Friday, March 18, 2016

'Tennessee County' - Another of the State's Lost Counties

A previous post discussed the organization and dissolution of Bell County, Tennessee. That post alluded to the existence of other “lost counties" in the state. Tennessee County is another example of the shifting county borders that once existed, but are now lost to history.

Tennessee County once made up a portion of the Mero District of North Carolina. After North Carolina ceded this land to the United States on April 2, 1790, it became known as the Territory South of the River Ohio, or Southwest Territory, until it was admitted into the union in 1796 as Tennessee, the nation’s 16th state.

This 1796 map of Tennessee shows Tennessee County in the Mero District of Middle Tennessee.

Formed by the state of North Carolina in 1788, Tennessee County was originally part of a much larger Davidson County. Tennessee County was carved out so that residents of the areas north and west of Nashville would have a county seat closer to home.

A published copy of The State Records of North Carolina: Laws, 1777-1788 showing the split of Davidson County to form Tennessee County.

Interestingly, citizens in Tennessee and Davidson counties apparently were the only ones who voted against Tennessee's statehood in the 1795 census. According to Thomas Hardeman, a representative from Davidson County: “A change in the form of government would burden the people with additional taxes.” (Statehood results from Sumner County weren't reported.)

This shows the census schedule from 1795, reporting the number of individuals residing in each county as well as their vote for Tennessee statehood. From the Territorial Papers of the United States: Volume IV.

Once Tennessee became a state in 1796, legislators quickly divided Tennessee County to form Montgomery and Robertson counties, once again due to the size of the county and travel distances to the county seat. Thus, Tennessee County existed no more. Today, the area once covered by Tennessee County’s borders now comprises present-day Dickson, Montgomery, and Robertson counties, as well as parts of Cheatham, Houston, Humphreys, and Stewart counties.

This 1796 act of the Tennessee General Assembly divided Tennessee County into two new counties: Montgomery and Robertson.

Understanding the formation of the counties in Tennessee is fundamental to understanding its history. There is no better place to do so than at the Tennessee State Library & Archives. Visit "Maps at the Tennessee State Library and Archives" online at to learn more.

The State Library and Archives is a division of the Tennessee Department of State and Tre Hargett, Secretary of State

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