Tennessee’s Oldest Town has some chilling and thrilling stories to go along with its unique history! These tales are taken from different sources in Jonesborough. 

Oldest Photo of Jonesborough

Provided by Roger Gentry, Town of Jonesborough employee: 

SULPHUR SPRING SCHOOL

I went to Sulphur Springs. There is a graveyard right in front of the school. And then, in the back, behind the baseball field, there’s another graveyard. Sulphur Springs School is surrounded by graveyards. In the cafeteria, you could almost reach out the window and touch a grave stone. There is only a little walkway that runs between the school and the graveyard to separate it.  The whole top floor is wooden, with wooden halls and floors. When I went, there wasn’t anything like a janitor. We kids had to clean the school up before we could go home. We’d start upstairs, then get everything all closed up there, and clean up downstairs, working our way toward he door. We would have everything shut off and closed up and working downstairs, and then hear people walking on the wooden floors upstairs. I would drop everything I had, and run upstairs, trying to catch somebody…but nobody would be there. Only footsteps.

Provided by Jules Corriere of the McKinney Center: 

THE WITCH OF THE NOLICHUCKEY

Do you know about the witch of the Nolichuckey? This is a story that’s been told since it happened in 1885. There was a rolling store that come through, one of them travelling salesmen that had everything from linament oil to overalls and perfume. He’d come by here, and we bought a few things, and sent him down to the next farm over. When he left there, it was getting late. The farmer invited the salesman to spend the night, but he wanted to get further on his way. The farmer told the man about a cave near the Nolichucky, along the way the man was traveling. About four hours later, a bit before midnight, here comes driving up the path to the farmer’s house the rolling wagon, and the horse, with a wild look in his eyes. The farmer took off on horseback, toward the direction he’d sent the salesman. The moon was bright, and he could see ahead, along the banks, the figure of a man lying on the ground. The farmer got off his horse and went to the man, who just lay there with his eyes staring blankly into the night sky. We had all heard about the witch out there, that drove men mad, but never believed in her. Until now. As he reach down to the salesman, he heard a sweet voice.

“He’ll be all right. Turn around and talk to me. I haven’t had company in a long time.”

He said, “No. I won’t.”  The farmer knew from the stories that what drove men mad was to look the witch in the eyes. So he told her, “I just want to help him, and I’ll be on my way.”

Then, she spoke even sweeter.

“Sit a while, and talk with me, please.”

He felt cold, bony fingers touch his shoulder. He froze, determined not to turn around. Just then, a breeze caught in the trees, and the moon glowed into his face. He turned to look at the moon, and when he did, there was her face. He thought, for one moment, to look away, but it was the last sane thought he ever had. Two days later, a traveler found the two men, laying on the ground, eyes fixed on the sky, with all the sense drained out of them. They never, ever came out of it.

Provided by the Paranormal Technology Investigations located in Jonesborough 

ANDREW JACKSON’S FIGHT WITH RUSSELL BEAN

Russell Bean is considered the first child born in the state of Tennessee to permanent settlers. Bean grew up to be a gunsmith and sold his guns. Abruptly, he left for New Orleans to sell his guns and was gone for two years. 

When Bean returned he found his wife was nursing an infant. He was so angry he cut off the ears of the little baby girl saying he “had marked it so that it would not get mixed up with his children.” 

Bean was imprisoned for mutilating the child but not long after escaped prison. When he got out of prison his wife had left Jonesborough, so Bean looked for his wife’s seducer, a man named Allen. While looking for Allen, who was in hiding, Bean found Allen’s brother whom Bean assaulted and beat unmercifully. For this he was indicted, but could not be arrested because Bean sat on his property and shot at people who attempted to arrest him. People reported this to the judge in Jonesborough at the time, Andrew Jackson. 

Jackson stated, “Summon every man in the court house, and bring Bean in here dead or alive.”

The sheriff responded, “Then I summon your honor first!”

“By the Eternal, I’ll bring him!” –and he did. He found Bean sitting in his door. Jackson approached, pistol in hand, followed by the crowd. When he got within shooting distance, Bean stood up and said, “I’ll surrender to you, Mr. Devil!” and laid down his arms. Bean was then taken in. 

Provided by Jules Corriere of the McKinney Center from Marcy Hawley 

THE GIGGLING GIRLS OF HAWLEY HOUSE

Marcy Hawley owns and operates a Bed and Breakfast in Jonesborough. It is the oldest residence in Tennessee’s oldest town, on Lot number one, built in 1790. It wasn’t always a bed and breakfast, but it has always been a place where people have lived or stayed. She says that she has had visitors tell her—only male visitors—that on some nights, especially when the train is going by, that they hear giggling girls, or women, in the late hours of the night. Her female patrons have never heard it. The giggling women are reputed to be of… ill-repute. Marcy has never heard them, herself, but many of her guests have heard the ghosts of the giggling women. So far, they’ve never scared anyone off. 

Provided by Anne Mason of the Heritage Alliance 

SLAGLE’S BODY

Andrew Slagle’s body was found at the end of August 1909 in the French Broad River. It was obvious his head had been bashed in. Suspicion fell on John Spencer, his employee, who had asked him to come to Bridgeport, maybe for a sure investment, or maybe on a search for gold. Slagle withdrew $4,000 in cash from the bank. The money was never recovered, but his body was. Suspicion also fell on John Cash and Constable Charlie Pack, but Spencer was thought to be the mastermind behind the plot. Spencer identified Slagle’s body and then returned to Jonesborough to inform the family. He stayed with them the night before the funeral, in the room with one of his children. In the morning, he was missing, but then his body was found in the rain barrel of Ms. Emily Shipley, who lived right across from the Slagle family. Death ruled a suicide from a guilty conscience.

Interested in more? 

There is the Paranormal Technology Investigations merchant in downtown Jonesborough. They do private, residential and commercial investigations, and can be reached at 423.218.8648. 

There is also Appalachian Ghost Tours, takes groups through Historic Jonesborough. Reserve online here or call 423.743.9255. 

If you’re interested in more history, contact the Heritage Alliance. The Heritage Alliance is dedicated to the preservation of the architectural, historical and cultural heritage of our region and to providing educational experiences related to history and heritage for a wide range of audiences. For more information, visit our website at heritageall.org or call our office at 423.753.9580. 

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5 Haunting Stories of Tennessee’s Oldest Town

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