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Johnson City History, Tennessee

Johnson City, Tennessee, was formally founded as ‘Johnson’s Depot’, a railway station/junction, in 1856. Although this was the real beginning of Johnson City history, the area had been settled back in 1777, when a community named Blue Plum came up here following the North Carolina land grants made to volunteers. This community kept expanding and developing throughout the next 80 years or so even as the Washington County was carved out and the State of Tennessee was created (in 1796). By 1825, the Blue Plum community had its road-link to Nashville.

Johnson City History – 1856 to 1900

Johnson City was established as a major railroad hub named ‘Johnson’s Depot’ in 1856. Christened after the founder, Henry Johnson, Johnson’s Depot had three railroads passing through it and served as their H.Q.s for a considerable period (not only the full stretch of the 19th century but even the early decades of the 20th century).

The American Civil War days saw the city being named Haynesville after the Confederate Senator L.C. Haynes; but at the end of the war, the old name was restored once again. Johnson City was formally incorporated in 1869 and in the first mayoral elections held the following year, Henry Johnson was elected as mayor. In the next two decades, Johnson City (along with Bristol and Kingsport) prospered at a rapid pace owing to its railway links and its profitable mining activities. The 1893 national depression, however, stalled the progress and such remained the conditions for the remaining years of the 19th century.

Johnson City History – 1901 to Present Times

1901 has a special significance in Johnson City history – it is in this year that the Mountain Division of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers (now renamed the U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical Center and National Cemetery, Mountain Home, Tennessee) was created through legislation. The entire campus (along with its excellent ‘soldier homes’) completed by 1903, gave Johnson City a national recognition. The Tennessee Assembly passed a bill for a teacher-training academy in Johnson City in 1909. The all-round growth of the city saw its population reach 12000 by 1910.

By 1911, automobiles were present on the city roads, especially the route connecting Bristol to Memphis. The city did receive some opposition in the 1920s for the alleged involvement of its people in bootlegging activities in the Appalachian Mountains, but the 1930s saw Johnson City firmly established as the fifth largest city in Tennessee. Thereafter, Johnson City has been on an upward spiral; the city has seen improvement in every sphere – the living conditions have improved as have the amenities, education, transportation infrastructure, health services…in short, everything.

Although Johnson City is currently the eighth largest city in the state, it is certainly a place to try out if you are in business or trying to build your career and the Forbes Magazine ranks it 44th ‘the Best Small Place for Business and Careers’ in the US.

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