News & Events



The Washington County Archives has lost a most valued friend, Lucy Kennerly Gump. She passed away on Saturday, January 4th, 2020 in Johnson City. The archives exists in part due to her efforts.

Lucy was one of a group of local residents who worked for probably 20 years or more to see that Washington County developed an archive center worthy of housing Tennessee’s oldest and most valuable public records. This finally reached fruition when the archives opened its’ doors to the public in April of 2017.

But long before that, Lucy was engaged in studying and preserving the history of our region. She became a particular expert on the frontier era. Her 1989 history thesis completed at ETSU titled “Possessions and Patterns of Living in Washington County: The 20 Years before Tennessee Statehood, 1777-1796” used the actual county records of the period to document the cultural and domestic life of the East Tennessee frontier. A later work based on research of the Thomas Amis’ store ledgers of Hawkins County was a ground-breaking study of early Tennessee business and mercantile history. Her greatest historical research project (largely unseen by the public) documented the land holdings and settlement patterns of early upper East Tennessee in the pre-statehood period. Such research allowed her to correct a misinterpretation of one of the foundation stories of the Rocky Mount State Historic Site.

Lucy’s support of the archives continued in recent years with the donation of a copy of her master’s thesis and the microfilm and microfilm reader she had used in her years of historical research. An earlier article was written about this September 2019 donation.

In addition to being an early member of the Friends of the Washington County Archives, Lucy was active in many local civic and historical organizations. As such, she was a great “cheerleader”, encouraging and promoting their efforts. She was also a great cheerleader to any individual interested in the history of our region. She kept up with the research interests of others and always had helpful advice. Lucy was a great support to me personally. She suggested sources that might be used to explore a historical topic, made introductions to individuals who might have a knowledge you needed, and she always had a kind word and a warm smile to give just when you needed it.

Lucy Gump will truly be missed. She is survived by her husband Louis “Louie” Gump, four children, and several grandchildren. For her published obituary, see the following link:

— Ned Irwin, County Archivist and Records Manager




            Funding approval from the Washington County Board of Commissioners on October 28th, 2019 is allowing the Washington County Archives to make two important improvements to the Archive Annex (the department’s auxiliary record storage facility that once served as the county jail).

            The first project is to complete the enclosure of exterior windows on the two floors of the Annex on the north side (facing the back of the historic Jonesborough courthouse). This will finish a major renovation project of the space that occurred in 2018-2019 for which funds were previously unavailable. Windows on the south side of the building were enclosed as part of that project earlier in 2019. The cost of this project is $119,000. Thomas Weems is the architect on the project. Preston Construction Company of Johnson City is the general contractor. Work should begin in late 2019.

            The second project is the purchase and installation of 84 units of shelving for records storage. This will complete shelving needs for the Archive Annex space. When shelving was originally installed in the Annex in 2012, there was not enough money available to complete three smaller storage areas. These areas will now be getting shelving. Cost of this project is approximately $16,000. The project is expected to be completed in early 2020.

            The department greatly appreciates the continuing support of County Mayor Joe Grandy, the County Commission, and other county officials involved in approving funding for these important projects.



            If something is missing, you try to recover it. That is what we have been doing in the archives for the past year. Beginning in July 2018, we began the effort to recover Washington County records that were no longer in the county’s custody. This has including seeking the return of county records that for whatever reason had gotten into private hands or various repositories. Under Tennessee law, public records always remain public records.

          The bulk of these county records were in three different repositories in two different states. There were records at Special Collections at the University of Tennessee and the Calvin M. McClung Historical Collection of the Knox County Public Library in Knoxville and at Special Collections in the Belk Library at Appalachian State University in Boone, N. C.

          In March 2019, the Washington County Public Records Commission authorized County Archivist Ned Irwin to recover any county records no longer in the county’s possession. With the full support of County Mayor Joe Grandy, the archives worked closely with Allyson Wilkinson, county staff attorney, in the recovery of the records. And we have been very successful. Records were voluntarily returned from the University of Tennessee (approximately 1,000 documents) in May; from Appalachian State University (24 documents) in June and August; and from McClung (10,732 documents) in August. All together from these and other sources, the archives has returned 11,786 documents to the county in 2019, a rather remarkable figure.

            These records are especially important for documenting the early history of Washington County and include records from the state of Franklin, slave documents, early Superior Court and Circuit Court cases, the Civil War, etc. Many topics are covered in these records regarding the social, cultural, civic, economic, and political history of the county, the region, and Tennessee. And, as Irwin points out, “we are finding many of these documents join many related documents already in the collection.”

          Having obtained the records from these public repositories, the archives is now focused on recovering any county records that remain in private hands. Anyone aware of such records is asked to contact Ned Irwin at (423)753-0393 or email him at Records can be returned anonymously. No questions will be asked. “We just want the records back home where they belong,” Irwin said.



Archived News Articles

September 20, 2019     Touching the French Revolution

September 16, 2019     Lucy Gump Donates Microfilm Collection

August 14, 2019            18th Century Wills are now a Digital Collection 

July 17, 2019                 Early County Court Judicial Court Cases Now Available

July 1, 2019                   Significant Book Collection Donated to County Archives

April 9, 2019                 Annex Work Completed in 2019

February 22, 2019      “Passport to History” Brochure Published

February 21, 2019      Friends of the Archives Receive Donation

February 19, 2019      Genealogy Society Funds Purchase of Supreme Court Cases

January 22, 2019        Friends of the Archives Receive Kozsuch Donation

January 11, 2019        Watauga Association Records are now Digital

2018 News & Events Archive

2017 News & Events Archive