History of Sullivan County
Sullivan County, North Carolina was formally
established in 1779 from part of Washington County,
and was named after Continental Army officer John Sullivan.
The area of present-day Kingsport had already been settled
in the 1770s and was known as the King's Boatyard, or
"The Boatyard". Sapling Grove (present-day
Bristol) had also been established in the 1770s, and
it later combined with nearby King's Meadows to become
the town of Bristol in 1853.
First county court
held in 1780
On February 7, 1780, the county court was organized
at the home of Moses Looney near present-day Gunnings.
State of Franklin
In 1784, the counties of Washington, Sullivan
and Greene organized the State of Franklin. From 1784
to 1788, Sullivan Countians were of divided loyalties
and operated under two sets of governments: one under
North Carolina and one under the State of Franklin.
The State of Franklin collapsed in 1788.
of the River Ohio 1790
After the demise of the State of Franklin, North Carolina
offered its western lands to the United States. In 1790,
Congress passed an act for governing the "Southwest
Territory" (formally known as Territory South of
the River Ohio), with William Blount as first Territorial
Governor. For a short period, Blount operated our territorial
government at Rocky Mount.
County seat of Blountville established 1795
The county seat of Blountville had laid off as a town
State of Tennessee 1796
Since Sullivan County was on the main overland
routes west, the area grew rapidly. On June 1, 1796,
Tennessee was formally admitted to the union as the
The present-day area of Bluff City was known
as Shoate's Ford, and later became known as Zollicoffer
and/or Union. The community of Paperville near the Virginia
state line was established sometime before 1810, and
was named for a paper mill built by Burkhart who had
settled there in 1794.
The Civil War caused many divided loyalties in
Sullivan County, which was the scene of a battle in
Blountville and one in the area of present-day Kingsport.
The railroad which had been completed in 1859 was the
target of many raids and much destruction.
History of the Sullivan County
Before 1795, the county courts were held in various
homes of families such as the Looneys, Yanceys and Coxes.
With Blountville having been established as the county
seat in 1795, the first courthouse was built of massive
logs with a jail in the rear. It was replaced in 1825
by a brick courthouse and jail. The courthouse was rebuilt
in 1853, and was burned in 1863 by Federal forces during
the Civil War. The building was rebuilt within the walls
in 1866, rebuilt in 1920, and additions made in 1958.
A new jail was built in 1956. In 1988, the jail was
moved to the site of the County's Justice Center, which was
completed in 1989.
The second oldest county in the state, Sullivan
County ranks 6th in population in the 95 counties in
Tennessee, and covers a territory of 413 square miles.
Today, Sullivan County, Tennessee is proudly one of
the most prosperous counties in the South.
Please also see:
Myths about Sullivan County history