Tennessee County Histories

In the days before statehood, Tennesseans struggled to gain a political voice and suffered for lack of the protection afforded by organized government. Six counties–Washington, Sullivan and Greene in East Tennessee and Davidson, Sumner, and Tennessee in Middle Tennessee–had been formed as western counties of North Carolina between 1777 and 1788.

Flag of TennesseeAfter the American Revolution North Carolina did not want the trouble and expense of maintaining such distant settlements, embroiled as they were with conflicts with Native Americans and in need of roads, forts and open waterways in the East. The far-flung settlers could look to the national government, for under the weak, loosely constituted Articles of Confederation, it was a government in name only.

The westerners’ two main demands–protection from the Indians and the right to navigate the Mississippi River–went mainly unheeded during the 1780s. North Carolina’s insensitivity led frustrated East Tennesseans in 1784 to form the breakaway State of Franklin.

John Sevier was named governor, and the fledgling state began operating as an independent, though unrecognized, government. In drawing up the Watauga and Cumberland Compacts, early Tennesseans had already exercised some of the rights of self-government and were prepared to take political matters into their own hands.

Such stirrings of independence caught the attention of North Carolina, which quietly began to reassert control over its western counties. These policies and internal divisions among East Tennesseans doomed the short-lived State of Franklin, which passed out of existence in 1788.

When North Carolina finally ratified the Constitution of the United States in 1789, it also ceded its western lands, in modern day Tennessee, to the Federal government. North Carolina had used these lands as a means of rewarding its Revolutionary soldiers. In the Cession Act of 1789, it reserved the right to satisfy further land claims in Tennessee.

Congress designated the area as the “Territory of the United States, South of the River Ohio”, more commonly known as the Southwest Territory. The territory was divided into three districts–two for East Tennessee and one for the Mero District on the Cumberland–each with its own courts, militia and officeholders.

In 1795, a territorial census revealed a sufficient population for statehood. A referendum showed a three-to-one majority in favor of joining the Union. Governor Blount called for a constitutional convention to meet in Knoxville, where delegates from all the counties drew up a model state constitution and democratic bill of rights.

Collection Details

  1. W. JEROME D. SPENCE AND DAVID L. SPENCE, A HISTORY OF HICKMAN COUNTY TENNESSEE., GOSPEL ADVOCATE PUBLISHING COMPANY, 1900

  2. FAYETTE AND HARDEMAN COUNTIES 1887 HISTORY

  3. HAMILTON COUNTY TN 1887 HISTORY

  4. JAY GUY CISCO, HISTORIC SUMNER COUNTY, TENNESSEE WITH GENEALOGIES OF THE BLEDSOE, CAGE AND DOUGLASS FAMILIES AND GENEALOGICAL NOTES OF OTHER SUMNER COUNTY FAMILIES., FOLK-KEELIN PRINTING COMPANY, 1909

  5. PROF. W. W. CLAYTON, HISTORY OF DAVIDSON COUNTY, TENNESSEE, WITH ILLUSTRATIONS AND BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF ITS PROMINENT MEN AND PIONEERS., J. W. LEWIS & CO, 1880

  6. WILL T. HALE, HISTORY OF DEKALB COUNTY TENNESSEE., PAUL HUNTER, PUBLISHER, 1915

  7. HISTORY OF MEMPHIS. PART III. BIOGRAPHICAL.

  8. A. W. PUTNAM, ESQ., HISTORY OF MIDDLE TENNESSEE; OR, LIFE AND TIMES OF GEN. JAMES ROBERTSON. 1859

  9. HISTORY OF NASHVILLE, TENN.,., PUBLISHING HOUSE OF THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH, SOUTH, BARBEE & SMITH, AGENTS, 1890

  10. WILLIAM ROBERTSON GARRETT, A. M., PH. D., HISTORY OF TENNESSEE, ITS PEOPLE AND ITS INSTITUTIONS., BRANDON PRINTING COMPANY, 1900

  11. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE – PART II., THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1887

  12. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE – PART I., THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1887

  13. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE., THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1886

  14. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE., THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1886

  15. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE., THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1886

  16. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE., THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1887

  17. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE., THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1887

  18. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE., THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1887

  19. J. M. KEATING, HISTORY OF THE CITY OF MEMPHIS AND SHELBY COUNTY TENNESSEE – VOLUME I., D. MASON & CO., PUBLISHERS, 1888

  20. O. F. VEDDERS, HISTORY OF THE CITY OF MEMPHIS AND SHELBY COUNTY TENNESSEE – VOLUME II., D. MASON & CO., PUBLISHERS, 1888

  21. KNOX COUNTY TN 1887 HISTORY, GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO., 1887

  22. LAWRENCE WAYNE PERRY HICKMAN LEWIS COUNTIES 1886 HISTORY

  23. MEMORIAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD AN ILLUSTRATED COMPENDIUM OF BIOGRAPHY., GEO. A. OGLE & CO, 1898

  24. JUDGE JOHN ALLISON, EDITOR, NOTABLE MEN OF TENNESSEE – VOLUME II., SOUTHERN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION, 1905

  25. JUDGE JOHN ALLISON, EDITOR, NOTABLE MEN OF TENNESSEE – VOLUME I., SOUTHERN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION, 1905

  26. GEN. MARCUS J. WRIGHT, REMINISCENCES OF THE EARLY SETTLEMENT AND EARLY SETTLERS OF MCNAIRY COUNTY, TENNESSEE., COMMERCIAL PUB. CO, 1882

  27. REPORT OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE., THE SOCIETY, 1877

  28. SHELBY COUNTY TN 1887 HISTORY

  29. SUMNER SMITH MACON TROUSDALE COUNTIES TN 1887 HISTORY

  30. J. G. M. RAMSEY, A.M., M.D., THE ANNALS OF TENNESSEE TO THE END OF THE EIGHTEENTH CENTURY COMPRISING ITS SETTLEMENT, AS THE WATAUGA ASSOCIATION, FROM 1769 TO 1777; A PART OF NORTH-CAROLINA, FROM 1777 TO 1784; THE STATE OF FRANKLIN, FROM 1784 TO 1788; A PART OF NORTH-CAROLINA, FROM 17

  31. THE HISTORY OF CANNON, COFFEE, DEKALB, WARREN, AND WHITE COUNTIES, TENNESSEE., THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1887

  32. THE HISTORY OF MONTGOMERY, ROBERTSON, HUMPHREYS, STEWART, DICKSON, CHEATHAM, & HOUSTON COUNTIES, TENNESSEE., THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1887