Hawkins Archive expands for growing collection
By JEFF BOBO
The Hawkins County Archive is busting at the seams with old documents, but the addition of a suite on the ground floor of the Archive building in Rogersville will help maintain its ever growing collection.
Since 2006, the Hawkins County Archive has operated on the top floor of a two-story office building at 951 E. McKinney Ave., across from Rogersville Middle School.
Earlier this year the state Board of Parole moved out of the downstairs suite, and the Hawkins County Commission’s Buildings Committee turned that extra space over to the Archives.
It’s not exactly doubling the amount of space available for archives storage because the downstairs suite is only about 60 percent the size of the upstairs suite.
County Archivist Jack Goins noted, however, that the downstairs suite is much-needed and much-appreciated, and should provide enough space for many years to come.
In 2004, Goins was appointed county genealogist on Records Commission by the Hawkins County Commission.
In 2005 he was appointed county archivist and formed a group of volunteers known as Friends of Hawkins County Archive Project.
This group was organized to restore the old county records.
In 2006, the Friends group was chartered by the state as a non-profit organization and was awarded “Society of the Year” by the East Tennessee Historical Soc i e t y.
Today, the Hawkins County archive is among the biggest tourist attractions in Hawkins County, drawing people from throughout the country who have ancestral connections to the area for genealogy research.
“Most people come here looking for their ancestors who were her in the 1700s and 1800s,” Goins said. “We’ve got a name index to look and see if they’re there. They can look up a marriage, or a will, or land records — stuff like that. We also have quite a few surveyors who get old maps out of the Chancery Court, but mostly it’s folks searching for their ancestors.”
When the archive opened, volunteers sorted through, copied and cataloged documents stored in the Hawkins County Courthouse basement dating back to 1787.
Every year, however, as the court clerk’s office compiles a new year’s worth of records it give the archive an old year’s worth of records to be cataloged and stored.
“As they get overcrowded [in the court clerk’s office], they’ll send the old ones up here, and they just keep coming year after year,” Goins said. “Right now we’re working on 1960s Chancery Court. We’ve already completed everything from 1795 up to around 1950.
“We copy everything and store it on disk, and then we store the original paper copy.”
Goins estimates there are currently at least 10,000 documents currently on file in the archive.
While searching the old courthouse records, Goins and his volunteers found many rare documents , including land grants signed by presidents Andrew Johnson from 1867 and James Madison from 1822; documents signed by early Tennessee governors including John Sevier, Willie Blount and Joseph McMinn; and the original Rogersville town charter. It’s believed that many valuable documents were stolen from the courthouse basement by local collectors before the archive took o v e r.
Evidence of theft was recently uncovered when the state purchased a Hawkins County slave record from 1815 at a public sale. The state then turned over a copy of the record to the county archive.
“It was against the law, but the state couldn’t prove the people who had it had stolen it, or how they got it, so they [the state] just bought it for $1,600,” Goins said.
Work is expected to begin in April to prepare the downstairs suite to be taken over by the archive. Goins said the extra space was coming just at the right time.
“All the original records we recovered from the courthouse basement are sorted and filed, but when we started getting new records from the clerk we ran out of space,” Goins said. “We don’t have a place now to put another rack. We won’t have to put the records that are used most often down there, but we’ll start putting cases downstairs that we don’t have to look at very often, just to get them out of the way.”
The Hawkins County Archive is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday.
Anyone interested in volunteering for the archive can call Goins at (423) 921-0904.
Among the documents stored at the Hawkins County Archive are:
• 1795-1930 Circuit Court records.
• 1795-1930 Circuit Court Criminal records.
• 1820-1915 Hawkins County Elections.
• 1795-1927 Chancery Court records.
• 1804-1950 Chancery Court records.
• 1868 Civil War Rebel claims.
• 1788-1930 Various Hawkins County Court records.
• 1794-1930 Miscellaneous and misplaced court records.
• 1789-1964 Marriages, indexed by both bride and bridegroom.
• 1832-1912 Hawkins County road orders.
• 1812-1930 Grand Jury lists.
• 1865-1973 Hawkins County tax assessments.
• 1813-1930 Hawkins County oaths and bonds.
• 1931-1950 Hawkins County Court.
• 1931-1950 Hawkins County Circuit Criminal.
• 1787-1974 Hawkins County Wi l l s .
• 1926-1939 Hawkins County School records.
Jeff Bobo —email@example.com
The Hawkins County Archive is a popular destination with tourists from around the country, as Jack Goins’ map with thumbtacks of the hometown of every tourist attests. The archive has run out of space in the top level of a two-level office building on McKinney Avenue on Rogersville and is expanding into the building’s basement.