William Gannaway “Parson” Brownlow’s Report on Jonesborough from 1844

Parson Brownlow was the twice Governor of the State of Tennessee and a State Senator. He was also a Methodist circuit rider and a newspaper editor. He was a strong proponent of the Whig party, and he was never one to shy away from his opinions.

Here is his report entitled “Jonesborough—Its Prospects: Advantages and Disadvantages” published on February 7, 1844 in his paper the Jonesborough Whig.


“Jonesborough is not Baltimore, nor is it the seat of the Federal Government, yet, it is all sorts of a place, take it by and large-having some things to boast of, some to regret, and others to be ashamed of. Jonesboroughs Institutions of Learning, consisting of a Male and a Female Academy, at which, collectively there are now about 200 students, tend in on small degree to promote the prosperity of the town. Then, as a Church-going place, Jonesboro’ aspires to pre-eminence, there being the Factories of three sects in “full blast!”-New School Presbyterians, Methodists, and Baptists-among all of whom, it is fair to presume, there are some noble hearted fellows, and pious souls, and some dirty Locofoco [a name for the opposing political party] dogs, cloaking their villainy with hypocritical pretentious to much godliness.

Our town is located in a SINK HOLE, surrounded by hills, … and until recently, we have exhibited more mud and filth in our streets, than any little town could boast of in this end of the state-wintering our cows under our porches, and empting our slop buckets into our front streets! At one time in December, there were but about 3 FORDS, or CROSSING PLACES on Main Street; but our citizens have nobly commenced the work of cleaning our streets, and upon a scale worthy of their just importance. They have much of the FILTH in PILES on main street, which seem destined to stand as a lasting ornament to the place, -a blessing to the community, and a monument of the liberality and enlightened views of the town authorities!

Jonesborough contains no less than six Black smith shops. There are, three Tan-yards in operation, with the promise of one or two more, soon to be started, which shows that these branches of business are carried on with much energy.

There is one DOGGERY, beside a great deal of the corn-burnt is drank in private families, and kept concealed from the church and the world. There is also a respectable business doing in all the other ordinary crimes of towns and villages.

There are now two large Sunday Schools, each having the rise of 100 scholars, and which meet regularly every Sabbath; one at the Methodist-the other at the Presbyterian Church-where they are taught Methodism and New Schoolism. There is also a large Temperance Society-one-third of the members of which, mostly of the Locofoco stripe, have gone back to their vomiting again, and their wallowing in the mire!

And it is not to be disguised, that there is likewise a Masonic Lodge in Jonesborough, which is composed of a mixture of the best citizens of the town and county, and of the most depraved rascals in the place.

In the Mercantile line, there is an extensive business doing in Jonesborough, and Goods are commanding cash readily, at from 50 to 150 per centum. Further particulars relative to our Mercantile operations, the closeness of the Merchants will not permit us to give through our advertising columns. It is, perhaps, however, just for us to state that of the SEVEN STORES now in blast, five and a half of them are owned and conducted by Whigs; the Anti-Bank, and Anti-Credit party having suspended operations, rather than call on gentlemen in the Eastern cities for further indulgence, till they shall have paid up the “old score!”

Then, again, there is what is termed the Professional line of business-Law, Medicine, and Divinity-in all of these “departments” our town goes it! Some how, or some how else, in the mysterious ways of Providence, it turns out that no Lawyer capable of business, in all this country, is to be found in the Locofoco ranks-but here, we have T. A. R. Nelson, John A. Aiken, and William Henry Maxwell, strong Whigs, who will promptly and efficiently attend to all business entrusted to their care. In the Medical line, we have Doctors Vance, Cossen, Cunningham, Outlaw, and Embree, and next week we expect to have Hunt among us-in all six, five Whigs, and the one in italics a Democrat. Upon the whole, our Medical Faculty will compare with any town in this end of the State. In the way of Preachers we have a resident Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist-each seeking to build up his own sect, and managing like politicians, while all pretend to be perfectly disinterested. Beside these, there are two Ex parsons who regularly visit the town, but for the want of them papers, they are rendered powerless!

It must not be forgotten, that we have 2 TAVERNS-the one kept by a very accommodating Whig-the other by a very surly Locofoco. The long Bell Tavern, with a BASEMENT STORY, somewhat after the fashion & taste of a Pennsylvania Dutch Barn, is kept by DOCT. CHESTER, and is Locofoco head quarters. The Hotel, in the large brick building, covered with tin, is kept by THOMAS B. EMMERSON, and is Whig head quarters-a good house, with accommodating inmates.

As to the Girls, there are a caution of them, and we honestly believe they are all candidates for matrimony. Some of them are pretty-others are just middlin, and others of them are as ugly as the butt-cut of original sin! And further this Deponent saith not.


Want to know what a Locofoco is? Learn about that fun word and the fight Parson Brownlow had with fellow newspaper editor and politician Landon Carter Haynes on Main Street, Jonesborough in this edition of “At Home Amateur Museum Theatre Presents: Parson Brownlow vs. Landon Carter Haynes.”

Link to video – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8Zs1ipYtJw