Warner Institute Students
Jonesborough’s past has crafted the beautiful, diverse, and vibrant patchwork for who we are today. Below is a sneak peek into what you’ll uncover through the rich history of Tennessee’s Oldest Town.
One of our favorite stories of Jonesborough’s welcoming nature dates back to 1843. Merchants Herman Cone and his brother-in-law Jacob Adler arrived in Jonesborough with a small, covered wagon. Cone and Adler, two Jewish immigrants from Bavaria (Germany), tried to set up shop in Virginia but were met with discrimination. They moved their families with what little they had to Jonesborough and started a new chapter. The Town welcomed them and the merchants established a very successful business across the street from the Chester Inn on Main Street. Warm welcomes remain ever-present in modern-day Jonesborough.
The McKinney legend lives on today, but do you know how it began? In 1968, on the same day that Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Ernest McKinney was elected as an alderman in Jonesborough. Mr. McKinney was the first African American to be elected to the Board of Mayor and Alderman. His wife, Marion McKinney, was instrumental in the fight to desegregate Washington County Schools. In 1988, their son, Kevin McKinney, was the first African American to be elected as Jonesborough’s Mayor.
In 1973, a local teacher, Jimmy Neil Smith, pulled a hay wagon into the shadow of the courthouse and invited Appalachian storytellers to share their stories. No one knew it at the time, but a renaissance was about to ignite. From these humble beginnings, the International Storytelling Festival was born. The Festival takes place on the first full weekend of October. During those three days of storytelling, over 15,000 visit Jonesborough to listen and share.
We invite you to dive deep into the rich stories from our past and the people who shaped Jonesborough today. You’ll discover stories of a courageous buffalo solider, the autonomous Lost State of Franklin, and Jonesborough’s first female Mayor.