The Old Stagecoach Oak

Standing as a witness to Hawkins County and East TN history, is the venerable White Oak, Quercus alba, of Browns Corner, Rogersville, TN. This oak is situated east of downtown Rogersville in a corner roadside park between Old Hwy 11 W and Hwy 70 E. A four-sided granite monument also stands in the small park and was erected in 1934 by the U.S. Department of Coast and Geological Survey as one of only five Zero Milestones in the United States.

The monument pays tribute to the Hawkins County milestone of the famed “Broadway of America” highway system that 11 W was part of. That highway system ran through 10 states from New York to New Orleans. Some 45 miles of the famous road from Bristol to Knoxville ran through the county. The monument also marks the original route of “The Old East Tennessee Stagecoach Line” that
ran through the county from 1825 until 1855.

The history of U.S. Highway 11 W was long and illustrious, starting as a pathway for the buffalo and elk as they traveled along the river called Hogohegee (water of many islands), and later as a stagecoach line that ran 111 miles from Abington to Knoxville. Due to its north-south location, the highway carried a tremendous amount of early car and truck traffic on the two-lane road and in later years became infamously known as “Bloody 11 W” because of the numerous wrecks and fatalities. The creation of the interstate system, principally I-81, eventually lessened the amount of road traffic. The monument within the roadside park also commemorates North Carolina Senator Benjamin Hawkins, for whom Hawkins County was named (upper East TN was part of North Carolina until 1796), and John Carter, one of the area’s first settlers and for whom the valley, Carter Valley, is named. The large white oak is over 15 feet in circumference and 77 feet tall. The confluence of the roads limits its total crown spread to 58 feet, although foresters have estimated its age as around 240 years.

Historic Tree, 2021 • Nominated by Tom Simpson • Photo by Tom Simpson