[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]

The Name Kingsport :: Kingsport :: William King


The Name Kingsport :: Kingsport Tennessee
William King

Kingsport Receives Its Name :: William King
*** This is new historical update showing William King is how Kingsport got its name. March 18 2021
DiscoverKingsport : Also Read of James King

Kingsport, TN’s Namesake
By Gary T. Clark

The city of new Kingsport celebrated its centennial in 2017 and old Kingsport (Netherland Inn Road area) will celebrate its bicentennial in 2022. Kingsport’s namesake is between two Kings, Col. James King/Iron King (1752-1825) from Bristol, TN, and William King/Salt King (1769-1808) from Abington and Saltville, VA. Prior to Kingsport’s first charter in 1822, these two Kings had business interests in old Kingsport during the early 1800s.

Was Kingsport named in honor of Col. James King or William King?

Howard Long’s 1928 book on Kingsport reviews the name of Kingsport and ascribes Col. James King as Kingsport’s namesake. 1 In 2016, Vince Staten describes a local historian’s opinion of which King lent his name to Kingsport as a classic, “but on the one hand, but on the other hand.” 2,3 The city of Kingsport officially recognizes James King as the King for which Kingsport was named.

In 2021, the namesake of Kingsport is still not known for certain. The examination of early references with current and new knowledge will establish Kingsport’s namesake as being William King instead of Col. James King.

Long’s references which ascribe Col. James Kings as the namesake of Kingsport are the Dunmore’s War of 1774 (1905) and Thomas W. Preston’s Historical Sketches of the Holston Valleys (1926). 4,5
The Dunmore’s War reference is based on the Draper Manuscript Collection. Footnote 75 on pages 251 and 252 is from the editor concerning Gilbert Christian and is copied below.

".. which I have directed as low as Kings Mill where Lieut. Christian is stationed; 75 Belonging to collateral branch of the family of Col. William Christian. Gilbert, son of Robert, was born about 1734. Settling in the Holston country, he commanded a company on the Cherokee campaign (1776), on the Chickamauga expedition (1779), and at King’s Mountain (1780). He was prominent in the State of Franklin and acted as colonel in the Cherokee War (1788). He died at Knoxville in November 1793. King’s Mill Station was at the mouth of Reedy Creek, on the site of present Kingsport, Sullivan County, Tenn. —Ed.

The last part the editor’s footnote 75, states that King’s Mill Station was located at the mouth of Reedy Creek, on the site of present Kingsport. Today, Reedy Creek flows into the South Fork of the Holston River where Industry Drive crosses Reedy Creek.

Where was the location of King’s Mill?

To date, six local authors in seven references place the location of a King’s Mill on Boozy Creek/North Fork of Reedy Creek not at the mouth of Reedy Creek in Kingsport. 6-11
Dale Carter places the site of King’s Mill about a mile up Boozy Creek from its mouth on Reedy Creek. By car, the present site of Kings Mill is about 11 miles from the mouth of Reedy Creek, NE on Bloomingdale Rd. where it crosses Booze Creek. The Reedy Creek Settlement was located on the waters of Boozy Creek/ North Fork of Reedy Creek sometime before 1774 and per land records a man named King built a mill there. The mill was in existence until 1792 and was located on the Pendleton Patent. 11
The Boozy Creek location for King’s Mill also fits Dunmore’s reference of the Roberts’ family massacre of 1774 being near King’s Mill. 12 The Roberts family lived in Boozy Creek area of the Reedy Creek Settlement with Gilbert Christian who has been described as the commander of King’s Mill Fort around 1770-74. 13 Gilbert Christian family moved and settled at the mouth of Reedy Creek/Kingsport in 1774-75.

Thomas W. Preston’s 1926 reference appears as Figure 1.This author copied the latter part of the editor’s footnote 75 in Dunmore’s War of 1774. Preston assumed without providing any evidence that Col. James King owned and built King’s Mill at the mouth of Reedy Creek and was the namesake of Kingsport.

Figure 1

This author states that James King moved to Sullivan County, TN prior to 1774. James King’s Revolution War record suggests that he did not move to Sullivan County until after the war in 1781. James King enlisted in Montgomery County, VA in 1774, served in Point Pleasant Campaign in 1774, promoted to Second Lt. in 1776, served under Gen. Morgan in 1780-81, and was at Yorktown in 1781. He lived in Montgomery County, VA several years before and after his marriage in 1782. Bristol author, V. N Phillips, reports that Col James King’s Bristol descendants and most evidence indicates that he did not arrive in Sullivan County until around 1790. 14.

Thomas W. Preston refers to the Netherland Inn area as King’s Mill. A picture of Joseph Everett’s Stone Tavern Ruins which was next to the Netherland Inn is labeled by the author as, “Ruins of the Old King’s Mill Station Tavern, Old Kingsport.” 15,16 In reviewing many references, this reference is the only one found which refers to the Netherland Inn area as King’s Mill Station. As early as 1796 and maybe earlier, this area was referred to as the Boat Yard. 17

Who owned the land at the mouth of Reedy Creek in the mid-1770s ?

Gilbert Christian first attempted to settle around the mouth of Reedy Creek in 1761, but had to return home to Augusta County, VA. He returned to Sullivan County, TN in 1772 and settled seven or eight miles up Reedy Creek from its mouth. The area around the mouth of Reedy Creek was conveyed to Richard Henderson from the Cherokees by his Path Deed in 1775. Gilbert Christian moved his family from the Reedy Creek Settlement near King’s Mill Fort to the mouth of Reedy Creek in Kingsport. He built a large log house called Walnut Hill and lived the rest of his life there. Gilbert Christian was Kingsport’s first permanent settler in 1775. 18 His 850 acres of land was from two North Caroline land grants, No. 25 and 609, issued in 1782 and 1793, respectively. This land included the area around the mouth of Reedy Creek and a portion of old and new Kingsport. No land records have been found to indicate that Col. James King ever owned any land around the mouth of Reedy Creek. 19

New reference cited for William King being the namesake of Kingsport.

New information for Kingsport’s namesake being William King instead of Col. James King was found in L. R. Ahern Jr.’s collection located in the Kingsport Library Archives. This local historian had been shown a petition by the TN State Library and Archives’ personnel in 1954. 20 He also mentioned this petition in a Kingsport Times response to local historian, Raymond F. Hunt’s Kingsport Times article entitled Kingsport Has Had Many Names. Per his Letter to the Editor. 21

"when 1822 came around, and the citizens felt they needed to be incorporated as a town, they asked for the name Kingsport, in honor of the late William King, Esquire, who organized and caused the growth of this town as a prosperous river port."

Then in 1956, Ahern requested a copy of this petition. But the TN State Library and Archives ’ personnel could not locate it. A recent request for a copy yielded the same result.

Which King contributed the most to the growth and prosperity of the old Kingsport area from 1800 to its charter in 1822?

Property records show that both Kings bought adjacent lots in Christianville on the same day in 1802. William King purchased the current Netherland Inn and river property to establish his boatyard. King’s Boat Yard was a vast operation with 1.2 million pounds of salt shipped annually to river ports downstream. King’s Boat Yard included a boarding house/Netherland Inn, stables, wharf, scale shed and two warehouses. One warehouse could store 1.6 million pounds of salt. In March of 1816, 403,050 pounds of salt and 28,267 pounds of iron were shipped from King’s Boat Yard.

Many loggers, lumbermen, flatboat builders, waggoners hauling salt from Saltville, stable personnel, warehouse workers, clerks, and boat crews were associated with the operation of King’s Boat Yard from 1802-1818. George Hale leased and operated King’s Boat Yard and a store from 1814-1817. His store records report that he served 1,168 people in the community and over 43 business. 22 After King’s Boat Yard was sold in 1818, prosperity and the population of the old Kingsport area declined. The population was reported to be 317 with four businesses in 1834. 23

Three years before Col. James King’s son purchased the lot adjacent to William King’s lot/Netherland Inn in 1802. Col. King suffered some financial problems, and his ironworks were sold by the Sheriff to members of his family. 21 The lot purchased by the Col. James King’s son was undeveloped until 1808 and portions were sold in 1808 and 1813 for houses. 24 Col. James King was a customer of William King’s Boat Yard and others for the shipment of his iron products. He never owned or operated a port. From 1802-1818 vast qualities of salt were shipped from King’s Port compared to much smaller amounts of iron. William King’s business had more impact on the growth and prosperity of the Boatyard area before 1822 than Col. James King’s business.

When was the earliest use of the name Kings Port or Kingsport?

An 1809 reference to Kings Landing has recently been found in William Clark’s (of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark fame) Expense Journal of 1809. Clark recorded trip notes, expenses, and his itinerary for his 1809 trip from St. Louis to Washington DC via Middleboro, KY, Rogersville, TN, Kings Landing, TN, and Abington, VA. 25,26 Per the journal in November 1809.

“9th Thursday - Set out after Brackfast[sic] & Stayed all night at Co. Rogers at Rogersville rode fine made 23 miles. - 10th. Friday - Set out early B.f. at Mr. Armstrongs, crossed the N. fork of holston and Staid all night at Mr. Wm. Sniders at Kings Landing on Holston. a good fair made 26 miles.”

Mr. Sniders w property is reported to have been behind the current Netherland Inn. 27

Images of Col. and Rev. James King used in references.

Figure 2 has been used in many references as the image of Col. James King (1752- 1825). 28 Some other references have used Figure 2 as the image of the Rev. James King (1791-1867) son of Col. James King. 29 Figure 2, as Col. James King was used in Oliver Taylor’s Historical Sullivan County and has been questioned. If a photograph, then Col. King died before photography was invented. 30 Local Bristol historian, V. N. Phillips, reports that the only likeness of Col. James King was an original portrait, Figure 3, which was said to be painted by Jubal LeBlanc. 31,32 Figure 2 appears to be an image of the Rev. James King not Col. James King.


The Dunmore War of 1774 and Thomas Preston’s Historical Sketches of the Holston Valleys references are the main, most used, and earliest for establishing Col. James King as the namesake of Kingsport. The editor of Dunmore War of 1774 in footnote 75, concerning Gilbert Christion, reports that King’s Mill was located at the mouth of Reedy Creek, but many local historians report the location of King’s Mill to be on current Boozy Creek. Preston uses the information in footnote 75 and assumes without presenting any evidence that Col James King built King’s Mill and was the namesake of Kingsport. The wrong location of King’s Mill by the editor of Dunmore’s War and Preston’s assumptions is not evidence for James King being the namesake of Kingsport.

In 1774-1775, local historians report that Gilbert Christian moved, built a home, lived, and owned many acres of land around the mouth of Reedy Creek. Col. James King never owned any land around the mouth of Reedy Creek. He probably do not arrive in Sullivan County until 1782 or 1790. Would Col James King have built a mill on land he did not own in 1774?

With the prosperity and size of William King’s Boat Yard (1802-1818) vs. that of Col James King’s business, why would one name this area after the smaller business owner? Col. James King was a customer of William King. By 1809, this area was known as Kings Landing. The only King associated with a port or landing was William King. Without locating the cited petition, we cannot be certain of Kingsport’s namesake. However, after examining the early references and with new and current knowledge, the logical namesake for Kingsport is William King not Col. James King

DiscoverKingsport :: Also Read of James King


1. Long, Howard, Kingsport A Romance of Industry, Copyright 1928, The Overmountain Press, Johnson City, TN, pages 37-40.
2. Staten, Vince, Kingsport’s First Century-An Unconventional History of Kingsport, Copyright 2016, Kingsport Publishing Co. Kingsport, TN, pages 1-7.
3. Hunt, Robert J. Jr., Kingsport Has Many Names, Part I, Kingsport Times-News, Sunday, February 19, 1956 and Origin of City’s Name Remains Uncertain, Part II, Sunday, February 26,1956.
4. Thwaites, Reuben G., Kellogg, Louise P., Documentary History of Dunmore’s War, 1774, Copyright 1905, Wisconsin Historical Society, Madison, WI, pages 251 and 252.
5. Preston, Thomas W., Historical Sketches of the Holston Valleys, Copyright 1926, Kingsport Press, Kingsport, TN, page 43.
6. Spoden, M. C., Kingsport Heritage the Early Years 1700-1900, Copyright 1991, The Overmountain Press, Johnson City, TN, page 163-165.
7. Spoden, M. C., Historic Sites of Sullivan County, The Sullivan County Historical Commission and Associates, Copyright 1976, The Kingsport Press, Kingsport, TN, page. 45.
8. Holston Territory Genealogical Society, Families and History of Sullivan County TN Volume One 1779-1992, Copyright 1992, Walsworth Publishing, pages 11, 17, and 141.
9. Spoden, M. C., Historical Map of Long Island of The Holston, Kingsport, TN, (Netherland Inn Assn., Kingsport Press1969), Site 391 with Draper and Anderson MSS, Campbell Papers
10.Counce, Paul A., Social & Economic History of Kingsport Before 1908, University of TN Thesis, Map before page 1.
11.Carter, W. Dale, Reedy Creek Settlement and the Pendleton Patent, Papers, MSS 0062, Archives and History Division, Sullivan County TN, 2005, Dept of Archives and Tourism, Blountville, TN.
12.Reference 4, page 210.
13.Reference 7, pages 16,17, and 18.
14.Phillips, V. N., Book of Kings, Copyright 1999, Overmountain Press, Johnson City, TN, pages 1-4.
15.Reference 6, page 192.
16.Reference 5, page 46.
17.Reference 6, page 151-152.
18.Reference 6, pages 53, 56-59, 99,109 and 131 and Reference 7, page 44.
19.Vineyard, John Mrs., First Landowners of Sullivan County, TN, 1974, Ozark, MO, pages 17 and 153.
20.Ahern, L. R., Collection, Kingsport Library Archives, Kingsport, TN, Box 1, Folder 11, Letter to Mr. Quarles of TN State Library and Archives, Nashville, TN, September 8, 1956.
21.Ahern, L. R. Letter to Editor, Kingsport Times, Kingsport, TN, March 1, 1956, page 4A.
22.Spoden, M. C., The Netherland Inn Chronicles, Copyright 1999, Spoden Associates, Kingsport, TN, pages 17, 21, and 25.
23.Reference 2, page 4.
24.Reference 6, page 174.
25.Bobo, Jeff, Lewis and Clark Were Everywhere Out West, and Now They are, Here Too, Kingsport Times, Kingsport, TN, August 2, 2019.
26.Clark, William, William Clark, and Meriwether Lewis Memorandum Book,1809, The State Historical Society of Missouri, page 19.
27.Reference 6, page 170.
28.Reference 1, page 38. Taylor, Oliver, Historic Sullivan County, Copyright 1909, page 148. Loving, Robert S., Double Destiny, Copyright 1955, King Printing Co., Bristol, TN, page 17 Reference 5, page 46.
29.Reference 8, page 141. Reference 14, page 20.
30.Calhoun, Edgar, Editor Mail, Kingsport Times-News, March 4, 1954.
31.Phillips, V. N., Bristol, TN/VA: A History, 1852-1900, Copyright 1997, Overmountain Press, Johnson City, TN, pages 1.
32.Egan, Avaleen and McNeil, Nellie, Images of Kingsport, Copyright 1998, By Friends of Archives of City of Kingsport, Arcadia Publishing, page 10. January 18, 2021.

DiscoverKingsport : Also Read of James King

Back To Top

[an error occurred while processing this directive] [an error occurred while processing this directive]