By Mike Steely
If you’ve walked in Knoxville’s Old Gray Cemetery you may have noticed a concrete bench just as you enter. The elaborate bench is part of the grave of Horace Maynard, a historic figure often overlooked in our history.
Despite being the son of an abolitionist father, Maynard owned four slaves as an adult. He was an avid supporter of maintaining the Union before and during the Civil War. The Unionist served as U.S. Postmaster General and Congressman.
Maynard’s life began in Massachusetts and, after Amherst College studies in 1838, he moved to Knoxville to begin his career as an educator at East Tennessee College which later became the University of Tennessee. He became principal of the prep school there and later an instructor in math and ancient languages.
While in Knoxville he also studied law and in 1844 was admitted to the bar. When Union County pulled away from Knox County, Maynard defended the Union residents. Union County is named for the union of five different pieces of adjoining counties that formed the new county in 1850. Other opinions have Union County named for its support to stay in the Union in days leading up to the Civil War.
In appreciation of his efforts the new county named its county seat “Maynardville.”
Elected to Congress first in 1957, Maynard ran successfully in 1861 as a Union Party candidate in support of Tennessee remaining in the Union as the Civil War broke out. He went about the state in an effort to get the population to vote against leaving the Union and his efforts in East Tennessee were successful but West and Middle Tennessee voted to leave and join the Confederacy.
Under Andrew Johnson, who served as military governor, Maynard served as Attorney General. He returned to Congress following the war and President Ulysses Grant appointed him ambassador to Turkey. Following that assignment he returned to the country and was appointed Postmaster General.
Maynard returned to Knoxville following that service and died here in 1882.
Maynardville owes much to its namesake. Originally known as Liberty the county chose to change the name after Maynard successfully defended the new county’s formation in court. Today Horace Maynard Middle School carries his name there as well.
The county seat named for Maynard annually hosts the Union County Heritage Festival each fall. The town also has the Union County History Museum and Genealogy Library, the historic Snodderly House and Big Ridge State Park and Norris Lake are nearby. Maynardville holds a farmer’s market each Saturday during the season. There are no property taxes in Maynardville.
Maynardville is about 15 miles north of Knoxville on aptly named “Maynardville Highway” or Highway 61.
You can learn more information about Maynard and Maynardville online. Maynardville has a web site, www.maynardvilletn.com or you can call (865) 992-382. Two prominent Union County natives include Roy Acuff and Carl Smith.