George Roulstone came to east Tennessee from his native Boston when he was 24 by way of North Carolina, where he had published two newspapers without much success.
Packing his printing press on horseback, he crossed the Smokies into the Tennessee valley and headed for Knoxville, the territorial capital. Indian trouble forced him to stop at Rogersville, where he printed the first issue of the Knoxville Gazette November 5, 1791. Eleven months later he moved to Knoxville, where he began publication of the Gazette October 6, 1792.
With no competition, a growing population, and aid from Governor William Blount, the Gazette prospered. It had subscribers within a 50-mile radius.
Some received it by a “modern” horseback circulation system Roulstone started in 1796.
Roulstone published other short-lived newspapers in Knoxville, but his successful role as publisher of the Gazette led to his prominence in city, territorial, and finally state affairs.
He was Knoxville’s first postmaster, Tennessee’s first public printer, one of the first trustees of Blount College, clerk of the Council of Territorial Legislature (later Tennessee), clerk of the Senate of the first General Assembly in Tennessee, and compiler and printer of the “Laws of the State of Tennessee,” generally referred to as “Roulstone’s Laws” and considered to be the first book published in Tennessee.
Roulstone died in 1804; he was only 36 years old.