Historic Mooresburg

Mooresburg was founded by Hugh Moore who, along with his brothers John and Ewell, settled here from North Carolina in the early 1800's, possibly to work in the iron works north of Mooresburg. They were later joined by brother Cleon, sisters Sally and Elizabeth, and mother Elizabeth Gallahue Moore.  Hugh purchased several thousand acres and laid out the lots for the town of Mooresburg.

Mooresburg rapidly became a very busy place with the start of several businesses. Hugh opened a store in Mooresburg, was the first postmaster (starting in 1814), and also bought several thousand acres including land and buildings at nearby Red Bridge.  His brother Cleon bought the Red Bridge property from Hugh and operated the Red Bridge Tavern (pictured right) there as well as two race tracks. Notables such as James Polk, Andrew Jackson, and Andrew Johnson stayed at the Tavern, located on the banks of the Holston River. 

Mooresburg has been home to several early prominent Tennessee families including John Creed Moore, son of Cleon Moore.  John served as a Confederate general during the Civil War.  William Cocke, who owned Mulberry Grove plantation, south of Mooresburg, was a veteran of the Revolutionary War, and the War of 1812. He was a lawyer who served in the legislatures of several states, was one of the first U.S. Senators from Tennessee, and was a member of the Tennessee Constitutional Convention of 1796.


The Civil War was hard on people in this area. Soldiers from both sides traveled the “Kentucky Road” constantly and families were split between being Northern and Southern sympathizers.  Ota Larmer, Mooresburg resident and teacher, wrote an article about a family so torn by the conflict that the father shot down a Union flag his daughter was flying in front of her house, saying he did it “for the love of my country and the contempt I have for that flag.”  Ms. Larmer also stated that it was during the Civil War that Poor Valley received its name.  A Confederate officer sent his men on a foraging expedition. They arrived back with no food, prompting the report  “that there place where we’ve been is a poor, poor valley. (Larmer,1960).” The Etter family, Red Bridge Tavern owners at the time, hid their horses from soldiers in a special area of the inn according to Gertrude Moore.  A book entitled Miss Nan, Beloved Rebel, is the account of the effect of the Civil War on this area, as recorded in the diary of a young woman.  It is an excellent book offering a unique glimpse of history.

The Hugh Williams family and descendants operated Mooresburg Springs in the late 1800s and early 1900s (pictured above left).

The Joseph Galbraith family operated Galbraith Springs during the same period. (pictured right). Both had large hotels and offered wonderful meals, mineral springs, and recreational activities. An historic marker on Hwy. 11W and Slate Hill Road commemorates Mooresburg Springs and the Williams family.

Another prominent family, the Summers, owned an Epsom water spring and shipped water throughout the country. Their house is at the corner of Old Highway 11W and Slate Hill Road.  The house was built in 1870s or 1880s by James Wright, prominent local businessman. James Summers married Wright’s only daughter and the house and a store that went with it were wedding gifts. The Summers entertained governors and congressmen and used a summer house on the property for entertaining.   It was later purchased by Rue and Cecil Dalton and was a showplace in the community for years.

Mooresburg had several marble quarries, dating back to the mid 1800s, some of which were owned and operated by the Wright, Stamps, and Kerber families. At one time, up to 300 men were employed in the quarries and mules were used to haul the marble to Whitesburg to be transported by train. Marble from Mooresburg is used in both the U.S. Capitol and the Tennessee State Capitol buildings.   


At one time, the Knoxville and Bristol Railroad started to construct a line to connect Mooresburg to the outside world. The line was taken through Bulls Gap to Rogersville instead and resulted in the closing of the marble quarries that were left with no practicable transportation source. Passenger service was provided by the Peavine that stopped in Bean Station.


When the Cherokee Reservoir was built in the early 1940s, many of Mooresburg’s large landowners had to move away and churches and businesses closed.  A number of the older homes were torn down to make way for the lake.  Driving through Mooresburg today, one can still see a few of the old homes. The community was changed again in the 1970’s when the new, four-lane Highway 11W was built.