford on County Line to Coates Ford in 1788 in Tennessee.

In 1790 William Blount a land speculator and statesman, made Rocky Mount, the home of William Cobb, the first capital of the Southwest Territory (what is now Tennessee), but eventually moved it to Knoxville because of Indian problems.

September 14, 1795 Michael and Mary Waggoner purchased 200 acres south of the Holston River in Sullivan County from John Anglin, for 120£ Virginia Currency.

Elijah Cross received a land grand in Sullivan County in 1794 and in 1796 as did Moses Looney. (Tennessee Land Grants, Volume I by Barbara, Byron and Samuel Sistler 1998.) Joseph Cole was in Sullivan County by 1794 when he was mentioned Elijah Cross's deed for land on Beaver Creek

Lewis and Barbara Rinehart moved from Pennsylvania to Eastern Tennesseen after the American Revolution. They had two sons, George and Lewis, and five daughters including Susannah Rinehart, Barbary Rinehart Gross and Sarah Rinehart.

Henry and Mary Smith settled on Evans' Branch on the south side of the Holston River by 1798.

John Alison bought land in 1798 and moved to Sullivan County in 1804. He built a log house which was across the road from Gertie and Carlie Alison's brick house.

Harmon Arrants and his wife, Francina Price, came from Maryland.

About 1800 Gabriel and Henry Devault moved to Piney Flats.

rocky mount

Rocky Mount
Piney Flats, Tennessee
Originally built by William Cobb.
Served as the territorial capital from 1790 to 1792. 
The present house was buiilt in the late 1820s.

Watauga Pioneer Neighbors

Sullivan County is in far northeast corner of Tennessee between North Carolina and Virginia and was originally part of those states. It was formed in 1779 when it was divided from Washington County.

Daniel Boone (1734-1820) was a frontiersman who became an American folk hero. The Boone family were members of the Gwynedd Monthly Meeting. He is best know from his exploration of Virginia and Kentucky.
A militia is a military unit composed of citizens who are called up in time of need.

There were two Beaver Creeks in early Washington County, Virginia. One (also called Shallow Creek) flowed through Bristol and emptied into the South Fork of the Holston River in Tennessee. The other was a south branch of the North Fork of the Holston River in current Smyth County.

During the American Revolution a Tory or Loyalist was used in for those who remained loyal to the British Crown.

  Undated juries of men appointed to lay out roads from Historic Sullivan:  

Ordered by the court that the following jury be appointed to view and lay off a great road the easiest and best way from Shoats ford on Holston river to the Virginia line leading to Abingdon, viz :
Capt. Joseph Cole,
Geo. ,
Elisha Cole
Jacob Boy,
Abraham McClellan,
Dill[on] Blevins,
William Carr,
Edmund Warrin,
John Shelby, Sr.,
, Beeler,
John Bealer,
Benjamin Ryston,
John Funkhouser
and make their report to the next court.

Tennessee was admitted to the Union on June 1, 1796. It was initially part of North Carolina.


Settlers often built log cabins as their first homes.

Ordered by the court that the following persons be appointed to view and lay off a great road the nearest and best way from — Weavers line by Ryston's Ford on Holston River Indian Creek to Join the Washington line, viz:
Solomen ,
Patrick Cregan,
Arnold Schell,
John Funkhouser,
Jacob Weaver,
Abeloid Edwards,
Benjamin Ryston [Royston],
John Richardson,
Samuel Miller,
William Carr,
Frederick Weaver,
William Morgan,
John Miller,
Harman Arrants,
George ,
Jacob Boy,
Thomas Price,
Joseph Cole, Jr.,
Elisha Cole,
William Cross and
Aquilla Cross
and make their reports to the next court.

The American folk hero, David "Davy" Crockett (1786 – 1836), grew up in East Tennessee.


Ordered by the Court that the following Jury of men view and lay off a great road the nearest and best way from Shoats ford on Holston River to the Virginia line to wit:
John Beeler,
Joseph Beeler,
Edmund Warren,
George ,
William Carr,
Benjamin Ryston [Royston],
Will Rhea,
Julian Hacker, Sr.,
Jacob Thomas,
Will Hedrick,
Geo. Beeler,
David Webb,
Leonard Hart,
Jonathan Webb,
Benjamin Webb, Sr.,
Mathias Little
Nathan Lewis,
George Little,
Thos. Price,
Elisha Cole,
and make their report to next Court


from "Governor Blount's Journal" in American Historical Magazine, Volume 2

Monday October 25th 1790.

The Persons holding commissions in the County of Sullivan under the Authority of the State of North Carolina, having convened at the court house at the request of the Governor, he addressed them in the words he had addressed those at the Washington Court House on the 23d, and then appointed and commissioned—
George Maxwell,
John Scott,
John Shelby,
Abraham McLellan,
William King,
William Delany,
Gilbert Christian,
John Anderson,
Joseph Wallace,
Robert Allison,
Richard Gammon,
David Perry,
George, Vincent and David Loony
Justices of the peace in and for the county of Sullivan.


1809 Petition of William Sitzler regarding Sullivan County land 18 grant.

Named in petition: Frederick Emert, John Hall, Benjamin Sharp, Abraham McClellan, William Hicks, & John Cox.


In the mid-1800's the Reverend Andrew Shell (1797-1880) applied for a post office at "Piney Flats." Andrew was a pioneer Methodist preacher in eastern Tennessee, and founded a church on his land was called Shell's Chapel. It is known as the Piney Flats Methodist Church. . .The Shell cemetery is located at this church."

The Gross homeplace was built by Joseph (Jacob) Gross in 1852. Later, John Gross' store was a post station and country store, as well as, the mustering site for local military units during the Civil War. "Judge" Liburn Cartwright, operated the store for a long periods.


The railroad depot was built in 1858.

The Union Church of Piney Flats was established in 1873. It housed the worship of four different denominations; Methodist Episcopal, Methodist Episcopal Church South (until the 1930's), Baptist (until the 1950's), and Presbyterians.


Map of Piney Flats

Akard Lane
Allison Road - named for the Alison Family
Arrants Cemetery
Austin Springs Road
Carr Cemetery Road - named for the Carr Family
Colbaugh Cemetery - The Colbaugh Family
Cole Hollow Road - named for the Cole Family
Hart Road
Hodge Cemetery - Francis Hodge family
Latture Family Cemetery
Little Cemetery - The Little Family
Massengil Road - The Massengill Family
New Bethel Presbyterian Church
Mottern Cemetery - Nicholas Mottern family
Pickens Bridge - near home of Reverend Francis Hodge
Piney Flats Baptist Church
Pitt Road
Rocky Mount- Home of the Cobbs and Massengills
Smith Cemetery - The Henry Smith Family
Webb Cemetery
Webb Road

View Piney Flats in a larger map



Colonial Maryland
Colonial New England
Colonial Virginia & West Virginia
Quakers & Mennonites
New Jersey Baptists
German Lutherans
Watauga Settlement
Pennsylvania Pioneers
Midwest Pioneers
Jewish Immigrants

©Roberta Tuller 2020
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