Industry in Jefferson County

I was talking to someone a couple of days ago about industry in Jefferson county. As we talked, she mentioned that in earlier decades people had gone out of the county to work. I’m sure some of residents did go to work in different counties, but when I was growing up in Jefferson City in the 1960’s there were several places to work in our home county. During those years, many, if not most, residents of Jefferson County worked within its borders.

Magnavox was a huge plant in Jefferson City that employed a large number of people from the county. Bush’s, in Chestnut Hill, was also a large plant that employment county residents, as well as Tennessee Handbags, The Sock Factory, and, later, The D Mfg. Co. (owned by the Dennis brothers) in Dandridge. There were three mining companies with many opportunities for employment for Jefferson County residents. Jefferson City had Johnson Spring Factory, that employed several other county residents. When you couple this with large farms, stores, hospitals, and other places of employment, it seemed as though most people from Jefferson County worked inside the county. The county was also much smaller in numbers during that time period. As a reference, Jefferson City was the largest town and my graduating class was 150, quite small compared to now.

As I thought about employment now and during those times, it struck me that instead of gaining companies, we lost the ones that we had. When companies started going overseas to save money, Magnavox left Jefferson city. Tennessee Handbags moved most of the its work to Haiti. Johnson Spring Factory closed its doors around the same time, and the mining companies started closing down, one after the other. The D Mfg. Co. and the Sock Mill eventually closed their doors, as well. These closings had a huge impact on employment within the county. Only Bush Brothers continued to grow and thrive throughout the years that followed. Jefferson County has changed so much that I can’t help but wonder what our industry will look like in the coming years.

Source: K. P. Guessen