An American Family History

The Deery Family

Learn more about Piney Flats.

William Deery was born about 1768 in Ireland and was the son of James Deery and Margaret Eakin.

He married Elizabeth Alison, daughter of Robert Alison and Martha McKinley.

William and Elizabeth's children included:

Martha Eleanor Deery Churchwell (____ - 1897),
William Bruce Deery (1823 - 1892),
Robert Eakin Deery (1830 - 1892),
Seraphine Deery Pettibone (1835 - 1918)
James A. Deery

At first William was a peddler and later had five stores in Blountville, Columbia, Fayetteville and Shelbyville, Tennessee, and in Pulaski, Virginia. He owned an inn, a stagecoach line that had eight stagecoaches and 53 teams of horses as of 1821, and a steamboat service between Knoxville and Chattanooga.

William died at Bloutville, February 6, 1845, age 78 years.

Deery Inn
The Deery Inn
Blountville, Tennessee


Tennessee was admitted to the Union on June 1, 1796. It was initially part of North Carolina.



Watauga Pioneer Neighbors
Knoxville Register
March 18, 1822
The Jonesborough Whig and Independent Journal 
14 Sep 1842, Wed  •  Page 4


The American folk hero, David "Davy" Crockett (1786 – 1836), grew up in East Tennessee.

from History of Tennessee, The Goodspeed Publishing Company, Chicago and Nashville, 1887

The first storehouse was built by Walter James, a prominent trader, who located in the vicinity about 1785. This structure now forms a part of the Easley House, and was not entirely completed when Mr. James White, on a trip to Baltimore, met in that city William Deery, an Irish peddler, who had traveled among the settlements of Tennessee.

He proposed to sell his house and lot in Blountville to Mr. Deery, and a trade was finally made. Mr. Deery bought a stock of goods, which were loaded into Mr. James' wagon, and together they returned to Blountville, when the former began a long and successful career as a merchant. At his death he was the wealthiest man in the county.

Late in life he married a Miss Allison, and became the father of three sons and two daughters. His sons, James A. and William B., were the owners of the famous "Allisonia Mills," in Middle Tennessee, and also the steamer Cassandra, the only steamboat that ever entered Sullivan County.

East Tennessee is part of Appalachia. At the end of the French and Indian War, colonists began drifting into the area. In 1769, they first settled along the Watauga River. During the Revolution, the Overmountain Men defeated British loyalists at the Battle of Kings Mountain. The State of Franklin was formed in the 1780s, but never admitted to the Union.

Catherine Humphreys [Smith] was a daughter of David Humphreys who emigrated from Ireland to American when a young man. No dates covering his life have been obtained, but his age can be approximately fixed by the age of William Deery, they being boys together in Londonderry, Ireland. William Deery still has the most imposing monument in old Blountville Cemetery, the following being the inscription:

William Deery, born in County of Londonderry, Ireland. Came to U. S. at age of 20. Died at Bloutville, February 6, 1845, age 78 years.

William Deery was the son of James Deery and Margaret Eakin, whose mother's maiden name was Eleanor Bruce.

He married Elizebeth Allison, daughter of Robert Allison and his wife, Martha McKinley, of the "Fork" section of Sullivan County [Piney Flats].

Robert, John and Finley Allison and John Scott of that section were members of the Piney Creek, Maryland, congregation presided over by the Rev. Joseph Rhea, and followed his family from Maryland to Holston country. The McKinleys of the "Fork" section were akin to President McKinley, who contributed to the upkeep of the New Bethel Cemetery of that section.

This fixes William Deery's arrival in America in 1787. As David Humphreys' daughter Catherine, was born March 17, 1787, it is evident that he came earlier and that he may have been older than William Deery.

William Deery began his career in Holston country as a peddler of needles.Taylor's Historic Sullivan contains the following information relating to him:

William Deery was an Irish peddler who made trading trips to Sullivan from Baltimore. He was finally induced to locate in Blountville by Walter James. Here he accumulated a fortune and for his day was one of the wealthiest men in Tennessee. Late in life he married Miss Allison of a very prominent family in "The Forks" [Piney Flats] and became a useful man to Blountville and Sullivan County.

At an earlier period there was more class distinction than now, and William Deery preferred that his humble origin in Ireland should not be known, as he would frequently admonish his boyhood companion, David Humphreys, not to tell of his poverty, and that a person standing on the outside of his home in Ireland could look down the chimney.

William Deery may have been on of the earliest to establish a chain system of merchandising which is so common at this time, having had five stores in operation at one time at Blountville, Columbia, Fayetteville and Shelbyville, Tenn., and Pulaski, Va.

He later brought other members of his family from Ireland to America including his father and mother.

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783) was between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the 13 colonies which became the newly formed United States.

The Holston River flows from Kingsport to Knoxville.
map by Kmusser

from The Business Journal of Tri-Cities Tennessee/Virginia,"Old Deery Inn reflects early prosperity: Historic Blountville hotel was business hub during late 1700s, early 1800s," by Kara Carden

If it's fair to judge a hotel by it's guest list, Blountville's Old Deery Inn must rank right up there with the best.

After all, no modern franchise can boast as many presidents, governors, and other dignitaries as the Old Deery. Andrew Johnson, Andrew Jackson, James K. Polk, William McKinley, William Blount, John Sevier, Marquis de Lafayette, and, most recently, Jimmy Carter have all traversed the thick oak floors of the 200-year-old Inn. And it's even said - by the most reputable sources, of course - that a future King of France stayed there before taking the throne.

The service must have been really good.

The atmosphere must have been great, too, considering a mere description of the place lured its first permanent resident all the way from Baltimore. William Deery, an Irish immigrant who travelled the country as a peddler, had the good fortune of stumbling upon the first owner, James White, in that colonial city in 1787. Intrigued by the description of the house, which wasn't even completely finished, and his own memories of trading in Tennessee, he accompanied White back to Blountville and promptly bought the house and lot.

Smart move, because it was from here that Deery made his fortune. Before he died, he had amassed general stores in Blountville, Columbia, Fayetteville, Shelbyville, and one in Pulaski, Va. A lavish lifestyle resulted, which included legendary spending sprees such as the one he enjoyed in 1821: He purchased nine teams of horses, eight stagecoaches, and 44 horse teams. At one point, he even bought a steamboat and sailed it up the Holston River into Kingsport. He was the wealthiest man in the county.

Deery not only accumulated wealth in Sullivan County, he gained a wife, too. Elizabeth Alison, whose mother, Martha McKinley Alison, was a cousin of President William McKinley, bore him three sons and two daughters whom they raised at the Old Deery.

They eventually built onto the house and converted a portion of it into an inn for traders, travellers, and the occasional dignitary. At one point, he also opened a post office and a store on the property. Today, a vivid clue of the types of trade that took place in the store is visible. A feather tick hole is still in the floor, which held the cloth that feathers were dumped into from the chickens customers used to barter for goods. When the tick was full, it was pulled out of the hole and sewn up into a mattress, which would also be sold.

Today, the structure consists of three sections: The two-story hewn log house, the two-story frame store building, and in the rear, a three-story stone house. There are 18 rooms, three sets of stairs, two attics, three and a half bathrooms, three cellars, and seven fireplaces.

Ten historic outbuildings were also added to the property by the most recent owner and resident, Virginia Byars Caldwell, widow of Judge Joseph Anderson Caldwell. There is a James King hewn log house which was first used at the old Beaver Creek Iron Works near Bristol, a Hawkins County "Granny House" made of logs so huge that only four logs complete a side, an old log springhouse, and a white frame Blountville lawyer's office. In addition, Mrs. Caldwell also installed a set of iron gates from her father's farm that originally hung at the United States Capitol Building. These date from 1875 or earlier.
The Old Deery Inn remains a testimony to the prosperous beginnings of the region - and a reminder of the famous people who visited it.

Colonial Maryland
Colonial New England
Colonial Virginia & West Virginia
Quakers & Mennonites
New Jersey Baptists
German Lutherans
Watauga Settlement
Pennsylvania Pioneers
Midwest Pioneers
Jewish Immigrants

©Roberta Tuller 2020
An American Family History is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program,
an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.