Knoxville’s First Presbyterian Church, the city’s first church, was organized in 1792 and is still located on its original site. James White, Knoxville’s founder and a devout Presbyterian, came from North Carolina to the Fork of the River, where the Holston and French Broad Rivers meet to form the Tennessee River. He later moved downriver and settled near First Creek. He built a fort and a mill and planted his garden — for turnips in the fall and corn in the spring. When he asked his son-in-law, Charles McClung, to lay out a town, part of White’s instructions were “to reserve my turnip patch for a church and a burying ground.”
Although 1800 is the earliest death date inscribed on a tombstone in the church cemetery, the site may have been used by the pioneers as a community burying ground as early as 1786 when James White’s fort was built. Among those buried in the church graveyard are James White, the founder of Knoxville; Rev. Samuel Carrick, our first minister; Hugh Lawson White, a candidate for U.S. President in 1836; territorial governor William Blount; and Col. John Williams, a member of Congress. The graveyard is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.