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About Jefferson County

Outlying Communities Served by Rush Strong School

The Lower Bend, commonly called "The Lower Bint" by the inhabitants, consists of about 1500 acres of land lying just north of the town of Strawberry Plains and enclosed on three sides by the Holston River.  The most distant point is hardly more than two miles from Strawberry Plains.   Being so near Strawberry Plains, it is hardly a community of its own.  So far as can be found out, it has never had a store nor a church; the people prefer to come to Strawberry Plains to church and to trade; but, there has been a school.  It was built in 1910 and known as the Jackson School, named in honor of a Mr. Jackson who donated the land and some of the money for its construction.  At first it was a private school, but later it was sold to the county and became a public school.  It was attended by the local children until 1923, when the children began going to the new Rush Strong School at Strawberry Plains.  During the first year, the children had to walk or provide their own transportation.  In the following years, however, Bill Gilbert began operating a hack, on which the students rode at the county's expense.  This was the first free transportation offered to students of Rush Strong Schools.

Sweet Gum Bend, or Beaver Creek, commonly known as the "Upper Bint," is located about five miles north-east of Strawberry Plains.  The name applies to the territory enclosed by one of the numerous bends of the Holston River.  It is said to have been occupied by Indians when Isaac McBee, the first settler, came into the Bend to live.  Many bones have been dug up, and there is a mound on the McBee farm which is said to be the burial place of the Indians.  Sweet Gum Bend, which is almost surrounded by the waters of the Holston, contains about 1600 acres and is about two-and-a-half to four miles north of the Andrew Johnson Highway.  

Just outside the Bend, but considered in the same community, is the Beaver Creek Baptist Church, which was erected in 1905.  Nearby was an old school house, built many years before the church.  To this school came the children of Hodges, until [the county] built a school at Hodges in 1884, as did the children of Sweet Gum Bend.  This Beaver Creek School house, or Old Vance School, was a small building with one room poorly equipped.  It was heated by a small stove, and the water was carried from a well.  Long benches and small slanted desks were used by the students.  The enrollment varies from twenty-five to forty-five from year to year.  In 1925, the Beaver Creek School was torn down, and the students were transported to Rush Strong School at Strawberry Plains, where they have been going ever since.

There are about 165 people who now live in the community, most of whom are farmers.  There are two mills and the one church.  The people go to Hodges or other places to trade.

Hodges is situated on the Andrew Johnson Highway, and on the Southern Railway, about three miles east of Strawberry Plains.  It received its name from the Hodges family, who were among the earliest settlers.  Hodges used to have many things, which it does not have now.  Among these were a school house, a post office, a telegraph office, and two churches, not including the one at Beaver Creek.

The only school house which Hodges ever had was built in the year 1884.   The lot on which it was built was given by J. H. Cline to the Hodges Community to be held by it as long as it was used for school purposes.  The first teacher was Miss Julia Maynard, of Dandridge, and the second was Dr. James Walker, of White Pine.  The last teacher to teach in the building was a woman by the name of Fisher, who finished out the last year for Miss Fanny Hinchy [sic], who was married during the year.  Before the school house was built at Hodges, the children had to walk to school at Beaver Creek.  After the school was abandoned, the lot was turned over to Mrs. C. E. Bradshaw; the building torn down and converted into a store house; and the children were taken by bus to Rush Strong School at Strawberry Plains.  The Hodges school children were first taken to Rush Strong School in the fall of 1925.

The post office was discontinued in 1896 with the establishment of Rural Free Delivery.  A depot and telegraph office remained until 1916, when the automatic system of signal lights were installed by the railroad.  The railroad had been made double track in 1907, after the terrible wreck near New Market, and a water tank was built near Hodges about 1906, from which locomotives still get water.

The only church at Hodges today is Presbyterian.  In the early days the Presbyterians came to Strawberry Plains.  A split in the church about 1873 resulted in the building of a new church.  The people of Hodges continued to come to Strawberry Plains for a while, however.  Later, the church at Strawberry Plains was abandoned and church and Sunday School were conducted in the school house at Hodges.  About 1900, when the old Presbyterian Church at Strawberry Plains was converted into a school building, a new church building was built at Hodges on a lot given by G. A. Cline.  It was given the name of Sheunum, which, in German, means "at rest."  The Rev. John M. Alexander has been pastor for the past 15 years.   It is a mission church supported partly by Maryville College.

Today, Hodges is a community of about 125 people, most of whom are farmers.

Rocky Valley, or Cedar Grove, begins near Flat Gap and ends at the foot of Pleasant Grove Mountain, which is about six miles from Strawberry Plains.  Beaver Creek, which rises in the valley, flows on into the Holston River by way of Hodges.   It was near the head of this creek that Adam Meek, Sr., made the first settlement in Jefferson County.  Other early settlers were Cap McKnight, Johnie Loy, Coils Manley, Martons Dinwiddie, Johnie Vance, and Mike Branner.  Cap McKnight owned a farm on which was built a two-story log house with shingles put on with pegs.  It had loop holes from which to fight the Indians.  Mike Branner built the first mill, and the dam, which he built across Beaver Creek, backed the water as far as the Loy Farm, forming a large lake.  It is said that Rocky Valley once belonged to General Brazelton and that it was sold for a pony and a gun.

The original Cedar Grove School was built long before the Civil War.  It was a log building, which was used also for church purposes.  Later, a story was added to the building and a high school was organized, having as principal a Mr. Beaman.  Students from Strawberry Plains, New Market, and many other communities attended this school.  In 1909, the old building was abandoned, and a new one was erected.  It was built by Baune Cate, of Thorn Grove, assisted by his son Arlie Cate, who taught the first school in the new building and is now Dean of Carson Newman College.  Miss Josie Bull taught the last school in the Cedar Grove building in the year 1926-1927.  Since then, the students have been hauled to Strawberry Plains and New Market.  Many boys and girls who went to Cedar Grove School finished their education in various colleges and universities.  Among the older ones who made their mark in the world are Buford Bales, Lindley Jones, Will Bales, Noah Bull, and Fred Bales, Roy Bales, and Aubrey Dinwiddie.

The Methodist Church, which stands near the site of the Cedar Grove School, is known as the Cedar Grove Methodist Church.  It was built in 1860.

Piney, or Pleasant Grove, is situated on the old Dandridge pike four miles from Strawberry Plains.  One of the oldest settlers of Piney was Thomas McKnight, who came from North Carolina on a mule and settled in 1793.   He married Miss Abbie Frazier.  When they went to housekeeping, the only articles they had were a skillet and a pile of straw.  They cooked out of doors, frying their meats in the skillet and then baking the bread in the same skillet.  They did not have any bedclothing until after they had raised flax from which to make it.  When Mr. McKnight died in 1867, he owned from 300 to 500 acres of land.  The widow of James McKnight, his son, still resides near Piney and is still using some of the bed spreads that Mrs.  Abbie McKnight made.  She is now 92-years-old and is known by people around Piney as Aunt Lou McKnight.  Other early settlers were Fraziers, Slaughter, Daltons, Thorntons, and Thornburgs.

The church was organized November 28, 1897, by the Reverend J. L. Haggard.  It was located about where the colored cemetery now is.  The settlement was then known as Crowders' Branch.  Later, they built a church on the site of the present church and called it Piney.  In 1902, the present church was built and called "Pleasant Grove."

The first school house was built by Ash and Bud Pierce.  When the new school house was built about 1906, the old building was moved by Doak Roberts to the McKnight farm where it is still being used by Mrs. Lou McKnight for a part of her dwelling house.  After finishing school at the Pleasant Grove School the childre

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