Tag Archives: Old Roane County Courthouse

An Unexpected Time Capsule

{Robert Bailey, Roane County Historian}

Recently, a circular hole appeared on the lawn at the old courthouse near where the old jail once stood. It was about three feet wide and about two feet deep. The exterior was made of up of old bricks which were similar to those used when the old courthouse was built in 1854. The bricks had been burned at the top. Inside it looked like it had been lined with concrete. We weren’t sure what it was until research was done that revealed that it was a cistern that probably had served the jail. It turns out that it was not lined with concrete but with plaster. Because it was burned on the top level of bricks it indicates that it was there with the jail burned in 1885.

A cistern is like an underground tank used to collect and store rainwater coming off the roof of a building. It was thought rainwater was purer and therefore healthier than groundwater. It is different than a well which is not made waterproof.

When a cistern is no longer used it is filled up with rocks, dirt, trash and other debris. Often it contains artifacts from the time period that it was filled up. It is not known when this one was stopped being used. It appears that with all of the rain we have had, the dirt that was used to fill it in has shifted and caused it to appear. It has been sealed back up and it may be excavated in the future.

TheRwhich was built about 1886 and torn down in 1976. The cistern may have served this jail or the previous one which burned in 1885.

Is the Old Roane County Courthouse Haunted?

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

We may never know if the building is indeed haunted, but several people employed in the Old Roane County Courthouse have reported unusual activities. The first part of the courthouse was built between 1853 and 1855, and the East side of the building was added in 1938. Apparently, the 2nd floor of the addition is the most popular place for our ghosts. The ground floor vault of the addition was used for the Register of Deeds to store valuable Roane County documents, photographs, and other historical artifacts. The vault contains documents which date back to the year our county was created in 1801, and thousands of photographs of Roane County, including the T.C. Farnham collection. When in the vault (usually by yourself), there is a noise that comes from the second floor that sounds like a marble dropping and rolling on the floor. Though Jere Hall, Darleen Trent, Jamey McLoughlin, and I have likely spent the most time in the building, several others besides us have also heard the noise. Each time the marble drops the second floor is empty. If the ghosts are playing marbles on the second floor, they have not invited humans to play. One report of a banging noise coming from the second floor could be heard from the back of the hallway of the first floor. The banging would migrate to the third floor when witnesses said the banging moved to the third floor. Another report of loud noises coming from the second floor and the ceiling of the first floor could be heard while sitting in the library at the desk on the other side of the building. The noises would come and go, though the addition’s concrete, steel, and tiles, though there was nothing corporeal on that side of the building, nothing that could make that noise. The sounds started about the time Darleen Trent’s brother, Butch, died. Darleen and her sister Mary believed that it was Butch making those noises, probably letting Darleen know he was o.k. since they were very close. Then as sudden as the noises started, they quit and haven’t been heard since. While most report hearing noises, there have been a couple of visual sightings in our building. One involved seeing a lady walking down the hall in a long white dress. Another involved seeing an older man who appeared to check the doors to make sure they were locked. If there are ghosts in the Old Roane County Courthouse, they are friendly and have never caused harm. Ghost-Hunters have been allowed once in the building. See their video at YouTube.com.

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, October 2018.

The War of 1812 Plaque

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

Located on the Southside wall of the old courthouse is a plaque to the memory of the War of 1812 soldiers who enlisted here in Roane County. The following article about the dedication of the marker is from The Rockwood Times, Thursday, November 30, 1933:

Marker Honors Heroes of 1812. Speaker Heard, Tablet Is Unveiled At Kingston. Friday afternoon at 2:00 o’clock a bronze memorial tablet was placed on the south front to the courthouse in Kingston by the Tennessee Daughters of the War of 1812 and Roane county as a lasting and fitting tribute to the soldiers that served in that great war. The beautiful tablet bears the following inscription: “To the Glory of God and in loving memory of the American soldiers and sailors of the War of 1812 who enlisted here, this tablet is erected by the Tennessee National Society United States Daughters of 1812 and the Court of Roane County.”

Music for the program was furnished by the Rockwood Drum and Bugle Corps. The invocation was given by Rev. George S. Jarman, pastor of the First Baptist Church of Kingston, and Mrs. Margaret Ervin Ford gave the Pledge to the Flag. Following the pledge, Mrs. W.H. illaur (sic), ( Sic is a Latin word meaning “thus” or “just as”. It is used to show that the word (in this case, “illaur“) president of the Alexander Doran Chapter of Cleveland, presented the marker to the state president and Roane County. It was unveiled by Peggy Lillard and Margaret Smith. Major James F. Corn, of Cleveland, made the historical address and gave the vivid description of the battle of New Orleans. James F. Littleton accepted the marker in behalf of the county, and in an appropriate address giving the following account of how volunteers were enlisted in Kingston for this war.

Lieutenant Uriah Allison placed a drum in front of the courthouse on the head of which were placed new silver dollars, and as the marchers, headed by a 10-year-old fifer boy, marched around the drum, those who wanted to enlist took a dollar and were then enrolled. There were about fifty men enlisted to serve through the war, which they did, and afterward came back to Roane County. A large number of the leading families of the county are descendants of these heroes.

The War of 1812 Plaque

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community,  April 2017.

First Official Roane County Historian

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

Marilyn McCluen, age 98, passed away on August 8, 2016. She was appointed the first official Roane County Historian in 1969 when the Tennessee State Legislature authorized counties to appoint county historians. In 1965, she, along with Mrs. Willis Hutcherson, began organizing the County’s loose papers, books, and all kinds of records dating back to 1801, the date Roane County was established. These records had been stored for decades in the attic of the Old Roane County Courthouse and were scattered among dead birds and whiskey bottles. She was involved at the beginning of The Roane County Historical Society and with others was involved in the saving of the Old Courthouse which had been slated to be torn down in 1974. This led to the creation of “The Roane County Heritage Commission” which was given the responsibility of preserving one of the seven antebellum courthouses still standing in Tennessee. Among many other things, she was also involved in the first historical sites survey in Roane County. Roane County was very fortunate to have had Marilyn as she worked tirelessly to help preserve Roane County’s history. Her legacy of work will ensure that future generations will know about their history.

Marilyn McCluen Center

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, October 2016.