“The little town with the big story,” Jonesborough pre-dates Tennessee’s statehood. Visitors time travel along quaint streets as they learn about two centuries of life here among future presidents, pioneering settlers, bold abolitionists, brawling newspapermen, farmers and bootleggers.
The first town in Tennessee to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places, Jonesborough was founded in 1779 as the county seat of Washington County, North Carolina, and later served as capital of the “Lost State of Franklin” before Tennessee became the 16th state.
Today, Jonesborough is best known for the art of storytelling at the International Storytelling Center and annual National Storytelling Festival that draw thousands of visitors every October, a fitting tribute for a town with quite a story. Three Presidents, including Andrew Jackson, stayed in the historic Chester Inn, built by a physician to house visitors stopping along the Great Stage Road. While here, Jackson, a young lawyer, was threatened with tarring and feathering. Nearby, he fought a fire while wearing only his nightshirt. He later stayed at the log home of Christopher Taylor.
Visitors often begin their trip to Jonesborough at the Visitors Center and museum, then stroll through the restored downtown, where they can take a carriage tour or pop into the charming shops, restaurants and historic buildings. The Crafty Peddler, once a saloon, sells local crafts and antiques. The Old Jonesborough Cemetery is the resting place of many of the town’s prominent residents as well as victims of the cholera epidemic of 1873. Stay in one of several restored historic inns such as the Eureka or the chef-owned Blair-Moore House. Learn about Quaker Elihu Embree, who published the nation’s first abolitionist publications.
For more contemporary entertainment, take the family to Wetlands Water Park, see a performance of the Repertory Theatre and enjoy the free concerts every Friday night, May through September. Depot Street Brewing boasts locally brewed small batch beers, a large bocce court and live music. Have a treat at the Old Sweet Shop, or sit down for a meal in one of the downtown restaurants.
Nearby things to do include the Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park in Limestone, Cherokee National Forest, the Gray Fossil Site and Museum of Natural History and the attractions of Bristol, Kingsport and Johnson City.
Walk the streets of Tennessee’s oldest town and hear the tall tales of presidents, ghosts, pioneers, lawmakers and law breakers. Historic sites and special events will make lasting memories in Jonesborough.