Before there was a Tennessee, there was the Southwest Territory.
And before Knoxville became the first capital of Tennessee, there was Rocky Mount.
Situated along U.S. 11E near Piney Flats, Rocky Mount was the capital that helped found the state of Tennessee.
“This was the capital of the Southwest Territory, the predecessor of the state of Tennessee,” said Sam Wegner, Director of Rocky Mount.
From Rocky Mount, Gov. William Blount ran the territory.
“This is his base of operations. This is, in fact, the capital of the Southwest Territory,” Wegner said. “This is one of the first federal territories that was created. That’s kind of a big deal.”
After the territory became the state of Tennessee, Gov. Blount was elected to the U.S. Senate.
That’s when he got into trouble.
Sen. Blount became the first elected official to be impeached in the United States. He was accused of conspiring with the British.
Once Tennessee was granted statehood and Knoxville was made the capital, Rocky Mount slipped into disrepair.
“It was pretty rundown,” Wegner said. He added that the house was a rental with tenants, which he called a “dignified description.”
That remained the case until 1940, when someone realized it had been 150 years since the founding of the Southwest Territory. So, they organized a ceremony on the spot where it happened.
According to a newspaper report, a few thousand showed up to the event.
By 1962, the family that owned Rocky Mount gave it to the state and the property was restored. A museum was built to tell the unique story of the historic site.
Today, that history comes alive through interpreters who will take you back to 1791.
Rocky Mount just reopened to the public for a new season.
One of the biggest events of the year, Wooly Day, will take place in April.