Long Island of the Holston River Historical Marker
This historical marker on Netherland Inn Road was dedicated by the Tennessee Historical Commission in honor of a site that became the state's first National Historic Landmark. The island is about four miles long and roughly half-a-mile in width and became a site of trade and numerous important events in the 18th century. This island within the Holston River was Cherokee land and an important strategic area for Natives and the eventual settlers who arrived to trade and seek partnerships with the tribes who controlled the island and surrounding land until the end of the century. Because of the island's location near the river’s north and south forks, it became a site of commerce and the springboard for explorers and traders in Tennessee and Kentucky. The Long Island of the Holston River also served as the beginning of Daniel Boone’s prominent Wilderness Road when he and 30 men wielding axes initiated the trail-making in the 1770s.
Backstory and Context
In the centuries before the arrival of Europeans, Native Americans used the island for trade and meetings, including councils and treaty sessions. While there were few organized archeological explorations of the area in the centuries that followed, explorers and even modern residents have uncovered hundreds of artifacts such as arrowheads throughout the island. The region was used by Cherokee for hunting and what would become known as the Great Indian Warpath, or the Seneca Trail, further exemplifying the area’s significance in trade, diplomacy, and warfare.
In 1775, Daniel Boone, along with 30 men, was sent by Richard Henderson of the Transylvania Company, amid ongoing negotiations with Cherokees for tens of millions of acres of land, to initiate a trail leading into Kentucky. This trail, which began in March of 1775 on the Long Island of the Holston, two weeks before Boone and his men made their way to the Kentucky River, would become known as the Wildness Road. Over the next 20 years, the Wilderness Road was the path used by around 200,000 emigrants en route to Kentucky.
Following the Avery Treaty (also known as the Treaty of the Long Island of the Holston) in 1777 which followed a failed attempt to take this land from the Cherokee, Colonel Joseph Martin was chosen to be an Indian Agent on Long Island. Shortly after, he established a trading post which also functioned as his home for roughly a decade. It was at this trading post where one of the first ever July 4th celebrations west of the Appalachian Mountains took place that same year. Over time, Native control of the land was ceded to settlers as the balance of power shifted owing to increasing Native dependence on weapons and trade goods.
During the 19th century, the island was the location of the Richard Netherland family’s plantation which included several brick houses, mills, a shop, and a hemp factory. Other areas of the island were utilized as pastures, orchards, and cultivated fields. Aside from the restored Netherland Inn and Museum, which dates back to the early 19th century, none of the Netherland family buildings remain today.
In 1779, Colonel John Donelson and his men, in boats, journeyed along the Tennessee River and the Cumberland River, eventually finding what is known today as Cumberland County, one of the first permanent colonial settlements in middle Tennessee. Donelson’s expedition would come to serve as a model for following journeys westward by settlers. The model included traveling to Long Island to build flatboats and rafts, then continuing westward along the river. In 1802, a boatyard was established by men of William King of Virginia, and 20 years later the towns of Christianville and Rossville were combined to create today’s town of Kingsport.
The land is now recognized as a National Historic Landmark District. Across the South Fork of the Holston River from the north-western section of Long Island are historic sites of early settlers including Fort Robinson, the Netherland Inn Museum, and Boatyard Riverfront Park, each of which are listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The island’s eastern area mostly consists of residential developments and facilities like a fuel supply yard and an acetate plant. The middle portion of the island is divided amongst corporations and various private owners and has also been used for industrial developments. The western-most land of the island is now home to a multi-purpose community park called Domtar Park.
Dancer, Sachem Great Elk. "Treaty of Long Island of Holston." Red Door Casino. 1777. June 4, 2019. http://www.thereddoorcasino.com/notoweega/index.php/public-documents/139-the-treaty-of-long-island-of-holston-july-1777.
Dickinson, Calvin W. "Netherland Inn." Tennessee Encyclopedia. October 8, 2017. June 4, 2019. https://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/netherland-inn/. last updated March 1, 2018.
"Domtar Park." Kingsport Parks and Recreation. June 4, 2019. https://www.kingsportparksandrecreation.org/domtar-park/.
Ezzell, Patricia Bernard. "Long Island." Tennessee Encyclopedia. October 8, 2017. June 4, 2019. https://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/long-island/. last updated March 1, 2018.
Gale, Thomson. "Long Island of Holston." Encyclopedia. 2006. June 4, 2019. https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/long-island-holston. Encyclopedia of the American Revolution: Library of Military History.
Haywood, John. Civil and Political History of Tennessee (1823; reprint, Knoxville, 1970).
Kincaid, Robert L. “The Wilderness Road in Tennessee.” The East Tennessee Historical Society Publications 20 (1948): 38-48.
"Long Island of the Holston." National Park Service. June 4, 2019. https://www.nps.gov/parkhistory/online_books/colonials-patriots/sitec54.htm. last updated January 2005.
"Long Island, Kingsport, TN." World Island Info. February 20, 2009. June 4, 2019. https://www.flickr.com/photos/76074333@N00/11523602094/in/photostream/. Flickr.
"Long Island of the Holston, Kingsport TN." Waymarking. October 7, 2010. June 4, 2019. http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM9WZ0_LONG_ISLAND_OF_THE_HOLSTON_Kingsport_TN.
Morris, Eastin, and Matthew Rhea. Eastin Morris' Tennessee Gazetteer, 1834, And Matthew Rhea's Map of the State of Tennessee, 1832. Nashville: Gazetteer Press, 1971 (c1834).
Neufeld, Rob. "Visiting Our Past: Long Island on the Holston, treaty to treatment." Citizen Times. October 28, 2018. June 4, 2019. https://www.citizen-times.com/story/life/2018/10/28/visiting-our-past-long-island-holston-treaty-treatment/1742555002/.
Owens, Anne Leslie. "John Donelson." Tennessee Encyclopedia. October 8, 2017. June 4, 2019. https://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/john-donelson/. last updated March 1, 2019.
Summers, Lewis Preston. History of southwest Virginia, 1746-1786, Washington County, 1777-1870. Richmond, Va.. J. L. Hill printing company, 1903.
"The Long Island of the Holston." Waymarking. September 19, 2008. June 4, 2019. http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM4QC0_The_Long_Island_of_the_Holston_1A_107_Kingsport_TN.
Toplovich, Ann. "Native American Trails." Tennessee Encyclopedia. October 8, 2017. June 4, 2019. https://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/entries/native-american-trails/. last updated March 1, 2018.
Williams, Samuel Cole, 1864-1947. Dawn of Tennessee Valley And Tennessee History. Johnson City, Tenn.: The Watauga press, 1937.