Two Local Towns in List of Tennessee's 8 Most Charming Small Towns

John M. Dabbs

Yesterday (January 11, 2022), Travel + Leisure Magazine posted the article "Tennessee's 8 Most Charming Small Towns." Jonesborough and Erwin made the list, as did Gatlinburg, Granville, Dayton, Hohenwald, Leiper's Fork, and Lynchburg.

Tennessee's eight

Most of us in the Tri-Cities are familiar with Jonesborough, the oldest town in Tennessee, and Erwin, where an elephant was hung. Most of us are also familiar with Gatlinburg, at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Less familiar are the others, though some may know that Jack Daniel's distillery (the nation's oldest registered distillery) is located in Lynchburg. Granville is home to the Gore's - both US Senator Albert Gore, Sr., and US Senator turned Vice-President, Albert Gore, Jr. Dayton, Tennessee was originally founded as Smith's Crossroads in 1820, and changed its name in 1870. It's home to the Rhea County Courthouse where the Scopes Monkey Trial was held. Hohenwald is home to the Natchez Trace Parkway and the nation's largest African and Asian Elephant Sanctuary. Leiper's Fork is actually a rural village. It's an unincorporated area in Williamson County, that's about the size of a normal city block.


Jonesborough has a lot going for it to be a small town. The railroad come through after it was already established as a landmark with presidents and other dignitaries of the formative years visiting the town. The state's seal was created here, and it's the oldest town in the state (founded in 1779).

The unique small shops along the main street corridor give it charm. The old Salt House, Eureka Inn, and other buildings on the historic register help keep this town in check with its roots. The town's revival with the Storytelling Festival and a concerted effort to embrace its history have done wonders for the town.

The Music on the Square, movies, and Jonesborough Days add to the mix to make it one of the best small towns I've ever visited. The Chuckey Depot Museum located just off main street gives a nod to the railroad and its importance to the area. I even volunteer at the depot museum when time allows.

From ghost-tours and storytelling, you can go on up the street and get other spirits at Tennesse Hills Distillery. If that's not your fort'e, maybe you can wander on down depot street to Depot Street Brewing Company. There's something for most everyone in this small town.


Erwin gained a bit of unwanted notariety when it became the site of an elephant execution in 1916. Mary, the star elephant attraction of the Spark's Brothers Circus was only hung in the town because of the rail yard and it's crane. The elephant had killed a man in Kingsport, and a judge there ordered her put to death. Some 100 years after the execution, the town attempted to make peace with its history and began the Great Elephant Revival. The town holds a festival and sells painted elephants each year to raise funds for the Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald (also on the list of 8).

Erwin is a great small town. It borders North Carolina is a perfect jumping off point to hike in the nearby mountains. You'll find outdoor shops, a tap room, local restaurants, and many picturesque scenes with beautiful houses and manicured lawns. With the mountain streams and Nolichucky River, you can enjoy fly fishing - or maybe you want to have a whitewater adventure. Rafting is also available here.


We know the people, politics, and charm of Tennessee. The people are generally warm and friendly all over. There are plenty of places where a person can feel at home, whether they are visiting or looking to put down roots. We live in a beautiful part of the country. We just need help remembering it sometimes.

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An outdoor enthusiast with a passion for travel and adventure. John is a professional consultant and photojournalist.

Bristol, TN

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