Washington County, Tennessee

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Washington County, Tennessee
Washington County Courthouse in Jonesborough
Map of Tennessee highlighting Washington County
Location in the U.S. state of Tennessee
Map of the United States highlighting Tennessee
Tennessee's location in the U.S.
Founded 1777
Named for George Washington[1]
Seat Jonesborough
Largest city Johnson City
 • Total 330 sq mi (855 km2)
 • Land 326 sq mi (844 km2)
 • Water 3.3 sq mi (9 km2), 1.0%
 • (2010) 122,979
 • Density 377/sq mi (146/km²)
Congressional district 1st
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Website www.washingtoncountytn.org

Washington County is a county located in the U.S. state of Tennessee. As of the 2010 census, the population was 122,979.[2] Its county seat is Jonesborough.[3] The county's largest city and a regional educational, medical and commercial center is Johnson City. Washington County is Tennessee's oldest county, having been established in 1777 when the state was still part of North Carolina.[4]

Washington County is part of the Johnson City, TN Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is a component of the Johnson City–KingsportBristol, TN-VA Combined Statistical Area, commonly known as the "Tri-Cities" region.


Washington County is rooted in the Watauga settlements, which were established in the early 1770s in the vicinity of what is now Elizabethton, in adjacent Carter County. At the outbreak of the Revolutionary War in 1776, the Wataugans organized the "Washington District," which was governed by a committee of safety. North Carolina initially refused to recognize the settlements as legal, but finally agreed to annex the district after the settlers thwarted an invasion by hostile Cherokees. The settlements were governed as the Washington District, which originally included all of what is now Tennessee. The district was reorganized as Washington County in 1777.[5]

From 1784 through 1788, the county was part of the State of Franklin, an early attempt to create a fourteenth state prior to Kentucky and Vermont's admissions into the union. It then became part of the Southwest Territory in 1790, and finally, part of Tennessee after it was admitted to the Union in 1796 as the 16th state.[5] Jonesborough, the county seat of Washington County, is Tennessee's oldest town. With many buildings restored, it comprises one of the nation's most authentic historic districts of the period 1790–1870.

Washington County was divided between pro-Union and pro-secession sentiments at the outset of the Civil War. In Tennessee's Ordinance of Secession referendum on June 8, 1861, Washington Countians voted 1,445 to 1,022 in favor of remaining in the Union.[6] One of the bridges targeted by the East Tennessee bridge-burners in November 1861 was located in what is now Watauga near the Washington-Carter county line.[7] Landon Carter Haynes, a Confederate senator, hailed from Washington County.[5]

Johnson City, originally known as Johnson's Depot, was a major railway center for the southeastern states, connecting the region for freight transportation and passengers. It was the headquarters for both the standard-gauge Carolina, Clinchfield, and Ohio (Clinchfield Railroad), which required the excavation and blasting of 17 tunnels during its construction; and the narrow-gauge East Tennessee and Western North Carolina Railroad (Tweetsie). Significant restoration is underway, as well as publicizing the railroad heritage of the Johnson's Depot Historic District. Other historic properties are being restored as representative of Johnson City's late nineteenth and early twentieth-century era as a railway center.


Farm near Limestone
Rainbow and railroad tracks near Telford

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 330 square miles (850 km2), of which 326 square miles (840 km2) is land and 3.3 square miles (8.5 km2) (1.0%) is water.[8] The western portion of the county is situated in the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians, which are characterized by long, narrow ridges roughly oriented northeast-to-southwest. The county's most prominent Ridge-and-Valley features rise in the vicinity of its northwestern border with Hawkins and Sullivan counties. The eastern portion of the county lies within the Blue Ridge Mountains, specifically the Bald Mountains (south of the Nolichucky River) and the Unaka Range (north of the Nolichucky).[9] Buffalo Mountain, a long ridge that straddles much of Washington's eastern boundary, contains the county's highest point, 3,520-foot (1,070 m) Pinnacle Knob. The Cherokee National Forest protects much of the extreme eastern part of the county. Sampson Mountain, which rises in the southeastern part of the county, is home to a designated national wilderness area.

The Nolichucky River flows through the southern part of Washington County. The Watauga River flows the northern part of the county, and forms part of the county's border with Sullivan County. The lower section of the Watauga River is part of Boone Lake.

Adjacent counties

National protected area

State protected areas


Historical population
Census Pop.
1790 5,872
1800 6,379 8.6%
1810 7,740 21.3%
1820 9,557 23.5%
1830 10,995 15.0%
1840 11,751 6.9%
1850 13,861 18.0%
1860 14,829 7.0%
1870 16,317 10.0%
1880 16,181 −0.8%
1890 20,354 25.8%
1900 22,604 11.1%
1910 28,968 28.2%
1920 34,052 17.6%
1930 45,805 34.5%
1940 51,631 12.7%
1950 59,971 16.2%
1960 64,832 8.1%
1970 73,924 14.0%
1980 88,755 20.1%
1990 92,315 4.0%
2000 107,198 16.1%
2010 122,979 14.7%
Est. 2014 126,242 [10] 2.7%
U.S. Decennial Census[11]
1790-1960[12] 1900-1990[13]
1990-2000[14] 2010-2014[2]

As of the census[15] of 2000, there were 107,198 people, 44,195 households, and 29,478 families residing in the county. The population density was 328 people per square mile (127/km²). There were 47,779 housing units at an average density of 146 per square mile (57/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 93.72% White, 3.82% Black or African American, 0.24% Native American, 0.73% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.51% from other races, and 0.97% from two or more races. 1.38% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

Age pyramid Washington County[16]

There were 44,195 households out of which 28.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.60% were married couples living together, 10.50% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.30% were non-families. 27.80% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.70% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.33 and the average family size was 2.85.

In the county, the population was spread out with 21.30% under the age of 18, 10.80% from 18 to 24, 30.00% from 25 to 44, 24.00% from 45 to 64, and 13.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 94.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.70 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $33,116, and the median income for a family was $41,162. Males had a median income of $30,874 versus $21,485 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,085. About 10.20% of families and 13.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.80% of those under age 18 and 14.20% of those age 65 or over.


Elementary schools

  • Boones Creek Elementary
  • Fall Branch Elementary
  • Grandview Elementary
  • Gray Elementary
  • Jonesborough Elementary
  • Lamar (Elementary) School
  • Ridgeview Elementary
  • South Central Elementary
  • Sulphur Springs Elementary
  • West View Elementary

Middle schools

  • Boones Creek Middle School
  • Jonesborough Middle School. Built in 1950 as a high school. Became a middle school in 1971. Has approximately 500 students in grades 5-8.

High schools


Chester Inn, one of many historic buildings in Jonesborough



Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Notable residents

  • Joseph Hardin, Sr. – Revolutionary War hero, and North Carolina militia colonel for the Western Counties, 1788;
  • Amy Colley – 2005 Miss Tennessee USA.

See also


  1. Origins Of Tennessee County Names, Tennessee Blue Book 2005-2006, pages 508-513
  2. 2.0 2.1 "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved December 7, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Washington County official website. Retrieved: 15 November 2013.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Mildred Kozsuch and Ruth Broyles, "Washington County," Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Retrieved: 15 November 2013.
  6. Oliver Perry Temple, East Tennessee and the Civil War (R. Clarke Company, 1899), p. 199. Eric Lacy (Vanquished Volunteers, Appendix B) gives a much closer tally, 1,115 to 1,022.
  7. Temple, East Tennessee and the Civil War, pp. 384-385.
  8. "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved April 14, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, et al., "Ambient Air Monitoring Plan," Environmental Protection Agency website, 1 July 2010. Accessed: 18 March 2015.
  10. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved April 14, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved April 14, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved April 14, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved April 14, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-05-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  16. Based on 2000 census data

External links

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