Tag Archives: Third Street

The Last Execution in Roane County

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

The last execution that took place in Roane County was the hanging of Isaac Fain in the courtyard of the historic courthouse in November 1884. Fain had been tried and convicted of murdering Thomas Curren. The case was a spectacular one and was well covered in newspapers of the day, (often with conflicting information), but the salient facts seem to be as follows: Fain worked as a section hand on the Cincinnati Southern Railroad. He was a small black man about 21 years old with a violent temper.

On March 29, 1884, while working near Emory Gap, he had an altercation with his section boss, Thomas Curren. Sharp words exchanged between the two men, and Fain was fired. He hung around the work site most of the day, muttering threats against Curren, then left in the late afternoon and returned with a double-barreled shotgun. He stayed out of sight until he had a clear shot at Curren, cursed him and emptied the gun into his victim’s back, killing him instantly. Fain threw down his gun and fled to the mountains.

A large party of men scoured the countryside for about a week until he was captured near Loudon. He was jailed at Kingston but moved to Loudon for safekeeping because of word that a large lynching party was on the way. He was later returned to Kingston, charged and tried for first-degree murder in the historic courthouse. After about 40 minutes of deliberation, the jury brought in a guilty verdict, and he was sentenced to death. Although his case was appealed to the Tennessee Supreme Court, the death sentence was upheld.

Fain spent the last months of his life studying the Bible and praying while a gallows was being built on the south lawn of the historic courthouse. The scaffold was walled with boards on three sides, and canvas covering on the east (Third Street) side. On the fateful day of his execution in November 1884, he was led to the gallows by the sheriff, securely shackled. After he climbed the steps to the platform, the canvas was thrown back, and Fain faced a crowd of 3,000 to 4,000 people who had come to town to witness his execution. The doomed man then preached a sermon, confessing his crime and urging his audience to turn aside from sin and accept God. He stated he was ready to go to Jesus, saying, “It is much better that I die today and go to glory than to live out my sinful life and go to hell.” As he stood with the rope around his neck, he uttered his last words: “I ain’t scared one bit, hanging ain’t anything. Tell Aunt Julia I’m going home on the evening train.”

After he was hanged and pronounced dead, Ellen Curren, the 16-year-old sister of Thomas Curren, entered the enclosure and stared at the body, leaving with an expression of pity on her face and tears in her eyes. The Chattanooga Daily Times stated: “The last legal hanging in Roane County previous to this occurred in 1860 when Joseph Jones . . . was executed for outraging his mistress.”

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, December 2016 and March 2018.

What Happened to Second St in Kingston?

{Robert Bailey – Roane County Historian}

If you travel east through Kingston on Race Street, you will notice the signs that show a First Street, a Third Street, a Fourth Street and a Fifth Street, but no sign indicating a Second Street. The 1811 plat of Kingston shows all five streets. However, the road that was originally named Second Street became known as Kentucky Street because the road led to Kentucky and through the years the name was changed. Other name changes were King Street to Cumberland Street and Lovely Street too?

Originally written for the Roane County Newsletter to the Community, June 2015.

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.