News & Events

Colin's book


          The Friends of the Washington County Archives will hold its annual meeting on Thursday, June 14th, 2018 at 6:30 p.m. at the archive building (103 West Main Street in Jonesborough).  Dr. Colin F. Baxter will provide the program, speaking about his newly published history, The Secret History of RDX: The Super-Explosive That Helped Win World War II.

         Dr. Baxter is emeritus professor of history at East Tennessee State University, where he served as department chair.  A native of England, Baxter has published several books on military history and is a recognized expert on British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery.  His book on the RDX explosive details its development and production at Holston Ammunition Plant in Kingsport, Tenn., and its subsequent role in helping to defeat the German U-boat threat in the Atlantic.

          A brief business meeting will precede Dr. Baxter’s talk. The meeting is free and open to the public.  Light refreshments will be served.  For more information, please contact Betty Jane Hylton, FOA president at




           A unique set of records not often used by researchers is now available: dower and homestead records from Probate Court. Nearly 500 dower case files covering the period 1803-1969 are now open.

Dower and homestead records document the claims widows made on their husbands’ estates. Under Tennessee law, for most of this period, the widow had a right of dower, which meant she had a right to one-third of her husband’s estate or, at certain times, to one year’s support. Application for a dower was made to court (generally county court, which until modern times handled probate cases). In turn, the court appointed a jury of view or committee to determine the exact amount of property (real and/or personal) that would make up the dower amount. That committee then made a report with their findings and recommendations to the court.

These records can be useful to researchers in several ways. This includes determining approximately when the husband died; where the family may have lived in the county; children that may have been living at home; the amount and types of real estate and personal property owned by the family; details on the family’s lifestyle and standard of living; details about economic and social life in the county; the evolving status of women through time, etc. In some cases, if the widow remarried, her new surname and husband may be identified.

While a dower was usually just for the widow, there are rare cases found in these records where a homestead or dower was provided to a surviving widower rather than a widow and, in a few instances, even to minor surviving children. Documents may include petitions, court cases, drawings or maps of property divisions, jury reports, court actions, etc. The dower files are arranged in alphabetical order by the name of the widow or claimant.

Many early dowers have been transcribed and published in the following book (a copy of which is located in the archives’ Book Collection): Widow’s Dowers of Washington County, Tennessee, 1803-1899 by Gary R. Toms and William R. Gann (2004).

A guide to the dower and homestead records is found as part of the Clerk and Master Records of Chancery Court at the following url:



May 9, 2018                    Mildred Kozsuch Recognized in Naming of Reading Room 

April 26, 2018                Property Assessor Records Are Now Available

April 16, 2018                First Anniversary of County Archives

March 23, 2018              Guide to the Wills Now Available Online    

March 13, 2018              Archives Website Celebrates First Anniversary

February 27, 2018         Archive Annex Renovation Approved

February 15, 2018         Chancery Court Case Files Added

January 26, 2018           Major Gift Memorializes Kozsuch


2017 News & Events Archive