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Grainger County, Tennessee

Grainger County was established in 1796, the same year that the state of Tennessee was formed. The new entity was carved out of parts of Knox & Hawkins Counties. Since it's inception, Free & Enslaved people lived, worked, worshiped & participated in Grainger County's economic & cultural development.

Black communities existed in the neighborhoods of Blaine, Rutledge, Bean Station, Buck Hollow, Thorn Hill with many of those families descendant of colonization era settlement.

After National Emancipation in 1863, Black residents began the work of establishing schools for their children, as well as the spiritual & social infrastructure. As far as we know, schools for Black children existed in Bean Station, Blaine, Rutledge & Thorn Hill. To attend school beyond primary grades, students had to travel out of the county to continue their education. Morristown College High School, Rogersville's Swift Memorial High, Nelson-Merry in Jefferson City & Knoxville's Austin High were surrounding schools utilized by these out-of-town pupils.

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Thorn Hill Colored School Students



One of the most impressive components of Black life in Grainger County is the history of Henderson's Chapel AME Zion church.

The Henderson Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church organized in the area sometime around 1833, although there are no formal records to confirm this. Church parishioners first met in homes of the members. In 1887, records indicate that Henderson Chapel services were held in the original County Court House which had been purchased by the Rutledge Presbyterian Church in 1846 when the new Grainger County Courthouse was built.

In 1890 Dr. Joseph Hoffmeister, a local physician, and an elder in the Presbyterian Church, donated the parcel of land on Church Street, where the Henderson Chapel stands today. It was named in honor of Mary E. Henderson, Dr. Hoffmeister’s daughter. During this same time, the original Grainger County Courthouse was being dismantled, and lumber from the building was donated and used to construct a new building for the Henderson Chapel congregation. The Chapel still stands proudly, although services are no longer held there. According to Grainger County resident, Kenny Dailey, one of the last members of the Henderson Chapel congregation, services were regularly held as late as the year 2001.


Currently, descendants of the original founders of the church, in partnership with community organizations are actively engaged in the preservation of this important structure. You can contribute to the effort to restore Henderson Chapel HERE

Many of the original founders of the church & early Black families of Rutledge are buried close by, in these two cemeteries:

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