If you travel down Bloomingdale Pike (near Kingsport, Tennessee), over near the Kingsley community, there is a school that still bears the name “Ketron” although it has been downgraded from a high school to a middle school and in its present life an Elementary School. Named after one of the family’s more intellectual giants, it honors the place education had in that area as a way to lift the population from poverty to prosperity. Every place name I just mentioned is part of that story. The family has an interesting history.
It seems that the promise of land in America was too much for the progenitors of the Ketron family in America. They boarded a boat and set sail for the dream of cheap land and free exercise of religion. From the Rhineland Pfalz region to the Valley of Virginia they came and eventually settled in the area surrounding Wytheville, Virginia. Mary Kegley has written extensively of the early pioneers of the wilderness settlements there. In Volume V of her work Early Adventures on the Western Waters, she gives a well developed history of at least three branches of the family. Ours was Johann Michael Kettenring, known as “Michael the Weaver.” According to tradition, Michael who once owned land in the settlement around Wytheville, was born around 1735 in Salzwoog in what is now Germany. He was about 30 years old when he came to America in 1765.
He was married in Lancaster County, PA, on 29 July 1766 to Maria Magdalena Marquart and probably made it to Virginia by the 1770s. A survey was made in 1775 for 500 acres on the South Fork of Reed Creek (in what was then Montgomery County), plat book A, p 176. Other land was added to the original purchase by 1782, and by 1815 a tax assessment was made showing two dwellings on 518 acres in the name of Michael Kettering on the South Fork of Reed Creek. The dwellings were each two stories and measured 30 x 20 feet, with a barn and corn house, valued at $3,000. “In the spring of 1779, Michael was suspected of being a Tory and posted bond for his good behavior but soon took the oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth of Virginia and promised to refuse all allegiance to King George III of Great Britain” (Kegley, 311). It is thought most of his family had migrated to Sullivan County, Tennessee by 1809, and he is said to have died there in 1814. His wife lived on until 1841, and died in Sullivan County. It appears he left a son, Michael Jr. on his property in Wythe County. Of the children of Michael Sr and Maria Magdalena, Henry took a wife from the greater Wythe Co area (Susanna Sluss) and found his way to what we now call Bloomingdale, settling around Arcadia Community. Susanna is thought to be from Jared Sluss’s relatives, a family who were brutally attacked and many members killed by a band of Indians in the Sharon Springs area of Ceres, Virginia sometime prior to 1795. A monument to that family is in the Sharon Lutheran Church cemetery at Ceres.
The Henry Ketron family became devoted Christians who farmed a large acreage in the Reedy Creek area of the Arcadia Community.
Henry donated the land upon which a camp meeting was held which one time was named Ketron’s Camp Ground. Later it was known as Reedy Creek Camp Ground, and still later, Arcadia Methodist Church. The family contributed several members to the Methodist Ministry. It appears this family was against slavery, as no slaves appear in the records of the family’s property during the time they were in Sullivan County. After the Civil War, many members of this family supported the northern Methodists as they were reestablished in the area in 1865. Governor William G Brownlow, a Methodist clergyman and leading influence of the northern branch of Methodism in Tennessee, was known to have visited the Reedy Creek Camp Ground and suffered an attack from a political opponent there. The Ketron family were major backers for not only Arcadia but Kingsley UMC, and Ketron Memorial UMC in Lynn Garden, is named after one of the family.
Joseph Ketron, who descended from Henry’s line, fought in the civil war, after which he went to Bloomington, Illinois, where he studied and earned a Master’s Degree. He returned to his family’s settlement, named it Bloomingdale, and established a school which he named after Bishop Kingsley, the most Christian man he knew, who was a bishop of the northern Methodist denomination. The Kingsley Seminary remained in operation until public schools were established, but a Kingsley Elementary School was run by Sullivan County throughout most the twentieth century. Ketron High School was named for Professor Ketron, and even though it is now operated as an elementary school, it remains with his name attached. Kingsley Seminary became the site of a later Methodist Church that remains to this day.
In the late 1950s and early 1960s the Ketron descendants held reunions at Ketron High School. Louis Kesterson took pictures of these gatherings and captured the faces of the attenders.
Henry and Susannah had a son John Wesley Ketron who married Elizabeth Newland.
They lived near the Newland Farm in the Arcadia community for some time. The Newlands also had relatives who had settled in Wythe County, and they were a large family, including several branches that came to Sullivan County and surrounding environs.
They had a son Andrew Elbert Ketron who moved to the Kingsley area, in a home built beside old Beason Well Road, across from Kingsley Elementary and Lucy Road. Andrew E married Columbia Ann East, known as “Lummie.” Her aunt was Jennie Cloud, who married Peter Wimmer and was present in California with him when the gold was discovered that caused the great Gold Rush.
Lummie’s relatives were from Henry and Patrick Counties in Virginia, along the border near North Carolina. They had at one time owned some farming interests. Her grandfather was buried in the Moravian Cemetery at Old Salem in Wintson-Salem, NC. During the Civil War the family lost their farm and migrated to the Cave Springs area of Roanoke County, Va. From there they came into contact with some members of the Ketron family and eventually migrated to Bloomingdale area, and some went further into Greene County, Tennessee, where Lummie’s parents were buried.
Mammaw Smith said that Lummie Ketron was a very strict and downright hateful woman. She lived with them while she was attending Dobyns-Bennett High School, and Grandmother Ketron wouldn’t let her have any sugar for her tea or coffee. She would tell of sneaking to get it when she wasn’t looking.
Andrew and Lummie had a son Herbert Wesley Ketron, who married Elizabeth V J Perry, from Scott County, Virginia. H. W. and Bessie Perry Ketron lived and farmed the Perry land in Scott County, keeping Bessie’s father, William M Perry in his old age in exchange for the land.
The H W Ketron family included: Edith Ketron Smith, Anna Ketron Jennings Richard, Wm Andrew “Buck” Ketron, Jennie Ketron Fleenor, H W Ketron Jr, and Edna Ketron Haynes.
H W, known as “Hub” was a school teacher for a while, as was his wife, Bessie Perry Ketron. There are pictures of their classes from the early days, which I’m including here. They were residing in the old Perry homeplace when the house was changed in 1943 to accommodate the new Gate City/Kingsport highway.
After he taught a while, Grandaddy Ketron began farming. He was known to wear a white shirt and tie while riding the tractor around the old place. He was widowed in 1955. after which Edith and Rob Smith, his oldest daughter and her husband, moved into the old home to take care of him, and they inherited the house from him in exchange for that care. Then they lived out their days in that house as well.
Hub’s brother, Uncle Andrew married Blanche Howard. They lived and raised their family in the old Ketron Homeplace where Andrew Sr and Lummie had lived. The house was sold out of the family after Andrew and Blanche passed away. Lucy Road was named after Hub and Andrew Jr’s sister Lucy Hicks.