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Newport, TN – The Eastern Gateway to Tennessee The City of Newport, established in 1893, is the county seat of Cocke County, Tennessee. The current location of downtown Newport, established with the construction of the railroad alongside the Pigeon River, became the center of commerce and development in Newport.


The city of Newport has a rich history dating back to the origin of Cocke County in 1783, when frontiersman began moving westward from parts of North Carolina and Virginia into East Tennessee.  The early settlements were along the Nolichucky River, a primary mode of transportation during this time period.  As the word of Cocke County's fertile land and ample water resources spread throughout the region, more and more settlers were drawn to this part of the country.  Among these early settlements none were more important than the town of Newport, today known as Old Town, was John Gilliland.  It was Gilliland who donated fifty acres of land in order to build present day Newport.  The first town of Newport was laid out in the year 1799, two years after the establishment of Cocke County.  The first houses in Newport were crudely constructed shanties.  However, Newport had a hotel, which was the largest building in the town at that time, operated by Mr. Milligan.  There were numerous reasons why Newport was selected to be the first county seat, but none greater than an early settler named Peter Fine who operated a ferry across the river near present day Newport.  This was important because without the ferry the economic stability of the fledgling town would have been sparse at best, if at all.  Both John Gilliland and Peter Fine were active in organizing the State of Franklin.  They were also Revolutionary War soldiers. Both Gilliland and Fine resided in Newport until their deaths.

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