Washburn is an unincorporated community in rural northern Grainger County, Tennessee, United States. It is part of the Morristown, Tennessee Metropolitan Statistical Area. According to the 2000 United States census the total population was 2,508.
Washburn is located at (36.29, -83.59).
While many smaller communities exist in the area, such as Joppa, Powder Springs, Tater Valley, Liberty Hill, and Thorn Hill, Washburn is considered to be the central town of northern Grainger County, due to its access to most county services.
Commercial and public services include a bank, post office, school, library, and medical clinic, as well as several private businesses.
During the 1890s, construction was buzzing all over the North side of Grainger County. The Knoxville-Cumberland Gap Railroad was coming to town. Sometime within the decade of construction, it was decided that the railroad needed a rail yard and depot along the line. The railroad company named the depot "Washburn" after the man who had helped to build the railroad and had secured the legislation to make it become a reality.
Prior to all of this activity, the community, then called Puncheon Camp, served as the seat of Grainger County from an unknown time until Rutledge was established as the county seat in 1801.
The town quickly became a mecca for people wanting to move out of Knoxville. The town officially became Washburn on June 2, 1898 when the United States Postal Service built a new post office within the town, replacing the one nearby which had previously been known simply as Clear Spring.
The town continued to grow well into the early twentieth century. In the 1950s, it was decided that northern Grainger County needed a secondary school of its own. Prior to this, any student who wished to go to school beyond the 8th grade had to find a way to get to Rutledge High School, across Clinch Mountain in the county seat of Rutledge. Washburn High School was established to meet this need. Subsequently, as the idea of centralized schooling became popular, the smaller elementary schools, such as Thorn Hill Elementary, Liberty Hill School, and Powder Springs Elementary were closed and combined into the new Washburn Elementary School.
At the time, both Rutledge and Washburn High Schools had the same number of students, and both buildings were built in a similar design. This design similarity is still evident in both schools to this day.
Towards the end of the 20th Century, northern Grainger County as a whole, as well as the bustling town of Washburn went into a decline. Without the many employment and educational opportunities that existed in larger cities, many citizens left Washburn, and in most cases, Grainger County altogether.
The "North-Side" of Grainger County (the County is split in half by the Clinch Mountain range) seemed to always get the short end of the stick in those days, citizens became angry whenever they thought the County government overlooked them, in favor of the larger "South-Side" which includes the larger cities of: Rutledge, Tennessee, Bean Station, Tennessee, and Blaine, Tennessee.
When, in early 2004, the Grainger County Board of Education decided that a new comprehensive high school was needed in the county, residents of Washburn and surrounding areas became concerned that the county might decide to close Washburn High School and instead bus their children across Clinch Mountain every day. Rutledge High School was severely over capacity with more than 800 students, while Washburn High School had only some 200 students in grades 9 through 12. As of 2006, this situation was still unresolved. Construction on the new Grainger County High School, with a planned capacity of 1600 students, began in 2006 and was scheduled for completion in 2008. Many residents on the south side of the county supported the investment in the new school, but citizens on the north side remained concerned. County officials said that students would have a choice of either staying at Washburn High School or going by bus to the new school, but there was concern that this promise would not be kept.
Washburn is home to the only operating public school in northern Grainger County. The Washburn School complex is a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school housing approximately 60 students in each grade.
Washburn school is home to the Washburn Pirates, which participate in basketball, baseball, and softball. Washburn High School also offers extracurricular activities and clubs to all students (such as: Future Business Leaders of America, Skills USA, Family, Career and Community Leaders of America) and is constantly expanding to fit student's interests.
Community services and development
Washburn is in the midst of an upswing as of late. The community is now served by piped-water, supplied by the Luttrell, Blaine, Corryton Utility District.
Grainger County Parks and Recreation, in conjunction with the Grainger County Board of Education, purchased some 20 acres (81,000 m2) behind Washburn Schools in 2005, with the intent of building a park, community center, and new sports fields for the School. Grants of $75,000 have been received from the state, but are not sufficient to fund the project, which is estimated to cost nearly $200,000.
Washburn received a grant from the State for the sum of $282,000 to build 6,000 feet (1,800 m) of sidewalks in the town, but were never constructed.