Rogersville has been on the map for longer than the United States has been a country, so they know a little something about history. When you pair Rogersville’s heritage with slow cooked barbecue and a Main Street decked out in classic hot rods, you end up with a pretty sweet combination.
Having a family of four, I am always looking for new places to go on the weekends. My family loves the outdoors, southern cooking, exploring history and shopping. As it turns out… Rogersville has all of those things.
Rogersville was settled in 1775 by the grandparents of David Crockett and then sold to Thomas Amis (pronounced a-mee), after an American Indian attack. We started our visit to Rogersville at the Amis Mill Historic Site & Visitor Center. The property is owned by Jake and Wendy Jacobs. Wendy is the fifth great-granddaughter of Thomas Amis, so it’s pretty neat that the family has maintained ownership of the site since 1780. I pulled into the parking lot, taking note of the beautiful landscaping, well-maintained grounds and serenity of the adjacent river and waterfall. To our right, on the banks of Big Creek, a wedding rehearsal was underway and behind the restaurant in the pavilion, caterers were setting up for the rehearsal dinner.
We were met by Jake who ushered us onto a golf cart and whisked us down the driveway. Just across the main road by the creek, he showed us where settlers and explorers would ford the river. He explained that Rogersville was known as the gateway to the West for the Tennessee area. Just to the left of that riverbank, you can see the remains of the original bridge that spanned the river to allow for more (and drier) exploration.
Back across the road, Jake showed us the location of the Battle of Big Creek, a clash between General Ransom and the Confederate Army versus General Jones and the Union Army. A secluded park and plaque memorialized the area. It was a nice, quiet place for a picnic lunch or to stretch your legs after a long drive.
Just past the park is the visitor center. It’s free (which is a great price) and open to the public. Inside the completely restored historic house that dates from the 1850s, the Jacobs have installed a fascinating historical account of the Amis family and the town of Rogersville, starting with the Native Americans who originally settled the area. Be sure to take a few minutes and sit in one of the rocking chairs on the back porch overlooking the creek.
To complete the tour, Jake took us back up the hill, past the restaurant, pointing out the birdhouse trail, the old wagon road, the wedding gazebo and a log cabin that they are reconstructing on the site of the original blacksmith shop. At the very top of the hill, we came to the Amis house. This stone house has been added onto over time, but the original structure is intact.
Jake dropped us off at the Amis Mill Eatery for a delicious dinner. We knew we were in for a treat when we could smell the smoker cooking up pork and ribs from the front porch. Since it was a beautiful day outside, we opted to eat on the patio overlooking the creek, dam and old mill. The menu is widely varied, but focused mainly on Cajun, seafood, steak and BBQ. After placing our orders, my wife and I walked down the crafted stone steps to the creek to enjoy the cool breeze and serenity of the flowing water. The sluice gate and walls of the original mill are still intact. There is plenty of space next to the creek to spread out a blanket and read a good book under the trees.
We got back to the patio just in time for our server, Kara, to bring our food out. My wife ordered the Big Creek sirloin with grilled shrimp, I selected the Cajun sampler, my older daughter picked the BBQ pork ribs and my younger daughter chose chicken tenders and macaroni. And a treat it was! The sirloin was flavorful and juicy, topped with fresh grilled shrimp. The owners lived in Louisiana for a while, so the Cajun sampler was an authentic trio of gumbo, jambalaya and red beans with rice. It also came with crispy crawfish tails and cornbread. The ribs were smoked on site with a flavorful dry-rub, completely tender and served with a delicious BBQ sauce on the side. Finally, the kids meal was everything my nine-year-old wanted and more. Portion sizes are huge…you won’t leave hungry. We didn’t have room for dessert, but the house made selections sounded simply tantalizing. Oh, and if you have dietary concerns, just ask your server. They have a separate allergen menu. With the beautiful views, laid-back atmosphere, friendly service, and outstanding food, Amis Mill Eatery is a must when visiting Northeast Tennessee.
Just a couple miles down the road is Historic downtown Rogersville. A crowd of all ages had descended upon the second oldest town in Tennessee for the Main Street Cruise-In, offered the second Friday of each month, May through October from 6 to 9 p.m. What a neat experience for the family! We strolled among more than a hundred pre-1980 restored cars, trucks and other autos. My younger daughter was amazed by how different cars looked in the 40s and 50s. My older daughter, recently turned 16, started picking out her car, and landed on a 1965 Mustang, shiny red with white racing stripes. I was most impressed by a 1968 Camaro’s elaborate blue upholstery and restored chrome. The car show stretches for a quarter mile down Main Street and along several side streets, so be sure to bring your walking shoes. The event also included live music in the town square with plenty of trees for shade if you chose to bring some lawn chairs. Hale Springs Inn was closed for a private event, but several of the locals told us it was a great place for cocktails and dinner.
And of course, my wife was interested in all of the locally owned shops and antiques along the way. She loved poking around the knick-knacks and home decor sections of the antique shops. She particularly liked LuElla’s Gift Market, especially the kitchenware, dishes and wall hangings. She even purchased a few unique items for Christmas gifts (seven months early). She also enjoyed exploring the Mountain Star Mall, looking at the handmade and reclaimed items, jewelry and gifts.
Historic Rogersville offered just what we were looking for in an escape from the ordinary. Our Friday evening turned into a great experience with great memories, all within an hour’s drive from home.
For information on what to do, where to eat and more fun in Rogersville, go to www.rogersvillechamber.us.