Before Tennessee became a state in 1796 and before the State of Franklin was formed in 1785, the area that would become Hawkins County, Tennessee was the frontier and was known generally as Watauga.
In 1775, the grandparents of Davy Crockett, a future member of the United States Congress from Tennessee and hero of the Alamo, settled in the Watauga colony in the area in what is today Rogersville near the spring that today bears their name. After an Indian attack and massacre, the remaining Crocketts sold the property to a Huguenot named Colonel Thomas Amis.
In 1780/1781, Colonel Amis built a fort at Big Creek, on the outskirts of the present-day Rogersville which was then in Sullivan County, NC.
That same year, about three and one-half miles above downtown Rogersville, Amis erected a fortress-like stone house around which he built a palisade for protection against Indian attack. This is known as the Amis Stone House, shown below and with directions and other photos here.
The next year, Amis opened a store; erected a blacksmith shop; and built a distillery. He also eventually established a sawmill and a gristmill. From the beginning, he kept a house of entertainment which was also a stage-coach stop, a place for travelers to rest and spend the night as well as locals to gather. Of course, it was a tavern too.
Built as a defensive garrison in addition to a trading post, the upper part of the house originally had rifleports instead of windows. In later years Amis’ daughter Mary said that she frequently wakened to hear Indians grinding their knives and tomahawks on her father’s grindstone.
Thomas Amis also kept an account ledger book which is, thankfully, still in existance. This is one of the only documents that shows who lived in this area in the early years.
A big thank you to Hawkins County archivist, Jack Goins, for allowing Thomas Amis’ customer list to be included here. Melungeon researchers will notice two Melungeon family names, Bunch and Boling.