By the time 30 people touring eastern Washington County with the Jonesborough Genealogical Society (JGS) left the old St. John Milling Co. and Jeremiah Dungan home Saturday, their heads already were stuffed full of historical facts and anecdotes.
Current owner and St. John heir Betty Dawson told of her great grandfather, George Washington St. John, commissioning the building of a veritable mansion after the Civil War, a couple hundred yards from the mill near the confluence of Brush Creek and the Watauga River.
Ron Dawson, Betty’s husband, took things back further as tour goers stood in the main room of the nearly 240-year-old Jeremiah Dungan house. Dawson told of Dungan, a master stone mason from Buck’s County, Pa., who relocated in the mid-1770s, built the house, established the mill and served the hundreds of settlers flooding into the Watauga River valley.
Until the mill finally closed five years ago after 234 years in business – it was Tennessee’s oldest business – its proprietors had paid taxes to four separate governments: the Watauga Association, North Carolina, the State of Franklin, and Tennessee.
Plenty more lay ahead, including two hours at Rocky Mount, a stop at the Robert Young Cabin and J. Arney Norton house near Winged Deer Park, and a stop at New Bethel Presbyterian Church and cemetery.
JGS’s Chad Bailey, who with Elaine Cantrell helped organize and “emcee” the trip, said he and Cantrell cooked up the tour idea last year. Bailey said they’re already working on another tour.