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A storied history

East Tennessee Angus Association celebrates 100th anniversary
Story and photos by Glen Liford 5/1/2018


John Crouch, an East Tennessee native who spent his career working with the American Angus Association, including several years as its executive director, details some of the stories and characters who have laid a foundation for the success of the East Tennessee Angus Association for 100 years now. The photo on the screen shows Blount County cattleman John Hitch and his wife who were pioneers of the Angus breed in East Tennessee.
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The East Tennessee Angus Association kicked off its 100th anniversary celebration with festivities at its annual spring show and sale held March 16 and 17 at the University of Tennessee Agriculture Campus.

East Tennessee native John Crouch detailed the organization’s history at its banquet on Friday night. Crouch, who grew up in the Boones Creek Community near Jonesborough and graduated from the University of Tennessee as an animal science major, went to work for the American Angus Association in 1973 as a

regional manager, serving North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. He became director of the performance program in 1981 and served the organization with distinction in that important role for 21 years. He was named executive director in 2002 and served until 2006. He retired in 2008.

The Angus breed traces its origins back to 16th century Scotland where it was established. The American Angus Association was created in Chicago in 1883 with 60 members. And the black beauties have long been popular with East Tennessee beef producers.

“The East Tennessee Angus Association is the oldest regional Angus association in the country,” said Crouch. He went on to list several of the association’s founding fathers and their unique stories.

• A.H. Coleman of Mulberry Gap brought the first group of Angus cattle to Tennessee from Iowa around 1900.

• Blount County cattleman John Hitch bought 180 acres in the area in 1905 for $1,200, selling timber to pay for the valuable property. In 1911, he bought his first two Angus cows, which served as the foundation of the Hitch’s herd.

• Dr. J.I. Higgins, a prominent physician from Dandridge, became interested in the breed and set out to have one of the best herds around. He purchased his first Angus bull, named Idolmere, and showed him at the International Grand Championship in Chicago in 1919, where the striking animal was named grand champion. Tragically, the bull perished in a fire as it was being returned to Tennessee in a rail car. Not one to admit defeat, Higgins traveled to Scotland where he purchased a bull, Perenthian, which earned grand champion honors at the same show one year later.

• Another Blount County breeder, S.N. Yearout of Maryville, established his own herd of Angus cattle and hosted his first farm sale in 1917, selling 49 of the animals for an average of $450.

• University of Tennessee Professor Henry Rankin Duncan joined the American Angus Association in 1915 and soon teamed up with Hitch to start the Blount County Aberdeen Association. The Blount County association evolved into the East Tennessee Angus Association in 1918.

“Since its beginning, there has always been a strong interest in the breed in East Tennessee,” said Crouch. “You hear a lot about the larger breeders, but there are also a lot of smaller breeders, which you often find on small farms like many of those in the area. With an organization like this, the breeders can work together in promotion, advertising, and merchandising cattle. There are also a lot of educational programs to help the producers learn about the business, the breeding, the feeding, and the marketing.”

The Certified Angus Beef Program that was developed in 1978 has also given a boost to the prolific beef breed, stressed Crouch.

“Last year, that program marketed more than 1 billion pounds of Certified Angus Beef,” he said. “The next five breeds of beef cattle in the United States do not equal the numbers of Angus.

“The breed has built incredible records and genetic values that breeders can use in selecting stock to improve their program.”

The banquet concluded on Friday night with the presentation of the association’s 2018 scholarships to Caitlin Winburn and Avery Mason and a benefit auction that raised more than $11,000 for the association’s scholarship program.

Saturday’s 5th Annual UT Institute of Agriculture Angus Production Sale featured 55 lots of registered Angus cattle, including 16 lots from the herd of the East Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center. There were halter-broke females, cow/calf pairs (3 N 1 Packages), and a select set of bulls that met requirements for the Tennessee Ag Enhancement Program.

“It is a smaller group than we would have liked to have had for our 100th anniversary,” said Mark Starnes, ETAA president. “But the quality is excellent.”

The anniversary celebration will continue with a special ETAA Tour on Friday and Saturday, Aug. 24 and 25, based from the Airport Hotel in Alcoa. On Friday, participants will tour Mountain View Ranch in Morristown, Grassy Valley Farm in Greeneville, and Powell Farms in Limestone before concluding with a barbecue dinner and program that night. The group will return to Alcoa after dinner. On Saturday, Aug. 25, the ETAA group will be treated to a special tour of the UT Veterinary School and a behind-the-scenes tour of Neyland Stadium as guests of the UT Athletic Department. A lunch and program will be held in a UT skybox.

For more information, or to register for the event, visit the ETAA website at

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