Marking Time

East Tennessee Historical Markers and the Stories behind Them

  • Author(s): Brown, Fred
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 0000-00-00
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $26.95 | Buy Now

The roadside historical markers of East Tennessee highlight the fascinating personalities and significant events of a culturally and historically rich region. For three years, Knoxville News Sentinel columnist Fred Brown presented the stories behind the local markers placed by the Tennessee Historical Commission. He searched the highways and back roads of East Tennessee, tracking down markers with directions that were sometimes no more specific than “Highway 11, Greene County.”

Arranged by county, the entries link East Tennessee’s past and present and highlight the enormous diversity of the state’s history from its prehistoric past through its involvement in World War II. The markers detail bitter struggles with Native Americans in the eighteenth century, but also explain the unique contribution of Cherokee culture and civilization, such as Sequoyah’s development of the Cherokee syllabary. Brown commemorates the numerous Civil War sites throughout the region, but he also includes the service of East Tennesseans in later wars.

One marker commemorates Kiffin Yates Rockwell, a founding pilot of the Lafayete Escadrille, a famed squadron of aviators in World War I. Another marker details the achievements of Sgt. Elbert L. Kinser of Greene County, who was posthumously decorated for his leadership of a First Marine Division Rifle Platoon on Okinawa.

The markers also showcase East Tennessee’s unique political history. They tell the story of the “lost state” of Franklin in the 1780s and record the region’s efforts to secede from the state when Tennessee left the Union in 1861. Brown’s narrative also explains the nature of opposing political factions throughout the decades through the biographies of their leaders, such as Elihu Embree, a Quaker abolitionist who founded an antislavery paper in East Tennessee.

From the vantage of the armchair or out on the road, Marking Time is a surprising and engaging trip on the byways of East Tennessee’s politics, culture, and history through the stories of the men and women who shaped the state.