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

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

  1. FAYETTE AND HARDEMAN COUNTIES 1887 HISTORY
  2. HAMILTON COUNTY TN 1887 HISTORY
  3. TAYLOR OLIVER, HISTORIC SULLIVAN: A HISTORY OF SULLIVAN COUNTY, TENNESSEE, WITH BRIEF BIOGRAPHIES OF THE MAKERS OF HISTORY, KING PRINTING CO, 1909
  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. JAY G. CISCO, HISTORIC SUMNER COUNTY, TENNESSEE, WITH GENEALOGIES OF THE BLEDSOE, GAGE AND DOUGLASS FAMILIES AND GENEALOGICAL NOTES OF OTHER SUMNER COUNTY FAMILIES, FOLK- KEELIN PRINTING , 1909
  6. WILL T. HALE AUTHOR OF A HISTORY OF TENNESSEE AND TENNESSEANS. THE INDIANS AND TENNESSEE PIONEERS. TRUE STORIES OF JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA, AND OTHER BOOKS, HISTORY OF DEKALB COUNTY TENNESSEE. , PAUL HUNTER, PUBLISHER, 1915
  7. 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
  8. W.W. CLAYTON, HISTORY OF DAVIDSON COUNTY, TENNESSEE: WITH ILLUSTRATIONS AND BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCHES OF ITS PROMINENT MEN AND PIONEERS, J.W. LEWIS & CO, 1880
  9. WM. T. HALE, HISTORY OF DEKALB COUNTY, TENNESSEE, PAUL HUNTER, 1915
  10. ALBERT HOGUE, HISTORY OF FENTRESS COUNTY, TENNESSEE1920
  11. HISTORY OF MEMPHIS. PART III. BIOGRAPHICAL.
  12. A. W. PUTNAM, ESQ., PRESIDENT OF THE TENNESSEE HISTORICAL SOCIETY, HISTORY OF MIDDLE TENNESSEE; OR, LIFE AND TIMES OF GEN. JAMES ROBERTSON. 1859
  13. HISTORY OF NASHVILLE, TENN.,. , PUBLISHING HOUSE OF THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH, SOUTH, BARBEE & SMITH, AGENTS, 1890
  14. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE – PART I. , THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1887
  15. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE – PART II. , THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1887
  16. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE [BIOGRAPHICAL SECTION] FROM THE EARLIEST TIMES TO THE PRESENT; TOGETHER WITH AN HISTORICAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GIBSON, ORION, DYER, WEAKLEY AND LAKE COUNTIES, THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1887
  17. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE, FROM THE EARLIEST TIME TO THE PRESENT; TOGETHER WITH AN HISTORICAL AND A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF GILES, LINCOLN, FRANKLIN AND MOORE COUNTIES, THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1887
  18. WILLIAM ROBERTSON GARRETT, A. M., PH. D., PROFESSOR AMERICAN HISTORY AND DEAN OF THE PEABODY NORMAL COLLEGE, AND EDITOR OF THE AMERICAN HISTORICAL MAGAZINE, AND ALBERT VIRGIL, GOODPASTURE, A. M., FORMERLY CLERK OF THE SUPREME COURT OF TENNESSEE, HISTORY OF TENNESSEE, ITS PEOPLE AND ITS INSTITUTIONS. , BRANDON PRINTING COMPANY, 1900
  19. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE. VOL 1 , THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1887
  20. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE. VOL 2, THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1887
  21. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE. VOL 3, THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1886
  22. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE. VOL 4, THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1886
  23. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE. VOL 5, THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1887
  24. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE. VOL 6, THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1886
  25. HISTORY OF TENNESSEE: FROM THE EARLIEST TIME TO THE PRESENT; TOGETHER WITH AN HISTORICAL AND A BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH OF LAUDERDALE, TIPTON, HAYWOOD AND CROCKETT COUNTIES, BESIDES A VALUABLE FUND OF NOTES, ORIGINAL OBSERVATIONS, REMINISCENCES, ETC, THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1887
  26. JAMES PHELAN, HISTORY OF TENNESSEE: THE MAKING OF A STATE, HOUGHTON MIFFLIN, 1888
  27. J. M. KEATING MEMBER OF THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF TENNESSEE; MEMBER OF THE AMERICAN PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION, HISTORY OF THE CITY OF MEMPHIS AND SHELBY COUNTY TENNESSEE – VOLUME I. , D. MASON & CO., PUBLISHERS, 1888
  28. O. F. VEDDERS, HISTORY OF THE CITY OF MEMPHIS AND SHELBY COUNTY TENNESSEE – VOLUME II. , D. MASON & CO., PUBLISHERS, 1888
  29. KNOX COUNTY TN 1887 HISTORY
  30. LAWRENCE WAYNE PERRY HICKMAN LEWIS COUNTIES 1886 HISTORY
  31. MEMORIAL AND BIOGRAPHICAL RECORD AN ILLUSTRATED COMPENDIUM OF BIOGRAPHY. , GEO. A. OGLE & CO, 1898
  32. JUDGE JOHN ALLISON, EDITOR, NOTABLE MEN OF TENNESSEE – VOLUME I. , SOUTHERN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION, 1905
  33. JUDGE JOHN ALLISON, EDITOR, NOTABLE MEN OF TENNESSEE – VOLUME II. , SOUTHERN HISTORICAL ASSOCIATION, 1905
  34. J.C. GUID, OLD TIMES IN TENNESSEE, WITH HISTORICAL, PERSONAL AND POLITICAL SCRAPS AND SKETCHES., EASTMAN & HOWELL, 1878
  35. JOSEPH F. WILLIAMS, OLD TIMES IN WEST TENNESSEE: REMINISCENCES – SEMI-HISTORIC – OF PIONEER LIFE AND THE EARLY EMIGRANT SETTLERS IN THE BIG HATCHIE COUNTRY, 1873
  36. MARCUS WRIGHT, REMINISCENCES OF THE EARLY SETTLEMENT AND EARLY SETTLERS OF MCNAIRY COUNTY, TENNESSEE, COMMERCIAL PUB. CO, 1882
  37. GEN. MARCUS J. WRIGHT, REMINISCENCES OF THE EARLY SETTLEMENT AND EARLY SETTLERS OF MCNAIRY COUNTY, TENNESSEE. , COMMERCIAL PUB. CO, 1882
  38. REPORT OF THE PROCEEDINGS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE ARMY OF THE TENNESSEE. , THE SOCIETY, 1877
  39. V.C. ALLEN, RHEA AND MEIGS COUNTIES, TENNESSEE IN THE CONFEDERATE WAR, 1908
  40. SHELBY COUNTY TN 1887 HISTORY
  41. WILLIAM RULE, STANDARD HISTORY OF KNOXVILLE, TENNESSEE: WITH FULL OUTLINE OF THE NATURAL ADVANTAGES, EARLY SETTLEMENT, TERRITORIAL GOVERNMENT, INDIAN TROUBLES, AND GENERAL AND PARTICULAR HISTORY OF THE CITY DOWN TO THE PRESENT TIME, LEWIS PUB. CO, 1900
  42. SUMNER SMITH MACON TROUSDALE COUNTIES TN 1887 HISTORY
  43. JOHN T. MOORE, TENNESSEE: THE VOLUNTEER STATE, 1769-1923 (4 VOLS.) (VOL 1), S.J. CLARKE PUBLICATION CO, 1923
  44. JOHN T. MOORE, TENNESSEE: THE VOLUNTEER STATE, 1769-1923 (4 VOLS.) (VOL 2), S.J. CLARKE PUBLICATION CO, 1923
  45. JOHN T. MOORE, TENNESSEE: THE VOLUNTEER STATE, 1769-1923 (4 VOLS.) (VOL 3), S.J. CLARKE PUBLICATION CO, 1923
  46. JOHN T. MOORE, TENNESSEE: THE VOLUNTEER STATE, 1769-1923 (4 VOLS.) (VOL 4), S.J. CLARKE PUBLICATION CO, 1923
  47. J. G. M. RAMSEY, A.M., M.D. CORRESPONDING SECRETARY OF THE EAST TENNESSEE HISTORICAL, AND ANTI QUARIAN SOCIETY: HONOURARY MEMBER OF THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF THE STATE OF GEORGIA; CORRESPONDING MEMBER OF THE AMERICAN ETHNOLOGICAL SOCIETY, ETC, 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 1788 TO 1790; THE TERRITORY OF THE U. STATES, SOUTH OF THE OHIO, FROM 1790 TO 1796; THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, FROM 1796 TO 1800.
  48. JOHN HAYWOOD, THE CIVIL AND POLITICAL HISTORY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE FROM ITS EARLIEST SETTLEMENT UP TO THE YEAR 1796, INCLUDING THE BOUNDARIES OF THE STATE, PUBLISHING HOUSE OF THE METHODIST EPISCOPAL CHURCH SOUTH, 1891
  49. THE HISTORY OF CANNON, COFFEE, DEKALB, WARREN, AND WHITE COUNTIES, TENNESSEE. , THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1887
  50. THE HISTORY OF MONTGOMERY, ROBERTSON, HUMPHREYS, STEWART, DICKSON, CHEATHAM, & HOUSTON COUNTIES, TENNESSEE. , THE GOODSPEED PUBLISHING CO, 1887
  51. WEST TENNESSEE COMBINATION DIRECTORY. CONTAINING THE HISTORIES AND DIRECTORIES OF JACKSON, BROWNSVILLE AND TRENTON, THE REPRESENTATIVE BUSINESS TOWNS OF WEST TENNESSEE, CIRCULATING DIRECTORY COMPANY, 1872