Known as the “Early Settlers of Washington County, Tennessee Project,” Gene Hurdt, president of the society, said the project features three particular time periods — 1768-1777, 1778-1787 and 1788-1799 — in the county’s history and said so far the members have collected information on 640 male settlers.
“That doesn’t include their wives and children,” Hurdt said. “We want to recognize each and every one of them. What we’re doing is the genealogical society is starting (with) the first settlers of 1768, William and Lydia Bean, who came and built their cabin out here on the Watauga River, in what we call (the) Flourville community, and started the movement in this area that went on to form the three settlements of Watauga, down on the Nolichucky and Carter’s Valley.”
He said the group, including many direct descendants of some of the first settlers, have brought in a lot of information that will eventually be written up and published in a three-volume book.
On Saturday, library books, copied pages and miscellaneous papers were scattered on tables, as participants in the project immersed themselves in their research.
“This is mainly the members of the Jonesborough Genealogical Society that have come out,” Hurdt said. “We’ve reached out to the community, to anybody that can come and help us, because that’s going to take a lot of research. A lot of the folks doing research are writing articles on their families. We’re looking at the early beginnings of Washington County that later developed into the state of Tennessee.”
Jan Teinert, a descendant of William Bean, has been working on the 1768-1778 part of the project.
“He (Bean) was the first white settler and his son, Russell, was the first white child born in this area,” Teinert said. “I’ve wanted this project to be done for years and have stressed it to be done and (I’ve) been part of the genealogy programs and societies ... to try to see that it is done. I’m really excited. I think we’re doing a great job. We’re all working together and that’s important.”
Joani Range-Douglas’ role in the early settlers project is to identify and present descendants of the county’s first settlers with certificates.
“People that want to submit information that they can connect themselves and their family to ... we will issue them a certificate saying that they are a descendant from a person that settled here, up to 1840,” Range-Douglas said. “That’s our criteria for the certificate program. We have had a lot of people (qualify for certificates).”
After moving to Washington County two years ago from California, she said her connection to the area is through her father’s family, the Range family.
“Coming back to this area with all of the history in it, especially being connected to my family ... is really exciting,” Range-Douglas said. “It really is nice to have that family connection, not only through the home, but finding all the people in the cemeteries and in all the records and see that they were here so early.”
The Jonesborough Genealogical Society meets the fourth Saturday of each month, except during November and December or when the library is shut down for a special event.
Hurdt said this year the library will be open on Thursday during the 2013 Storytelling Festival for a genealogy research day and only the first 25 to RSVP will be admitted into the library.
To RSVP or for more information on the early settlers project and the genealogical society, email Hurdt at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 292-1992.