Affrilachian Dinner at Langston Center with Chef T of Union 41

The Heritage Alliance is excited to host Chef Torrece Gregoire (Chef T) of Union 41 restaurant at the Langston Centre on Tuesday, September 19th for a special Affrilachian Dinner as a part of the Taste of Tennessee Festival. The Taste of Tennessee is a weeklong event throughout northeast Tennessee that will highlight Appalachian foodways. Tickets for the Affrilachian Dinner can be purchased through the Town of Jonesborough’s ticketing website at You can also call 423-753-1010 to reserve tickets.


Chef T is a private chef, culinary artist, entrepreneur, and TV personality. In addition to always cooking up a storm, she has appeared on Hell’s Kitchen twice and Food Network’s Big Restaurant Bet. She is currently a chef at Union 41 restaurant in Bristol, VA. At a special dinner catered by Taste Budz at the Langston Centre in Johnson City, she will talk about the connections between African cuisine and Appalachian cuisine as well as her personal journey through the food world. Funds from the Affrilachian Dinner will help support the educational programs of the Heritage Alliance, like the Oak Hill School Heritage Education program, local history tours, and much more.



The Taste of Tennessee Festival takes place from September 17th – 24th with events occurring throughout the region. It is the recipient of an Arts Project Support Grant from the Tennessee Arts Commission. The term “Affrilachia” is attributed to author Frank X Walker who began using the term in the 1990s to combat the stereotype that Appalachia was not a diverse region. The Taste of Tennessee celebrates the melting pot that is Appalachian cuisine and culture. We are excited to host Chef T at the Langston Centre. Get your tickets for this unique experience now.



Become a TN4Arts Advocate

You don’t have to spend a lot of time or money to become an advocate for the arts. Here’s a simple and direct way to show your love if you’re a Tennessee resident: purchase a specialized license plate.

The process is easy:

  • Visit your local County Clerk’s Office.
  • Ask for a Tennessee Arts Commission License Plate.
  • Exchange your old plate for a shiny new one. (Don’t forget your screwdriver!)
  • Show off your love for the arts as you drive around town.


Tenth Annual Constitution Week Bell Ringing on Sept 10th

On Sunday, September 10th, the State of Franklin Chapter of the National Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution (NSDAR),  is hosting its Tenth Annual Bell Ringing in honor of Constitution Week. The event will take place at 1:30 p.m. at Oak Hill School, located at 214 East Sabin Drive in Jonesborough across from the Jonesborough Public Library. The program will focus on the history of the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution that reads, Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.”


The program will include music, proclamations, re-enactors, and the history of enslavement and abolition in Jonesborough. Several heritage groups will be participating, including the Kings Mountain NSSAR, the Overmountain Victory Trail Association, and participation from other local chapters of the NSDAR.


Please bring your own chair and a bell to ring! Seating will not be provided on site. The Daughters of the American Revolution began the tradition of celebrating  to emphasize citizens’ responsibilities for protecting and defending the Constitution. In 1955, the DAR petitioned Congress to set aside September 17-23 annually to be dedicated for the observance of Constitution Week.  The resolution was adopted by Congress and signed into law on August 2, 1956, by President Dwight D. Eisenhower.  The State of Franklin Chapter of the NSDAR has been based in Jonesborough since 1929.

Round 2: Historic Jonesborough License Plate

The “Historic Jonesborough” License Plate Committee, the Heritage Alliance (HA), and the Jonesborough Genealogical Society (JGS) have selected the “Historic Jonesborough” specialty license plate based on your valuable feedback. The selected plate is the Chester Inn. So we are now ready for Round 2 of the Preference and Comment period.

Some factors considered in the decision include: The Chester Inn is the oldest commercial structure in the oldest town in Tennessee. The Chester Inn is original to around the time the town was founded and has been fully restored. The Chester Inn is unique to Jonesborough. Every county has a Courthouse, but there is only one Chester Inn. The Courthouse and Cupola are indeed beautiful and iconic and our Courthouse may be the best looking in Tennessee. However, our current Courthouse was built in 1913. Thus, the Chester Inn which was built in 1797 is 124 years older than the Courthouse. The plate also received the most support from among those who commented or stated a preference on Facebook, Instagram, via email, and in person.


We need your feedback for Round 2. We made some changes to the Chester Inn design based on your comments. Some who commented loved the blue used with the Courthouse plate, so we created a blue sky version of the Chester Inn. Some who commented loved the subdued green version as it currently appears. It would look great on the back of a vehicle. The third choice adds more color, while keeping the understated appeal. All three versions now have the original upper porch rail that was recently added back to the Chester Inn. Please share your preference(s) and comment.


Re-Discovering History: The Mass Grave from the Cholera Epidemic of 1873

One of our favorite parts of working in the history field is the fact that we are always learning something new. Sometimes that means learning when we got it wrong. Over the past few seasons, cemetery volunteer extraordinaire Gordon Edwards has been using GPR technology in the Old Jonesborough Cemetery. His most recent partnership was with Dr. Robert Jones, owner of the DeVault Tavern and the Tilted Tavern Animal Sanctuary. GPR can tell you a lot about what’s underground. One of the things Gordon has been hunting for is the long whispered about mass grave from the cholera epidemic of 1873. Around 35 of Jonesborough’s residents perished between mid-July through mid-August of that summer. We know where some of them are buried, but we do not know where a lot of them are buried. The Herald & Tribune did a remarkable job of covering the epidemic, but they never mentioned a mass grave, or really any kind of final resting place for the victims.

Snippet from a 1969 newspaper article that mentions the location of the mass grave.

Honestly, the Heritage Alliance was inclined to say it was just rumor, a myth. In fact, we even included it in our “mythbusting” tour as potentially busted. However, a few tidbits through time kept Gordon searching. There were some remarks from other papers in the 20th century that there was a mass grave near the “bend” or “trench” of the cemetery. That hunch led him to clear a section of the cemetery right along the back slope. His hunch paid off and the GPR lit up that area in March of this year. There may by up to 15-20 people buried in the grave.

To access Dr. Jones’ full report on the grave, click here.

The question remains if the mass grave was integrated. That’s a good question, but also a complex question. Cholera does not discriminate. When the Rocky Hill cemetery, now commonly referred to as the Old Jonesborough Cemetery, was expanded in the 1840s, the back section was reserved for the burials of “strangers and colored people.” In 1890, the Colored Peoples Cemetery Society established College Hill Cemetery as the burial grounds for the Black community. It is possible that the mass grave was segregated based on these other examples of segregation in the cemetery. That brings up another question, would there be a separate mass grave for the members of the Black community who perished in the 1873 epidemic? That is another possibility, but we unfortunately do not have any hints to go off of for another mass grave.

On the other hand, the grave might have been integrated because people were dying so quickly and there was so much fear surrounding cholera and its level of contagion. We suspect this is why the Herald & Tribune never said anything about the mass grave. It was remembered privately, a piece of mourning that was kept to Jonesborough and the people who had lived through it.

Currently, stakes mark the area, and we recently placed a temporary marker at the location. The Heritage Alliance will work with the Town of Jonesborough on a permanent memorial.

Once the location was re-discovered, we were able to compare it against a photo in our archives from an early 1900s funeral at the Lampson plot. There is a fence in the back of that photo, a fence whose position matches that of the mass grave. We believe it marked off the grave but it was lost to time and then nature as the woods crept up the hill.

We will never be 100% sure, not without excavation, but we have enough evidence to feel 99% sure, and we do not advocate for excavation. It is time to remember the dead and let them continue to rest. This year marks 150 years since that epidemic. I fully believe the spirits send us messages from time to time. We are honored and sobered to have re-discovered this piece of Jonesborough’s history.

To read all about the cholera epidemic as recorded in the 1873 Herald & Tribune, click here.

Historic Jonesborough License Plate


The Heritage Alliance in conjunction with the Jonesborough Genealogical Society (JGS) has approval by the State of Tennessee to create an official Tennessee specialty license plate – “Historic Jonesborough, Oldest Town in Tennessee”.

The first step is to pick our license plate from among the three finalists.  We need your input.  Which plate do you like best?

Go to to provide your preference and comment by August 31st. 
Once the final plate is selected, the Heritage Alliance will launch a campaign to obtain 1,000 pre-orders for the plate before June 30, 2024. For all who sign-up the license plate will replace your standard dark blue Tennessee license plate. Once 1,000 pre-orders are obtained, the plate will be put into production and available to all vehicle owners in Tennessee. In addition, the Town of Jonesborough, the Heritage Alliance, the Jonesborough Genealogical Society, along with several local organizations and businesses will also be offering incentives for all who sign up for this Specialty License Plate. Stay tuned for more information.

The Historic Washington County courthouse was built in 1913 on the site of several former courthouses. This beautiful and iconic courthouse draws your immediate attention when you visit Historic Jonesborough. Even though every county has a courthouse, we believe our courthouse is one of the most attractive in the State. Jonesborough would not exist if it weren’t for the courthouse.


The Chester Inn is the oldest commercial structure in the oldest town in Tennessee. Dr. William P Chester built the Chester Inn in 1797. The Inn was known as the finest inn on the Tennessee frontier and hosted three US Presidents – Andrew Jackson, James K Polk, and Andrew Johnson. Today the Chester Inn is a State Owned Historic Site and Museum operated by the Heritage Alliance.


The cupola atop the courthouse is beautiful and iconic. Not every county courthouse has a cupola. The cupola is used by the town, the Storytelling Center, Music on the Square, and other local entities as a symbol of Jonesborough. It is infrequent that you see a photo of Jonesborough where the courthouse cupola isn’t the focus or somewhere in the background. The cupola was erected in 1913 at the time the current historic courthouse was erected.

Once the final plate is selected, the Heritage Alliance will launch a campaign to obtain 1,000 pre-orders for the plate before June 30, 2024.  For all who sign-up the license plate will replace your standard dark blue Tennessee license plate.  Once 1,000 pre-orders are obtained, the plate will be put into production and available to all vehicle owners in Tennessee.  In addition, the town of Jonesborough, the Heritage Alliance, the Jonesborough Genealogical Society, along with several local organizations and businesses will also be offering incentives for all who sign up for this Specialty License Plate.  Stay tuned for more information.

Issuance of the Specialty License Plate will help the Heritage Alliance operate their museums and historic sites, provide support for the preservation of our region’s architecture, and document the history of northeast Tennessee.

The Heritage Alliance operates the Chester Inn State Historic Site, the Washington County History Museum, the Oak Hill School, the Christopher Taylor House, the Chuckey Depot, the Ashe Street Courthouse, and the Salvage Warehouse.

The Heritage Alliance advocates and provides support for the preservation of our region’s architecture, developing innovative museum experiences that illuminate the history of the region.  The Heritage Alliance provides unique history education opportunities for both the people who live in our region and the people who visit.

The JGS hosts the annual Washington County Heritage Festival in Jonesborough.  JGS also offers monthly Tennessee history presentations and genealogy classes for the public. Learn more about the Jonesborough Genealogical Society by clicking here.

Meet Amy Steadman DeWitt, Collections Manager & Museum Coordinator

The Heritage Alliance is excited to welcome new Collections Manager & Museum Coordinator Amy Steadman DeWitt! We asked Amy a few questions to find out more about her and what she’s looking forward to.

What other institutions have you worked with before coming to the Heritage Alliance?
I was fortunate to be able to return to my home area immediately after completing graduate school after being hired as the Collections Manager at Rocky Mount Museum. After a few years there, the perfect job
opened up and I grabbed it: Curator at the Eudora Welty House Museum in Jackson, Mississippi; therefore combining my love of southern literature and history. While in Mississippi, I also took a weekend position at the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame, something completely out of my wheelhouse but I learned a bit about preserving deflated footballs. Ten years ago, I returned to the Tri-Cites area to be closer to my parents, and have worked at some wonderful local institutions such as The Reece Museum on the campus of ETSU,
the Kingsport Carousel, and Hands On! Museum.

What are you looking forward to in your new position?
Learning more about the history of the area where I am from! Also, I look forward to working with others who share the same passions as I do, in preserving both tangible and intangible culture of the southern
Appalachian region. While during Jonesborough Days and spending that time talking with visitors about the Chester Inn, I realized how much I missed interpreting architectural history and material culture. To see both children and adults alike become so excited about looking through a stereoscope made my own work so much more enriching.


Outside of work, what are your hobbies and interests?
Just picked some cukes grown in my garden last night, but I am more interested in my blooming flowers and keeping subtropical plants alive here in the winter! My husband TJ and I are very proud of our huge Night Blooming Cereus that came to us as a small cutting from Louisiana (and if anyone wants a cutting let
me know). I also love being at home reading along next to my two dogs and two cats, but have been fortunate in the past few years to travel as well. Already have taken San Francisco and Florence, Italy off my bucket list.


What do you hope to achieve in your new position?
First off, to complete an inventory of the collections, especially the newer artifacts that have been donated. Having the knowledge of what we have is the basis of good preservation. But, through this, other staff members and I can develop new exhibits and educational opportunities, both on-site and online. Also, I
hope to update both the museum at the visitor center and collections storage with improved lighting, better accessibility, and updated content. Its a huge project, but bit by bit, our staff and community could have a world-class museum for all the thousands of visitors who pass through Jonesborough each year.

Summer Social in the Cemetery

The Heritage Alliance is hosting a Summer Social in the Old Jonesborough Cemetery on Saturday, August 12th from 6:00-8:00 pm. “It used to be a common thing for families and friends to gather in the cemetery and picnic, share stories of their loved ones, and relax,” shares Executive Director Anne Mason. “There was nothing odd about it. Cemeteries are sacred spaces, but they’re also public spaces, and we want people to come and tour the cemetery and learn more about the community they live in.”


Tour guides and people in period costume will be on hand to answer questions and share history from the Rocky Hill and College Hill cemeteries. Ice cream will be available for $2.00 a scoop courtesy of MOM’s Ice Cream with Munchies on Main. Ice cream sales will benefit the historic preservation of the cemeteries. You can also help hand crank your own ice cream for $2.00. Parking is available at the First Baptist Church located at 201 E Main Street in their side parking lot. There is no parking at the cemetery. The cemetery is a short walk up from the church parking lot. We’ll also have a golf cart shuttle available throughout the evening from the First Baptist Church parking lot.


During the evening, the Heritage Alliance will unveil a temporary marker honoring the victims of the 1873 cholera epidemic and marking the mass grave from that historic event. The mass grave was re-discovered this March by Heritage Alliance volunteer Gordon Edwards and Dr. Robert Jones with the Tilted Tavern Animal Sanctuary. They used ground-penetrating radar to locate the mass grave. The cholera epidemic moved through Jonesborough from mid-July to August of 1873, 150 years ago exactly. More information about the mass grave and the search to locate it will soon be included on the Heritage Alliance’s website at


We hope you can join us on August 12th for the Summer Social in the Cemetery.

History Happy Hour: “Jonesborough’s Historic Porches and Bay Windows: Form, Function, and Flowers”

Join the Chester Inn State Historic Site and Museum on July 20th at 6:30 pm as we welcome Dr. William Kennedy.

Dr. Kennedy’s talk is entitled “Jonesborough’s Historic Porches and Bay Windows: Form, Function, and Flowers.” He will be speaking about the architectural, as well as the social function historic porches have served in Jonesborough’s history. The program will begin at 6:30 pm in the Jonesborough Visitors Center. The program is free and open to the public!

The 2023 season of History Happy Hour will run from April through November with a new program every third Thursday of the month. The full schedule is available on the Chester Inn’s Facebook page and the Heritage Alliance’s website. If you can’t attend History Happy Hour in person, each program will be livestreamed to the Chester Inn Museum’s Facebook page.

This project is funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Historical Commission.

Thursday Evening Town Tours Extended through July

This special, evening tour departs from the Chester Inn Museum. Costumed guides will discuss the history of the town, its people, and the lives they built as you stroll down Main Street. Tickets are $5.00 per person and can be purchased at the Chester Inn Museum. Children 8 and younger are free.   

For more information on the tours, please contact the Heritage Alliance at 423-753-9580, or the Chester Inn Museum at 423-753-4580. To schedule a tour for a larger group, or another day, please contact the Heritage Alliance directly.

Nancy CANCELED for June 24th

We are sad to announce that the performances of Nancy for Saturday, June 24th have been CANCELED due to actress illness. Your money has been refunded. We will work hard to get a reschedule date and contact you as soon as we have one.


We do know that Nancy will be presented at ETSU sometime in November. We will also send you all that date once it has been set so that you can see this show in the future.


Thank you for your support. We are sorry for this inconvenience.