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National Historic Landmark LONG ISLAND OF THE HOLSTON

Location: South edge of Kingsport in the South Fork of the Holston River, Sullivan County.

Ownership and Administration (1961). Various private and corporate owners.

Significance. Long Island of the Holston was for many years a jealously guarded possession of the Cherokee Indians. It became the scene of momentous events during the early years of exploration and settlement in the Old Southwest, the springboard for the initial settlement of Kentucky and Middle Tennessee. In its environs was fought the battle that gave those feeble settlements precious time to consolidate their positions during the first 2 years of the American Revolution. Long Island derived strategic importance from its location just east of the junction of the North and South Forks of the Holston. Nearby was the crossing of the Great Indian Warpath, a major trail to the northeast from central Tennessee. Thus the island figured significantly in the colonial struggle with the Indians that began in the middle of the 18th century.

A view westward along the northern shore of the Long Island of the Holston, which played a prominent part in the early history of the Tennessee country. (National Park Service)

Col. William Byrd, leading a colonial expedition into Cherokee country, built Fort Robinson at the river junction in 1761 and introduced white occupation of the area. When Byrd's force abandoned the fort soon afterward, the Indians resumed possession, although more and more white hunters and traders began passing through en route to the hunting grounds of Kentucky and Tennessee. Among them was Daniel Boone. In March 1775, while Richard Henderson was still negotiating with the Cherokees for their Kentucky land, he sent Boone with 30 axmen to open the trail that was to gain fame as the Wilderness Road. Boone's trailmaking began at Long Island on March 10, and 2 weeks later his party reached the Kentucky River, having marked the way that was to lead 200,000 emigrants to Kentucky within the next 20 years.

The Cherokees cast their lot with the British when the Revolution began. Stung into action by colonial settlement on the east Tennessee land they claimed, the Indians moved to crush the frontiersmen in July 1776. The defenders of Eaton's Fort, on high ground near Long Island, sallied onto Long Island Flats and, after a bitter fight, drove the Cherokees from the field. Two months later a punitive expedition against the Indian towns cowed the Cherokees, bringing 2 years of relative peace to the southwestern frontier. At the Treaty of Long Island, in July 1777, the Indians relinquished their claims to the land occupied by whites in east Tennessee.

Besides being the starting point of Boone's Wilderness Road, Long Island was a jumping-off point for the settlement of central Tennessee. Just before Christmas of 1779, Col. John Donelson lead a flotilla of flatboats from there on the long and hazardous voyage down the Tennessee and up the Cumberland to establish Cumberland Colony, the first permanent white settlement in middle Tennessee. The importance of Long Island as a terminus and starting point led to the establishment of a boatyard directly across the river from the west end of the island.

Present Appearance (1961). Long Island is approximately 4 miles long and 1/2-mile wide. The eastern third of the island is now taken up with a housing development, known as Long Island, and a fuel-supply yard for the nearby acetate plant of the Tennessee Eastman Co. The central third, largely undeveloped except for an interplant railroad that crosses the island diagonally, is held by six separate owners. The western third, virtually undeveloped, is in a single ownership and retains much of its primitive appearance. [73]

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Last Updated: 09-Jan-2005