Campbell County

Created in 1806, the county is named in honor of Arthur Campbell.

Historical Narrative

The Cumberland Historic Byway continues through the Powell Valley westward on SR 63 and crosses into Campbell County. Created in 1806 from portions of Anderson and Claiborne Counties, the county is named in honor of Arthur Campbell, a member of the Virginia House of Burgesses and a Revolutionary War officer. While farming was the predominant economic activity for the first settlers of this picturesque landscape, its wide navigable rivers and abundant forestland facilitated timber harvesting, as well as iron and coal extraction from the antebellum period onward. Rail transportation transformed the region into a coal mining center for many decades. Yet as “King Coal” declined in the early 1980s, tourism and light manufacturing emerged to take its place as a major economic driver, thanks in large measure to the construction of Interstate 75 through the county. The Tennessee Valley Authority’s development of Norris Lake and its 750 miles of shoreline has proven to be one the county’s biggest boons, as the lake’s boundless recreational opportunities and natural charms has attracted many tourists and retirees alike to the county. The Campbell County portion of the Cumberland Historic Byway features another of the Tennessee Historical Commission’s historical markers. Titled “Kirby Smith Invades Kentucky,” the marker is located on US 25 W and describes the movement of Confederate Major General Kirby Smith through Roger’s Gap.

One of the county’s architectural treasures is the Smith-Little-Mars House. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1976 for its architectural significance, the building was originally constructed in 1840 as a two-story, center hall plan house. In the 1890s, however, the house was altered to reflect the popular Victorian Era Queen Anne style. The name of the house derives from several owners, the first of whom was Frank Smith, whose slaves constructed the house. After the Civil War, Joshua Little, a circuit preacher of the Powell Valley region, purchased the house and later sold it to his son, Silas, in the late 1890s. Silas Little amassed a small fortune in the Knoxville clothing industry and is responsible for transforming the house with its Victorian Era architectural embellishments. According to the NRHP nomination form, this house has been linked to other brick antebellum homes constructed in Campbell and Claiborne counties as having been constructed by slaves belonging to John Kincaid II. In fact, the date “1840” and initials purported to be from the slaves who built the house are said to be carved into wood beams under the house.

For its local significance as an excellent example of Federal style architecture, the Kincaid-Howard House was also listed on the National Register in 1976. Located in Fincastle on SR 63, the house was constructed in 1845 by John Kincaid II, a prominent landowner of the Powell Valley region who was also an attorney and money lender. According to local tradition, Kincaid acquired most of his wealth from a secret silver mine that he operated in Union County. As Kincaid’s wealth accumulated so did his landholdings, which were maintained by a large contingent of enslaved African-Americans. Kincaid’s slaves were used in the construction of his house, which features exterior walls four bricks thick, generously proportioned rooms with 12-feet- high ceilings, and interior woodwork characteristic of the antebellum period. Overall, Kincaid’s slaves built ten houses for him throughout the Powell Valley.

Likely as a result of his extensive land and slave holdings, Kincaid sided with the Confederacy during the Civil War. Kincaid later swore his loyalty to the Union and became a lawyer, money lender, and farmer. On February 22, 1865, John Kincaid II was killed by a pair of former Confederates who were unable to re-pay a loan Kincaid had made to them. The property was acquired next by Kincaid’s son-in-law, Henry Sutton. After passing through several hands the house was eventually purchased in 1927 by Dr. P.T. Howard, who later added the large two-story porch.

Near the southwest end of the Powell Valley is the town of LaFollette and the National Register-listed home of the town’s founder, Harvey LaFollette. The LaFollette House is recognized for its local significance as an excellent example of Victorian Era architecture and for its association with the founder and namesake of the town.

Prior to 1889, the area comprising present-day LaFollette consisted of wooded areas and farmland owned largely by John Douglas. In 1889, a group of Kentucky investors purchased Douglas’s lands in order to capitalize on the region’s iron and coal reserves. Initially, the town was called Big Creek Gap, but it was changed to LaFollette following the arrival Harvey LaFollette, who lost no time in purchasing the lands from the developers. In order to encourage growth and development, LaFollette ordered the construction of eleven miles of railroad track to link the town to Vespar, Tennessee. LaFollette’s railroad provided merchants and developers with access to the Southern Railway, which was extended to Caryville in 1897. At its peak the LaFollette Coal and Iron Company operated one of the largest iron furnaces in the South, along with a number of coke ovens. The town of LaFollette grew from a population of 366 in 1900 to 3,056 by 1920. Henry LaFollette later sold his industrial interests to James Sterchi in 1928 and moved to New York.

The A.E. Perkins House in Jacksboro was listed on the National Register in 1997 for its local significance as an exceptional example of Colonial Revival architecture. Originally constructed in 1850 by James Williams as a simple, two-story frame house, the building was acquired by local businessman Alexander Early Perkins in 1930, who proceeded to renovate the building to reflect the then highly fashionable Colonial Revival style. The house features an impressive two-story portico supported by a series of classically inspired columns and includes an intricate floor plan highlighted by handcrafted fireplace mantles. The A.E. Perkins House well illustrates the powerful influence 20th century modernity had on rural communities. Plumbing, lighting, electricity, labor-saving appliances, even linoleum flooring all contributed to the modernization trend of the American home.