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Grave of First Dead White Man in Tennessee.
All roads lead to Jesse Duncan's grave.

Grave of First Dead White Man in Tennessee

Field review by the editors.

Johnson City, Tennessee

Unlucky Jesse Duncan gained his postmortem fame in 1765, when he strayed too far from a scouting party and was scalped by Indians. "First White Man That Died in Tenn. Killed by The Indians" it says on his formerly lonely tombstone.

First White Man That Died in Tenn.
Jesse's wife has the slab in the background. His tombstone was formerly to the left, on the far side of the road.

Formerly, we say, because for over 250 years it languished forgotten in the woods, spotted with lichens, in a tiny grave plot encircled by two fences, each sagging with age. Anyone who wanted to visit Jesse Duncan had to risk chiggers and ticks.

Then in 2018 the land was sold to a subdivision developer. A road was built back to the grave. The tombstone was moved into the center of a dead-end turnaround. A modern in-ground marker was added next to Jesse for the grave of his wife. Their former burial spot, however, is outside the turnaround, in a plot apparently intended for a future house -- and anyone who's watched the original Poltergeist knows that developers sometimes move tombstones but not ancestral remains. It would probably be best if they don't try to dig a basement.

Although Jesse Duncan didn't realize it, he died so that Tennessee's future settlers would have the freedom to move his tombstone into a traffic circle -- and make his grave much easier to visit.

Grave of First Dead White Man in Tennessee

Duncan's Retreat Drive, Johnson City, TN
North of town. From TN-36/N. Roan St. turn east at the stoplight onto Carroll Creek Rd. Drive two miles. Turn right at the stone entry walls onto Duncan's Retreat Drive. Drive a half-mile to the end of the road. You'll see the monument straight ahead.
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