A Brief History of
Greeneville began with a 300-acre tract of land owned by Robert Kerr. The land, centered on the Big Spring, lies behind the Greeneville/Greene County Library on North Main Street.
Greeneville, Tennessee's second oldest town, was founded in 1783 and served as the capital of the Lost State of Franklin, 1785-88. The area's first European settlers were Scots-Irish who came from other areas of the southeastern United States. The city and county were named for Revolutionary War hero General Nathanael Greene of Rhode Island.
Frontiersman Davy Crockett was born in Greene County, near present-day Limestone in 1786. He died in Texas in 1836 defending the Alamo during the war for Texas' independence from Mexico.
Greeneville is the home and burial place of Andrew Johnson, the 17th President of the United States. His home and tailor shop, as well as a visitor center, and a national cemetery where he is buried, are open to the public and maintained as a National Historic Site by the U.S. Park Service.
During the Civil War, Greeneville changed hands numerous times. Although the state as a whole had voted to secede, East Tennessee was an island of predominately Unionist sentiment in the South.
In September 1864, Confederate General John Hunt Morgan, an overnight guest of Dr. and Mrs. Alexander Williams of Greeneville was killed here during a surprise attack by Federal troops.
On the lawn of the Greene County Courthouse are two monuments that commemorate the Civil War. One is dedicated to local troops who served in the Grand Army of the Republic (Union), and another memorializes General Morgan, known as the "Thunderbolt of the Confederacy." Greeneville is thought to be the only town in the United States that pays tribute to both the Union and the Confederacy in its courthouse square.