Tag Archives: Robert King

How Kingston Was Named

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

Kingston became a town before Roane County became a county. It was created by an act of the Tennessee State Legislature on 23 Oct 1799. It is about the eighth oldest city in Tennessee. It is named after Robert King who gave the land for the creation of the city. When Roane County was created in 1801, as Kingston was the only town in the county, it became the county seat.

In 1807, Kingston became state capital for one day. This was to fulfill the requirements of a treaty with the Indians in which the land around Fort Southwest Point was ceded to the State. The State Legislature met at the home of James Gordon which was located on the corner of Race and Third Street across from the current courthouse. The Roane County Court made many improvements to the house in order that it would be adequate for the state legislature to meet. Unfortunately, after meeting in Kingston for one day, the state legislature voted to return to Knoxville, the former state capital. It is interesting to note that in 1844, Kingston was considered again for the state capital. The Senate voted for Kingston while the House voted for Murfreesboro. As a compromise, Nashville was chosen as the permanent state capital.

Throughout its history, Kingston has had many ups and downs. When the river was king, steamboats traveled from Kingston to Knoxville and Chattanooga. Also, many of the roads leading west passed through Kingston. However, when the railroads became a major part of transportation, the river declined. At least two times in the 1870s and 1880s, the citizens voted to dissolve the city. Rockwood and Harriman had surpassed the importance of Kingston. One of the main reasons that Kingston survived where other towns have disappeared is that Kingston was still the county seat. In the 1890s there was a move to make Harriman the county seat as it was difficult to get to Kingston because of the rivers. At that time the only way to get across was through ferries. In dry weather, one could also ford across the Clinch River. County Court then decided to build a bridge that connected to the other side. With the coming of Oak Ridge and T.V.A., Kingston became a bedroom community. The coming of Interstate 40 also created more traffic in Kingston.

Originally Written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, August 2013.