George Washington Harris was born on March 20th, 1814 in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania. At five years old Harris moved to Knoxville with his newly married half-brother, Samuel Bell, who was a metalworker and established a metal shop on what is now Market Street. Harris later farmed a piece of land in Blount County where he wrote his famous stories about Sut Lovingood, published in the New York weekly newspaper Spirit of the Times. These short pieces were later compiled into Sut Lovingood’s Yarns. Harris died mysteriously from an incident on a train in 1869.
In behalf of a community, who deeply deplore the death of Captain Harris, and who shudder to think of his horrible, lonely ride in a railway train, without one pitying glance or gentle hand to soothe his dying moments, we ask that whatever facts in the possession of any one, tending to explain this most mysterious death, be published, that the world may know, whether Capt. George W. Harris, died by the stroke of his God, or the poisoned chalice of a wicked man. (Dec. 1969) The mystery was never solved.
- “Sporting Epistle from East Tennessee”
- “A Snake-Bit Irishman”
- “A Sleep-Walking Incident”
- “Playing Old Sledge For the Presidency”
- “Love-Feast of Varmints”
- “On the Puritan Yankee”
- “Bill Answorth’s Quarter Race”
- “Well! Dad’s Dead”
- Sut Lovingood’s Yarns
- Samuel Bell’s Metal Shop
(At the corner of Main and Prince [now Market] streets.)
- The Atkin House
The boarding house, the Atkin House (not to be confused with the subsequent Atkin Hotel, which was built on the same location in 1910 and later demolished to make room for parking lots around the Regas Restaurant) is the site of George Washington Harris’ mysterious death. Here Harris was examined by a Dr. Kraus and pronounced to have no hope. On the ground of this boarding house, George Washington Harris muttered his last word—“poisoned.”
- First Presbyterian Church
George Washington Harris served as an elder of Knoxville’s First Presbyterian Church and buried two of his children there. Gravesites of young Harriet Josephine Harris and George Harris can be found in the old cemetery adjacent to the church, inscriptions barely legible from the passing of time.
- Andrew Johnson Hotel
In the 1830s, close what was later to become the iconic Andrew Johnson Hotel (which was not completed until nearly a century later in 1929), George Washington Harris boarded with his father-in-law Peter Nance. During Harris’ time here, he was devoted to politics and the Knoxville Democratic party.