The history of James White’s Fort starts with the man himself, James White. Regarded as the Founder of Knoxville, White first visited what is known as Knoxville in the 1780s. Since White served in the Revolutionary War, he had a land grant of 1,000 acres. White decided to reside in present day Knoxville, where he built the first permanent structure of the town (his home). This two-story cabin was finished in 1786.
As a friend of the Cherokee Indians, White acted as a mediator between the Cherokee and white settlers when they were creating treaties. He even proved the peaceful relationship he hoped for the Cherokee and white settlers by trading with the Cherokee and opening his home to them. White’s home quickly became the hotspot for agriculture, as he had many domesticated animals and crops. This led to White eventually partitioning a section of his land in 1791. This partition established the current day town of Knoxville.
The name of Knoxville originated from Henry Knox, who was the Secretary of War under President George Washington. With the help of his son-in-law, Charles McClung, White helped organize the first available lots of land and building constructions in Knoxville.
White eventually moved from his original Fort to a home near the South Knoxville Bridge in 1793. From then until his death, White played an influential role in establishing the cemetery in Knoxville, the First Presbyterian Church, and Blount College (which is now the University of Tennessee). Although White passed away in 1821, his Fort was restored by the City Association of Women’s Clubs in 1970. This Fort serves as a historical landmark for Knoxville, as well as being the primary location for preserving and promoting White’s legacy. Photo: James White’s Fort
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