News & Events


The just completed fiscal year was eventful for the archives in many ways. Most notable, perhaps, was the return of the county’s original deed book (Deed Book A) on June 1st, 2021. The year also saw the final two paintings by artist Peggy Root completed and installed in the archives. This multi-year project was commissioned and funded by the Friends of the Washington County Archives.

Staff and volunteers were busy processing various court records during the year. The long-term project of processing Circuit Court case files from 1808-1950 was completed, and great progress was also made in processing files for County Court judicial records and Johnson City Law Court. Nearly 50,000 court cases are now available to researchers, and processing continues.

Reference service expanded during the year, along with expanded public hours for researchers. Over 1,600 inquiries were handled. Queries came from 36 states and the District of Columbia. Over 75,000 views were made of the department’s website. More than 7,000 individuals from 36 countries used our website.

The complete written annual report can be viewed on the archives’ website at the following url:



The return of Deed Book A, Washington County’s first deed book, on June 1st, 2021, overshadowed the return around the same time of six historic county records from two other institutions. These documents are significant in their own way and should not be overlooked in passing. Each helps document important aspects in the history of our county.

The first three documents were returned by the Southern Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. These comprised the John Bayles Collection there and consisted of Bayles’ attempt between 1820 and 1830 to grant “a slave named Jenny’ her freedom. Included were an emancipating petition, a court document, and a bill of sale.

Three other documents were discovered by archives staff to be at the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History in New York City. One document was an 1801 court document signed by Andrew Jackson when he was a judge in Jonesborough on the Court of Equity. Another was an 1825 petition of David Nelson to emancipate two slaves named Sylvia and Alfred. The third document was an 1845 court document in the case State vs. Zacheriah Allen.

Under Tennessee law (and that of many other states, including North Carolina and New York) public records always remain public records, and under this legal principle, the documents were replevined from both places. We thank the staff at both institutions for returning the documents to Washington County and for the courtesy and professionalism shown throughout the recovery process, which because of the COVID-19 pandemic, delayed the return of these documents to their home.


Donna Briggs and Ned Irwin holding Deed Book A, returned to Washington County on June 1, 2021.  
See other photos here:  Celebration – June 1, 2021


Deed Book A is home. Containing the earliest land records for what became Tennessee, it lies on a special shelf in the archives’ bank vault. The book’s return coincided with the 225th anniversary of Tennessee’s statehood. It seems appropriate and a little ironic that the two events occurred together. Deed Book A was sent to Nashville as part of the county’s display at the celebration of Tennessee’s centennial. Now 125 years later, it came home as part of the celebration of the state’s 225th anniversary. Both events were celebrated at a major event held in Jonesborough the evening of Tuesday, June 1st.

Governor Bill Lee and Secretary of State Tre Hargett returned the deed book to County Mayor Joe Grandy in a ceremony held by the Washington County Courthouse steps. Governor Lee used the event to kickoff a year-long celebration of the statehood anniversary, which will see related events happen across the state. United States Senator Marsha Blackburn also addressed the large crowd regarding the state’s history and the important role it has played in national events.

The evening was capped off with a mini-concert by the Oak Ridge Boys, who opened the ceremonies with an a capella rendition of the national anthem.

Attending the event were dignitaries from throughout Washington County and neighboring counties, including former Congressman Phil Roe, State Senator Rusty Crowe and State Representatives Rebecca Alexander and Tim Hicks, members of the Washington County Commission, the Washington County Public Records Commission, other county officials, the local judiciary, and many others.  More than 2,000 persons were estimated to have attended.  

The deed book will be on display and viewable by the public in the archives’ Reading Room on a temporary basis from June 2nd-June 18th.


2021 News Articles

May 3, 2021              Earliest Land Records Returning to Washington County

April 30, 2021            Processing of Circuit Court Cases Completed

April 13, 2021            Paintings Installed in Archives Reading Room


Archived News Articles from Past Years

  2020 News & Events Archive

2019 News & Events Archive

2018 News & Events Archive

2017 News & Events Archive