Today in Johnson City History: April 24

April 24, 1902: L.D. Gump had commenced building a residence on Watauga Avenue opposite the residence of H.D. Gump. The construction contract had been awarded to C.G. Mitchell.

April 24, 1955: The 15-year mystery of what happened to barmaid Josie Fair was solved when her headless skeleton was unearthed from beneath a concrete floor in the Johnson City Foundry by her accused killers, Orville and Gladys Warren, with police. The Warrens had accused each other of the killing, but a Carter County grand jury later declined to indict the couple on murder charges. Orville served a year in prison for mutilating Fair’s corpse. He was charged in 1958 with killing Ben John Cash, whose body was found buried under the Warrens’ home.

April 24, 1969: The Metro Kiwanis Club presented a travelogue at Science Hill High School as part of the Centennial Events. The subject was “Londontowne.”

April 24, 1975: KISS played a show at Freedom Hall Civic Center on this date in 1975.

Sources: The Comet; Johnson City Press-Chronicle; Archives of Appalachia, Mary Hardin McCown collection.

Today in Johnson City History: April 23

April 23, 1869: First Presbyterian Church was organized.

April 23, 1888: The Comet opined that the East Tennessee Railroad had turned out to be a sort of Aladdin with a wonderful lamp, as the railroad’s depot was “going up as rapidly as if the genii had something to do with it.”

April 23, 1908: Mine Host Martin, at Hotel Carnegie, had slaughtered a hog that weighed 600 pounds, according to The Comet. “As this hog was fed just what his guests did not eat, you can imagine the size of the guests.”

April 23, 1939: Joe Ray was fined for “messing with water meter.” The amount of the fine was not listed.

April 23, 1955: Science Hill’s Hilltoppers bested Dobyns-Bennett’s Indians 3-2 in baseball. Johnson City lefty Cavada Williams allowed just three hits and one earned run.

Sources: History of Washington County, Tennessee; The Comet; Johnson City Court Records, 1939; Johnson City Press-Chronicle.

Today in Johnson City History: April 22

April 22, 1909: A committee appointed to study Johnson City’s water quality problems reported that the city would need additional legislation enabling it build or acquire its own water works.

April 22, 1939: Men from Johnson City, Erwin, Washington, D.C., Elizabethton, Milligan College and North Carolina were fined for being drunk in public. On the same day, a John Deaton was “crazy-locked up-wife request,” and then sent to Jonesboro.

April 22, 1957: Henry Bridges died. He developed and managed the Woodmont Rod and Gun Club in Maryland for more than half a century. He also maintained a home in Johnson City, now known as Shelbridge, which serves as the ETSU president’s home.

April 22, 2010: Seamus Power took home the individual hardware, and the East Tennessee State golf team did something it had never done before. Power shot a five-under-par 67 to win the individual championship at the Atlantic Sun Conference tournament. He led the Bucs to the team title, giving them four tournament championships that spring, something they had never done in their illustrious history.

Sources: The Comet; Johnson City Court Records, 1939; Archives of Appalachia, Mary Hardin McCown Collection; Nancy Stanton; Johnson City Press

Today in Johnson City History: April 21

April 21, 1892: Arrangements were complete for a new tannery planned for Johnson City. The Comet reported that organizers had been on the site of the tannery the day before with a corps of surveyors, and finished the work of laying off for side tracks and a railroad connection.

April 21, 1904: The Comet reported that the ET&WNC Railroad would move headquarters from Cranberry to Johnson City. Offices had been leased in the Unaka Bank building for the railroad’s occupancy after May 1.

April 21, 1959: The Unaka Rock and Mineral Society was formed in Johnson City. 

April 21, 2002: Judge Oris Hyder died. Prior to becoming president of First Peoples Bank, he was a Criminal Court judge. He was a 1937 graduate of Science Hill High School in Johnson City. In 1941, he was awarded a bachelor’s degree by Milligan College. During World War II, Hyder served in the U.S. Army Air Corps as an air navigation officer. He remained in the reserves following the war and was a retired Air Force colonel.

Sources: The Comet; History of Washington County Tennessee; Mary-Colin Hyder Santos.

Today in Johnson City history: April 20

April 20, 1893: The Comet reported that Judge H.C. Hart planned to erect a building on the corner of Market Street and Public Square. The building was to be about 60 feet on each street, three stories high and “one of the most convenient and handsome” buildings in East Tennessee.” The first floor was to be occupied by store rooms and the second and third by offices, spacious and well arranged.

April 20, 1967: Giant Food Markets advertised JFG mayonnaise for 39 cents per quart jar, an 8-pound pail of Lay’s pure lard for $1, sliced Dole pineapples 29 cents per can, small eggs for 29 cents per dozen and Schick shave cream for 29 cents.

April 20, 1985: The Johnson City Press reported on James Doohan’s, AKA Scotty from “Star Trek,” visit to Johnson City. Doohan visited the area to promote a movie, in what was his first visit to the Volunteer State.

April 20, 1999: Johnson City residents were aghast at the Columbine High School shootings in Colorado. Concern, worry and prayers were among the words uttered in stores and offices that tragic day.

Sources: The Comet; Johnson City Press-Chronicle; Johnson City Press.

Johnson City to celebrate founder’s birthday

The Johnson City Sesquicentennial Commission will be celebrating the birthday of Henry Johnson, the founder of Johnson City, on April 27, from 3 to 5 p.m. in King Commons Park.

Johnson was a long-time postmaster in Johnson City, operated several businesses (including the first railroad depot) and served as Johnson City’s first mayor in 1870.

The day’s events will kick off at 11 a.m. with a scavenger hunt downtown. The scavenger hunt will be divided into two groups, 12 and younger or 13 and older. Participants will search for 10 to 20 locations based on clues developed by eighth-grade students from Liberty Bell’s Beta Club. Clue cards can be picked up at Johnson City Brewing, Atlantic Ale House, Trek Bike Shop and Owl’s Nest. Multiple prizes will be awarded after the 3 p.m. deadline to turn in answer cards.

Several musicians will be performing, including Ed Snodderly, owner of The Down Home. Dance lessons will also be offered by instructor Robin Beals and a variety of games and other activities will be provided.

“This event is full of activities for people of all ages that are reminiscent of the time period when Johnson City was founded,” said Sesquicentennial Commissioner Dianna Cantler in a press release.

For more information about the yearlong sesquicentennial celebration, visit or follow @jctn150 on Facebook.

Today in Johnson City History: April 19

April 19, 1884: The Comet reported that Engine No. 1, the Watauga, of the Narrow Gauge Railroad (ET&WNC), had been overhauled and repainted. The work was done in the machine shop in Johnson City. “Mr. Ed. Tally did the painting and the engine now looks as bright and fresh as when new.”

April 19, 1894: Rev. J.C. Cowan was expected to resign from the Southern Presbyterian Church in Johnson City. The Comet noted that the congregation had asked the Presbytery to dissolve the pastorate. “Brother Cowan has been occupying the pulpit for several years with much power and ability. He is an everyday Christian with a charming optimistical tendency which is so consoling to the heavy hearts of the world.”

April 19, 1939: J.D. Hensley of Kingsport was fined $50 for driving drunk and without a driver’s license in Johnson City. The fine was to be paid in $10 installments on each payday, which was the 20th of every month.

April 19, 1968: A $1.885 million Economic Development Administration grant paved the way for the Piney Flats Industrial Park, a partnership between the City of Johnson City, Sullivan County, Carter County and the City of Elizabethton. The four governments had banded together in December, devoting a half million dollars to purchase 435 acres of land for the park.

Sources: The Comet; Johnson City Court Records, 1939; Johnson City Press-Chronicle.

Today in Johnson City History: April 18

April 18, 1884: A drove of elegant giraffes, tall and graceful, arrived with Barrett & Co.’s New United Railroad Shows in Johnson City. The circus also brought a giant horse, Asiatic and African elephants harnessed to golden chariots and the “best performers from Europe and the Americas.” It featured an elevated amphitheater stage for roller skating, acrobatics and bicycling.

April 18, 1953: The Washington County Chapter of the Association for the Preservation of Tennessee Antiquities began observing Tennessee Week.

April 18, 1976: The Appalachian Regional Commission announced $900,000 worth of grants to help East Tennessee State University complete its fledgling medical school. The money was intended to expand family medical residency programs in Kingsport, Bristol and Johnson City, as well as develop basic sciences graduate programs and continuing medical education.

April 18, 2011: Sixteen months after Johnson City made its proposal to establish the Tweetsie Trail, City Manager Pete Peterson announced that the East Tennessee Railway had agreed to terms for the city’s $600,000 offer for a 10-mile stretch of track from Johnson City through Elizabethton on which the first “rails-to-trails” project in East Tennessee could be constructed.

Sources: The Comet; Archives of Appalachia, Mary Hardin McCown Collection; Johnson City Press-Chronicle; Johnson City Press.

Today in Johnson City History: April 17

April 17, 1905: A flag designed by Johnson City native Col. Le Roy Reeves became the official flag of the State of Tennessee.

April 17, 1914: A jury found a Mr. Leonard guilty of “failing to send two of his children to public school in said city.” He was charged $12.

April 17, 1938: The Appalachian Baseball League met in Johnson City to consider admitting franchises from Morristown, Kingsport, and Pennington Gap, Virginia. The latter two were admitted, and Pennington Gap was the league’s champion that year.

April 17, 1969: The Centennial Miss Johnson City Pageant began. It was held three consecutive days, with the winner crowned on April 19. Miss Johnson City Mary Susan Cox would go on to win the Miss Tennessee Pageant that July — the last Miss Johnson City to do so thus far — and represent the state in the Miss America competition in 1970. She later toured with the the Miss America USO Troupe.

Sources: Johnson City Press; Johnson City Court Records, 1914; Johnson City Press-Chronicle.

Today in Johnson City History: April 16

April 16, 1951: Gov. Gordon Browning appointed Johnson City attorney Frank Bryant as chancellor for the state’s 1st Chancery Division.

April 16, 1969: The Science Hill High School Choir presented “The Music Man” as a Centennial Event for the city of Johnson City.

April 16, 1977: Postal officials announced that the Johnson City post office was designated as a regional mail processing center for mail, beginning with mail from Kingsport and Church Hill.

April 16, 2009: The Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Mountain Home, was awarded $3.8 million in federal stimulus funding for renovating administrative space and the pharmacy and replacing nurse stations and the switchboard. The allotment also included $50,000 for a feasibility study for a wind turbine on the campus.

Sources: Johnson City Press-Chronicle; Archives of Appalachia, Mary Hardin McCown Collection; Johnson City Press