By Mike Steely
Last year my wife and I discovered the Storybook Trail at Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park and, since we bought a new camper trailer, we decided to go again to try out the campground, explore the rest of the park and take a side trip to downtown Greeneville, Tn.
The campground seemed small and crowded but, planning ahead, we got a pull-through site with electricity, water and sewer. We discovered some minor trouble with the used camper during our visit but checking out the unit was part of our plans.
Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park is located between Greeneville and Jonesborough just a few miles off Highway 321. It’s on the junction of Limestone Creek and the Nolichucky River, where Crockett’s writings indicated his family lived when he was born. The former cabin built for the park has been moved to near the entrance and a more plausible and smaller, cruder dwelling now stands where the original cabin may have been located along with several outbuildings in the rustic style.
The park still has a Storybook Trail but the “book” hadn’t been changed since our first visit. The easy walking trail slopes gently and is great for young children learning to read or a family looking for an educational few minutes. There are other trails within the park including one along the waters of the river. There are also pavilions, picnic tables, a gift shop and museum, and a number of friendly and informative hosts and clerks.
The next morning we drove into Greeneville and visited the Dickson-Williams Mansion, where Confederate General John Hunt Morgan was killed by Union troops. He was spending the night there on his way to attempt to recapture Knoxville. Built in 1821 by Greeneville’s first postmaster, the large brick home was occupied by both Union and Confederate forces during the Civil War.
Greeneville is also known as the home of President Andrew Johnson, who returned there after surviving an impeachment but losing a re-election bid. Johnson was elected to the U.S. Senate and his home, tailor shop, and a museum are tourist attractions in Greeneville. He’s buried there atop a hill overlooking the city.
The city also served for a period as the capital of the “Lost State of Franklin” — an attempt by John Sevier and others to pull territory from North Carolina. That building is on North College Street and is a replica of the original cabin
Within the city is the General Morgan Inn, the Greeneville Greene County History Museum, the Old Greene County Jail, the county courthouse where Johnson’s funeral took place, the Babb Family Cabin and the Harmony Cemetery where many early settlers are buried including a cousin to Abraham Lincoln. The Doak House Museum, the home of the founder of Tusculum College, and the T. Elmer Cox Genealogical and Historical Library are also in Greeneville.
Nearby is the Bible Family Covered Bridge which was built in 1923 and completely restored in 2004 by the county highway department thanks to a grant from the state.
Unlike some East Tennessee cities, downtown Greeneville seems very alive and prospering. Greeneville claims to be our state’s second-oldest town. Jonesboro, only a few miles to the east, is the oldest.
Most of the historic buildings are well marked. If you’re interested in Greeneville or the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site you can find it on the internet or call them at 423-638-3551.
There’s also a 90-minute walking tour that leaves the General Morgan Inn at 9:30 am. Mondays-Saturdays but it’s limited to 12 people. You can call 423-787-0500 for information.
On your way to Greeneville, you may want to take the Andrew Johnson Highway through Morristown and Bull’s Gap. There is plenty to see going and coming. If you’re interested in camping near Greeneville, check out Baileyton KOA, Old Mountain Campground, Paint Creek Campground, and the Lazy Llama Campground.