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Rogersville has romantic origins

6:00 PM, Feb 14, 2013   |    comments
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Hawkins County Courthouse is downtown Rogersville.

One East Tennessee town really has a romantic feel to it because its origin can be traced back to a real love story.

Joseph and Mary Rogers started an epic tale of romance in Rogersville.

"I am Joseph and Mary's 4th great grandson," Justin Henderson said.

To understand the story of the star-crossed lovers you must pay a visit to where it all began.

"The house we're sitting is the Thomas Amis house. It was built in 1781 by Thomas Amis who was a member of the North Carolina legislature and also a Captain in the NC 3rd Regiment Continental army," he said. "As part of his patriotism and his loyalty towards the cause, the Federal Government allotted him 1,000 acres. He moved here and started building this house in 1871."

While Amis was building a life for his family an Irish immigrant named Joseph Rogers was settling into a new life in America.

"Joseph Rogers made his way down to this region which would have been frontier land and he was looking for work and found this property and found work as a clerk in one of the stores here on the Amis property," he said.

Joseph Rogers also found Loveith Amis' daughter, Mary.

"The story goes they fell in love and at one point Thomas was called away," he said. "He comes back to the property and finds that his daughter had eloped against his consent with this clerk... There was some bad blood but within a few years they must have mended their fences because Thomas helped Joseph and Mary acquire 200 acres in what is today Rogersville."

To make ends meet Joseph and Mary operated a tavern on a site once owned by Davy Crockett's grandparents.

"The cabin was burned to the ground by a Cherokee native attack, killing the entire family," he said. "In 1784 Joseph and Mary would have acquired the property and built their tavern and that's how it all started downtown Rogersville."

The couple ran the tavern until their deaths in 1833.

"They were so close that they actually ended up dying within three weeks of each other," he said.

But that was only the beginning of the story. Joseph and mary raised 14 children, many of their descendants still live in the area and continue to share their love story.

"I live outside Rogersville in an area that Joseph Rogers had purchased on the property that we still own. So it's always been a big family thing. We've always been proud of that Rogers lineage," Priscilla Rogers said. She describes herself as a third great grandchild of Joseph & Mary Rogers.

Melissa Logan Rogers Jessie is also a descendant. She said, "We've always enjoyed the story and felt so special to have that pass down in our family.

Another family member, Anne Rogers Bebber explained that as the descendants continue to grow they are happy to be able to gather at the site where the star-crossed lovers first met. It's now owned by another one of the Amis' descendants.

"The first night that we came we actually spent the night in the Hale Springs Inn and actually spent the night in the Mary and Joseph Rogers' room," family member Wendy Jacobs said. "In a certain way I feel like I was coming home because there they were and I was able to see them for the first time."

Today Wendy Jacobs loves to tell stories of the magical places their romance developed.

"The two would meet at ebbing and flowing and evidently they were the first ones who discovered the power of love at ebbing and flowing spring because they fell in love there," she said. "There's a tree. Joseph and Mary would stop and have a picnic or simply express their love for each other and the tree is still there."

Also still there are reminders of a young couple whose love story continues to be shared by the family they created.

"It's fitting that they were married against, they went against all odds and got married and did what they thought was right and here it is 200 plus years later and their 5th great grandchildren are getting together to tell their story," she said.

In 1787, Thomas Amis even pushed to have the town named after Rogers after he helped him and Mary acquire a few additional acres. It was officially approved as Rogersville in 1789.

One of the Rogers' sons, Thomas Amis Rogers, helped settle an area in Alabama and was one of the signers of the Alabama constitution.

Many of their descendants continue to hold family reunions to this very day.

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