Adair Park and Greenway History
John Adair (1732-1827) was the first Fountain City settler. In 1791, he came to Grassy Valley, as the area was then called, and built a house, in what came to be known as Adair Station and much later as Fountain City.
John Adair was born in the Province of Ulster in the north of Ireland in 1732. Upon arriving in America in 1771, he and his wife, Ellen Crawford Adair, landed in Baltimore, Maryland. A year later, the couple moved to Pennsylvania where they lived a short time. John Adair became interested in the pending settlements in North Carolina and joined a group that moved to Sullivan County, North Carolina (now Tennessee) in 1772 or 1773. The Adairs lived near the present city of Bristol, Tennessee for about 12 years.
As his reputation grew in the community, the governor of North Carolina appointed him the entry-taker of the county in 1776. His duties included collecting the small fees charged by the State for lands granted to settlers.
By the summer of 1780 the British had overrun the South and the morale of the patriots was poor as a result. Lord Cornwallis had dispatched Major Patrick Ferguson to put a stop to guerilla forays, some of which were conducted by patriots from the Watauga Settlements on Upper East Tennessee. Ferguson threatened to cross the mountains, burn the Wataugans’ homes. When Colonels Isaac Shelby and John Sevier heard this, they made plans to meet Ferguson instead of waiting for his attack. The Wataugans pledged their aid, but they needed money to buy equipment, ammunition and food. They had no money, since it had been spent in buying their land and building their homes. But Shelby and Sevier thought of John Adair whose entry-taker funds (about $13,000) were all that were available. When they made their request, Adair’s reply revealed his patriotism:
"Colonel Sevier, I have no authority by law to make deposition of this money. It belongs to the impoverished treasury of North Carolina, and I dare not appropriate one cent of it to any purpose. But, if the country is overrun by the British, liberty is gone. Let the money go too. Take it. If the enemy, by its use, is driven from the country, I can trust that country to justify and vindicate my conduct. Take it."
The Overmountain Men from Watauga contributed considerably to victory at King’s Mountain in October of 1781, a turning point in the war. The battle was won, and Ferguson was killed. Lord Cornwallis, moved his army into Eastern Virginia and surrendered to General George Washington at Yorktown, ending the war. Shelby and Sevier kept their pledge to refund the money Adair had provided, and the Treasury of the North Carolina was repaid on January 31, 1782.
In 1788, the State of North Carolina granted John Adair a section of land (640 acres) in Hawkins County (now Knox County), Tennessee in recognition of his services to the country. The square mile of wilderness land extended from what is now Jacksboro Pike to the campus of Gresham Middle School in present day Fountain City. A white oak that stood on the Baum’s Greenhouse property as late as 1976 marked the southeastern edge. Adair built a log cabin around the intersection of Sanders Lane and Broadway today. Water was supplied by two springs outside Adair’s Station (or Fort Adair). Although attacked by Native Americans on several occasions, it was never captured.
Adair’s neighbors were five miles away at White’s Fort (now downtown Knoxville), where General James White and James Conner, had settled during the same time period. The Adair family took their grain to the miller there and attended church at the First Presbyterian Church.
One of the most traveled routes to the Cumberland Settlements (Nashville) was Emory Road (once known as the Cumberland Trace or Cumberland Road). Settlers gathered at the foot of Clinch Mountain and were conducted to Nashville by the Cumberland Guard (North Carolina militiamen). In 1787, the route was so heavily traveled that the Assembly authorized the militia to widen and level the road to accommodate the many travelers. In 1788, John Adair was named Commissioner in charge of purchasing supplies for the Guard. He opened a supply depot for that purpose and took advantage of the travelers who crossed Beaver Ridge, then Hind’s Valley across Black Oak Ridge and into the Fort in Grassy Valley. The settlers followed the old Indian path near the former location of the Belcaro estate through what is now the Lynnhurst Cemetery property and to Adair’s Fort. His business did well, as the fort was the last place where one could purchase supplies before plunging into the wilderness.
Adair was one of Knoxville’s first commissioners. He became one of the members of the first Knox County Court in 1792, and he was named a member of the first board of trustees of Blount College (later the University of Tennessee) in 1794. He became a member of the Constitutional Convention that would design the first Constitution for the State of Tennessee. In 1796 and 1800, he was a Presidential Elector. John Adair was also chosen as one of the original elders of First Presbyterian Church.
John Adair died on February 24, 1827 at the age of 95. He and his wife were buried on his farm, now a part of Lynnhurst Cemetery. The couple had two children, Mary Adair and John Adair, Jr. The following is Adair’s obituary in the Knoxville Register:
"DIED--On February 24, 1827, at his residence in this County, John Adair, Esq., at the advanced age of nine-five years. He was among the early settlers in this County, a man of enterprise and respectability, for many years an Elder in the Presbyterian Church; unblemished in his deportment with the world, and continued to the end to evince the integrity of his heart and sincerity of his profession."