History

Of
Carroll County TN

Carroll County lies on the dividing ridge between the Tennessee and Mississippi Rivers. It is bounded north by Weakley and Henry Counties, east by Benton and Decatur, south by Henderson and Madison, west by Gibson, and has an area of about 650 square miles. The. eastern portion is drained by the Big Sandy River and its numerous tributaries. This river flows through the county in a northerly direction, and thence to its junction with the Tennessee. The central and western portions are drained by the Obion River (which flows to the Mississippi) and its tributaries, Beaver Creek, Crooked Creek and Rutherford Fork. In the western and northwestern portions of the county the surface of the country is gently undulating, while in the eastern and southeastern portions it is somewhat broken and hilly. The soil is generally a clay loam mixed with sand, and the subsoil is a reddish clay. With proper cultivation the land produces well. The timbers are the oak in its varieties, hickory, poplar, gum, beech etc. There are numerous springs, but for family use the people generally depend upon wells and cisterns.

The first settlements in the county were made at McLemoresville and Buena Vista about the year 1820. R. E. C. Dougherty, at whose house the county was organized, held the land office for West Tennessee at McLemoresville as early as 1820. The first entry of land at this office, was made December 6, 1820, by David Gillespie. Other early settlers in the western part of the county were Dr. S. Y. Bigham, Rev. William Bigham, David Marshall, Robert Gilbert who cleared the site of McLemoresville, Rev. Abner Cooper, Rev. Reuben Burrow, Revs. James and Robert Hurt, Reddick Hillsman, William Harris, Lewis Demoss and Nathan Fox. James Hampton, Wm. Horton, Moses Roberts, W. A. Crider and son R. H. Crider (who is still living), and Nathan Nesbit and son Wilson (the latter still living), and Samuel Rogers were among the first settlers in the vicinity of Buena Vista, and elsewhere in the eastern part of the county. The first settlers in the vicinity of Huntingdon were Samuel Ingram, John Crockett (father of W. G. Crockett now of Huntingdon), James H. Gee, Wm. A. Thompson, Thomas Ross, John Gwin, Robert Murray and others. Among the early settlers in the vicinity of McKenzie were J. M. Gilbert (the present mayor of that town, who is now over eighty-six years of age), Ambrose Dudley, Thomas and Wm. Hamilton, Elam Cashon, Green Bethel, Wm. Rogers and John Green. Later came James and Richard Cole, Stephen Pate, John McKenzie and others.

As the organization of the county took place almost immediately after the first settlements were made, it should be borne in mind that every person hereinafter named in connection with the organization of the county and of the courts were early settlers. Large tracts of the most valuable lands of the county were entered by the location of North Carolina military land warrants, and owned by non-residents. Mimucan Hunt & Co. held such warrants for twenty tracts of land, each containing 5,000 acres. In September, 1794, Mr. Hunt conveyed to Isaac Roberts five of said tracts. 25,000 acres, all lying on Beaver Creek in Carroll County, for Mr. Roberts’ share for locating the land warrants, and obtaining the grants from the State for the aforesaid twenty 5,000-acre tracts.

These lands were all located west of the Tennessee River and largely in Carroll County. In January, 1821, Dr. Thomas Hunt, executor of the will of Mimucan Hunt, then deceased, conveyed to Thomas H., Jesse, Samuel and Nathan Benton, the interest in said lands belonging to their father, Jesse Benton of North Carolina, all of which appears of record in the register’s office at Huntingdon. The Indians left the county about the time the settlers appeared. But the unbroken forest was then infested with bears, wolves, panthers, deer, wildcats, the smaller wild animals, and snakes. It is said that the reputation this country then had in North Carolina, was "fifty bushels of frogs to the acre, and snakes enough to fence the land." The wild animals destroyed many of the domestic animals of the early settlers, but they were hunted and subdued until all of the more destructive ones have become extinct. The first bridge built in the county was McKee’s bridge on the Big Sandy. In 1822, and prior thereto, there were no mills in the county, and the first settlers had to go to Humphreys County to get their milling done, and family supplies, such as salt, coffee, etc, were then brought from Reynoldsburg on the Tennessee River. The first gristmill in West Tennessee, was built in Carroll County by Isaac Blount on Blount Creek, on the site of the mill since owned by Joshua Butler. In March, 1824, Wm. Harris and Reddick Hillsman obtained leave of the county court to build a mill on Reedy Creek, and John Stockard was granted leave to build one on the same creek. Prior to this the same privilege had been granted to one Green, on Hollow Rock Creek. About the same time R. E. C. Dougherty built a mill on Clear Creek. James Shields erected the first cotton-gin in the county, on a place near Buena Vista. The first will probated in the county was that of David Clark, deceased, probated in June, 1824. Andrew Neely was the first infant ward and John S. Neely the first guardian. Wm. Roberts, called Bit Nose Bill, was the first man married in the county. About 1831 the Huntingdon turnpike leading to Jackson was constructed. For the years 1821 and 1822 the counties of Gibson and Dyer were territorially attached to Carroll, and for 1823 Gibson alone.

The raising of cotton was begun by the early settlers, and it has always been the staple production of the farmers. Grains and vegetables have been raised for home consumption, while cotton has been raised for the market. Tobacco to some extent has always been, and continues to be raised, in the northern part of the county. The people are industrious and generous, primitive in their habits, and manufacture and wear a great deal of home-made clothing. The United States census report for 1880 gives the agricultural products of the county as follows: Indian corn, 1,018,415 bushels; oats, 37,694 bushels; wheat, 88,396 bushels; hay, 1,131 tons; cotton, 10,505 bales; Irish potatoes, 9,377 bushels; sweet potatoes, 25,099 bushels; tobacco, 69,167 pounds. And the live stock was enumerated as follows: horses and mules, 7,428; cattle, 10,754; sheep, 7,166; hogs, 35,398. In 1860 the population of Carroll County was white, 13,339; colored, 43098. In 1880 the population was white, 16,524; colored, 5,579, the increase of the white population for the twenty years being 3,185, and of the colored 1,481, the per centum of increase of the former being nearly twenty-four, and of the latter a little over thirty-six.

The county of Carroll was organized by an act of the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, passed November 7, 1821, which provided that a new county, to be called Carroll, should be established within the following bounds, to-wit: "Beginning on the west boundary of Humphreys County [noe the west line of Benton County] at the southeast corner of Henry; running thence west with the south boundary of said county to the southwest corner of Henry County; thence south parallel with the range line to a point two and a half miles south of the line dividing the Ninth and Twelfth Districts; thence east parallel with the sectional line in the Ninth Disfrist; thence north to the northeast corner of Range 2, Section 11, in said Ninth District; thence east with the district line to the west boundary of Perry County [now west line of Decatur County], thence northwardly with the west boundary of Perry and Humphreys Counties, to the beginning." The act also provided that the court of pleas and quarter sessions should be held on the second Mondays of March. June, September and December of each year, at the house of R. E. C. Dougherty at McLemoresville until otherwise provided by law. By a subsequent act passed November 21, 1821, Sterling Brewer of Dickson County, James Fentress of Montgomery County, and Abram Maury of Williamson County, were appointed commissioners to fix on a place as near the center of the county as an eligible site could be procured, within three miles of the center thereof, for the seat of justice.

In accordance with said act the first bench of justices of the peace consisting: of John Gwin, Edward Gwin, Senator Mark R. Roberts, Samuel Ingram, John Stockard, Thomas Hamilton, Samuel A. McClary, Banks W. Burrow, Daniel Barecroft (Barcroft), and John Bone, commissioned as such by Gov. Carroll, met on the 11th of March, 1822, at the house of R. E. C. Dougherty at McLemoresville, and organized the first county court, then known as the court of pleas and quarter sessions, by electing John Gwin as chairman. The first entry on the minutes of the court following the caption, read as follows: "Ordered that the county tax be equal to the State tax, except on white and black polls. That each white poll be taxed equal to one hundred acres of land, and black polls equal to two hundred acres of land. And that James A. McClary take a list of the taxable property south of Rutherford Fork of the Obion River, and Thomas Hamilton a list of all north of the South Fork of the said river; John Stockard a list of all west of the dividing ridge dividing the waters of Sandy and Obion Rivers and between the South Fork and Rutherford Fork of the Obion; John Brown a list of all east of said ridge and north of Sandy Bridge, and Samuel Ingram a list of the property south of said bridge and east of said ridge." On the second day of the term the following county officers were elected: Sion Rogers, sheriff; Littleton W. White, register; Wm. Adams, ranger; Banks W. Burrow, trustee;. John S. Neely, coroner, and John McKee, George Sevier and Wm. Barecroft (Barcroft), constables. And thus the organization of the county was completed.

At the June term, 1822, Banks W. Burrow, Thomas A. Thompson John Stockard, Samuel Ingram and Mark B. Roberts were appointed commissioners to lay out the county seat and superintend the sale of the lots and the erection of the public buildings. Nathan Nesbit was subsequently added to said committee. Then came Sterling Brewer and James Fentress, two of the commissioners appointed by the General Assembly, and reported that they had chosen for the site of the seat of justice, a tract of land belonging to the heirs of Mimucan Hunt, and lying on the north bank of Beaver Creek The title of this tract, consisting of fifty acres, was not obtained until July 21, 1823, when it was obtained by said commissioners from Thomas Hunt, executor of the will of Mimucan Hunt, of North Carolina. The first courthouse, built in 1822, was a small log cabin, without a floor, erected where the present one now stands, and Nathan Nesbit, chairman of the court of pleas and quarter sessions, blazed his way through the forest from his residence, five miles east of Huntingdon, to the county seat, carrying with him his cross-cut saw, with which he sawed the door out of the new court house, and entered therein and opened the first court held at Huntingdon, December 9, 1822. At this term the jurors of the court brought their provisions with them and camped out. The town of Huntingdon was surveyed and platted by James H. Gee, under the supervision of the commissioners appointed to lay out the town.

And at the March term, 1824, of the court the following allowances were made to the surveyor and commissioners, to-wit: "James H. Gee, for 5 days' services, at four dollars per day, $20; two chain-carriers, for five days' services, $1.50 per day, $15; for making 480 posts for the lots, $12; for whiskey and paper at the sale of lots, $10; Nathan Nesbit, 24 days as commissioner, $72; John Stockard, 18 days as commissioner, $54; Samuel Ingram, 24 days as commissioner, $72; Thomas A. Thompson, 20 days as commissioner, $60; Banks W. Burrow, 4 days as commissioner, $12." At the December term, 1823, the name of the county seat, which up to that time had been called Huntsville, was changed to Huntingdon. They were anxious to retain the first syllable, and thereupon James H. Gee, who was a musician as well as a surveyor, and who was fond of the old tune Huntingdon, suggested that name and it was adopted. The sale of the lots, the date of which the records do not show, must have taken place prior to March 10, 1823, as evidenced by the record of a deed of that date from the commissioners of Huntingdon to John Crockett for Lot 16. There were 117 lots and the public square in the original plat of the town. At the March term, 1824, of the court of pleas and quarter sessions commissioners were appointed to let the job of clearing the public square, and Jack Aspy was awarded the contract.

The first courthouse, heretofore described, was sold in 1824 to John Crockett who moved it away and used it for a kitchen. It was replaced that year by a frame house 20x24 feet, This stood until about 1830, when the third court house, 30x50 feet, was built of brick. John Parker and Jacob Bledsoe built the foundation, and George and John Simmons were the brick masons, and Joel H. Smith the carpenter. The fourth and present courthouse was completed in 1844. Joel B. Smith and Thomas Banks were the contractors. The rock for the foundation was hauled from Benton County. The brick work was sub-contracted to Wm. S. New for one cent per brick actual count. Mr. New in fulfilling his part of the contract lost heavily. The house cost about $12,000. It is a two story brick structure, with two offices and a court room on each floor.

The second courthouse was sold to Robert Murray and moved to his lot east of the public square and used as a warehouse. The first jail, erected in 1824, stood nearly opposite from the present one. It was a small hewed-log cabin, from which the prisoners frequently escaped. The second jail was built by Samuel Ingram, in the west part of town. It is now used for a residence. The present jail and jailer’s residence combined was erected in 1875, under the supervision of J. P. Wilson, W. B. Grizzard, G. W. Humble, A. R. Hall, W. E. Mebane, Alfred Bryant and L. A. Williams. It is a commodious two-story brick building, containing five cells for prisoners, and altogether cost $11,000. The poor farm, consisting of 134 acres, was purchased in 1852 from Thomas Butler. The buildings were improved in 1877 and later, by removing, the old log cabins and erecting in their stead neat frame cottages. The farm was enlarged in 1886, by the purchase from W. O. Davis of 104 acres of timber land adjoining it. The inmates of the poor asylum average about thirty in number, and appropriations are made by the county court for the support of about forty poor persons who reside with their friends throughout the county. The poor of Carroll County are well cared for.

The Nashville, Chattanooga, & St., Louis Railroad was completed through the county soon after the close of the civil war. It has stations within the county at Hollow Rock, Huntingdon and McKenzie. The Memphis & Louisville Railroad was completed through the county in 1860. It has stations within the county at McKenzie, Trezevant and Atwood.

The following is a list of county officers with dates of service: County court clerks: Edward Gwin, 1822-36; George Hem, 1836-40; Young W. Allen, 1840-52; Wm. H. Graves, 1852-68; Cyrus Wilson, 1868-70; W. H. Eason, 1870-78; Elijah Falkuer, 1878-86; J. C. R. McCall, 1886. Sheriffs: Sion Rodgers, 1822-24; Thomas A. Thompson, 1824-25 (died before close of his term); Sion Rodgers, 1825-30; James Latimer, 1830-32; Thomas Banks, 1832-36; Andrew Neely, 1836-38; John Norman, 1838-44; Jeremiah T. Rust, 1844-48; John H. Boyd, 1848-52; Geo. W. Holaday, 1852-58; Alfred Bryant, 1858-62; John Norman, 1862-64; Joseph A. Johnson, 1864-66; James M. Neely, 1866- 70; Alfred Bryant, 1870-74; E. W. Williams, 1874-78; J. F. Leach, 1878-82; E. E. Pate, 1882-84; F. C. Sanders, 1884-86 and re-elected. Registers: Littleberry W. White, 1822-27; H. H. Brown, 1827-32; Thomas A. Hawkins, 1832-40; John R. Clark, 1840-44; Martin Dill, 1844-48; Nathan Williams, 1848-52; Benj. F. Harrison, 1852-56; George L. Harris, 1856-63; J. H. Noell, 1863-68; Joseph McCracken, 1868-74; J. W. Walters, 1874-78; E. G. Ridgeley, 1878-82; J. W. Walters, 1882-86; S. A. Brown, 1886. Trustees; Banks W. Burrow, 1822-28, and perhaps to 1836; Mathews Bigham, 1836-42; China Wilder, 1842-52; Thomas Gray, 1852-54; Pleasant G. Wright, 1854-58; James N. Gardner, 1858-62, Wm. Harrison, 1862-70; James S. Ramsey, 1870- 78; J. F. Rogers, 1878-86; A. E. Hastings, 1886. Circuit court clerks: Benjamin B. McCampbell, 1822-40; James M. Henderson, January to August, 1840; Joel R. Smith, 1840-44; John Norman, 1844- 56; B. F. Harrison, 1856-70; W. R. Grizzard, 1870-82; C. P. Priestley, 1882-84; A. E. Hastings, 1884-86; A. W. Hawkins, 1886. State senators: Henry H. Brown, 1823; James R. McMeans, 1820; John D. Love, 1829; Robert Murray, 1831; James L. Totton, 1835; Robert E. C. Dougherty, 1837; Valentine Sevier, 1839; Isaac J. Roach, 1847; Beverly S. Allen, 1849; M. R. Hill, 1851; A. Benton, 1853; Isaac J. Roach, 1857; V. S. Allen, 1859; John Norman, 1865; Wm. H. Hall, 1869; J. M. Coulter, 1873; M. D. L. Jordan, 1875; A. G. Hawkins, 1877; L. M. Beckerdite, 1879; S. F. Rankin, 1881; James P. Wilson, 1883; John H. Farmer, 1885.

Representatives in lower house of the Legislature: David Crockett, 1823; Duncan Molver, 1826; Joel R. Smith, 1833; A. M. Cardwell, 1837; Yancey Bledsoe, 1839; A. P. Hall, 1845; Beverly S. Allen, 1847; Granville C. Hurt, 1851; J. W. Wilson, 1855; J. B. Algee, 1857; J. D. Porter, Jr., 1859; J. M. Martin, 1867; B. A. Enloe, 1869; T. B. Brooks, 1873; L. L. Hawkins, 1877; J. R. McKinney, 1885.

The aggregate amount of county taxes charged upon the duplicate of Carroll County for the year 1825, three years after the organization, was as follows: "196,932 acres of land, at 64-3/4 cents per each hundred acres, $1,353.87; 60 town lots, at 62-1/2 cents each, $37.50; 421 free polls, at 12-1/2 cents each, $52.62; 245 black polls, at 25 cents each, $61.25; 9 stud horses, $21.50. Total, $1,526.75." The State taxes charged in 1824 amounted to $266.07. Presuming that a like sum for State purposes was charged on the duplicate of 1825, and added to the $1,526.75 of county taxes for that year, the amount for both State and county would be $1,792.82. It will be interesting to compare the foregoing with the recapitulation of the duplicate of the county for the year 1886, which is as follows:

Number of town lots, 610 - $346,064
Number of acres of land ____ $2,172,067
Personal property $91,716
Other property $4,935
Total $2,614.782

The taxes charged on the total value of taxable property and on 3,456 polls are as follows, to wit: State tax, $7, 844.34; county tax, $9,992.95; school tax, $13,448.95; road tax, $1,876.08. Total tax, $33,162.32.

At the second term of the court of pleas and quarter sessions, held in June, 1822, William Arnold, Robert Hughes, Will Stoddart, Archibald C. Hall and Thomas Taylor were admitted and sworn as attorneys to practice in said court. At the same time William Arnold produced his commission from the governor and was sworn as solicitor general of the Thirteenth Solicitorial District. At the next term of said court, September, 1822, John C. Bowen, John McBride, Peter Honnell, David Crockett, the famous hunter, and Hezekiah McVale appeared, and each made oath to the killing of a certain number of wolves, and were allowed the usual bounty for destroying those destructive animals.

Then came Nathan Nesbit, John Stockard, Samuel Ingram, Robert Jainison and Enoch Enochs, commissioners previously appointed to divide an estate of 5,000 acres belonging to the heirs of Isaac Roberts, deceased, and submitted their report in full, which was confirmed, and each was allowed $4 per day for nine days’ services, and James H. Gee, the surveyor, was allowed $6.50 per day for ten days’ services, all to be paid by said heirs in proportion to their respective interests. The names of the men composing the first grand jury in this court were Samuel Woods, Robert Algee, Joseph Dixon, John Kelough, Lewis Demoss, Stephen Warren, William Patton, Thomas Finley, John Martin, Abram White, Henry Rogers and Peter Honnell. They were sworn and charged at the September term, 1822, and after deliberation they returned into court a "bill of indictment against William Robinson and Hawkins Wormack for an affray," and a presentment against Edward Owin, the clerk of the court, for an assault and battery "on the body of a woman slave, the property of Samuel McCorkle." At the June term, 1823, David Crockett was indicted for an assault, and upon being tried he made his own defense and the verdict of the jury was "not guilty." At the same term the fare at taverns was established as follows: "Breakfast, 25 cents; dinner, 37½ cents; supper, 25 cents; lodging, 12½ cents; whiskey, per half pint, 12½ cents; per pint, 25 cents; per quart, 37½ cents; feeding horse, 25 cents; keeping horse per night, 50 cents; night and day, 75 cents; man and horse per day, $1.50."

William Anderson, James H. Russell, James R. McMeans, James K. Chalmers, John L. Allen and M. A. Q. McKenzie were all admitted in 1823 as attorneys to practice law. The last term of the court of pleas and quarter sessions was held in March, 1836, and the first term of the county court under the constitution of 1834, was held in May, 1836. This court was composed of thirty-four justices of the peace, elected by the people, and was organized by appointing Samuel Ingram as chairman. From that year the county court continued to hold its regular sessions until December, 1863, when it suspended business, on account of the war, until July 3, 1865, when it was reorganized under Gov. Brownlow’s administration. It now consists of fifty-three justices of the peace, with Judge G. W. Humble, who has been the presiding officer as judge ever since 1872, and prior to that date he presided over the court for many years as chairman thereof.

The first term of the circuit court was held at the house of R. E. C. Dougherty, at McLeinoresville, beginning on Monday, April 1, 1822, with Hon. Joshua Haskell, judge, presiding. Benjamin B. McCampbell was appointed clerk, and Edward Gwin, Samuel Woods, John Gwin, Samuel McCorkle, Enoch Enochs, David Moore, Jonathan Dawson, Lewis Demoss, Edward Busey, John Stockard, Levi Woods, James H. Gee and John Komez were sworn and charged as grand jurors. This was the first grand jury empaneled in the county. Then came John W. Cook, Robert Hughes and Alex B. Bradford and were admitted and sworn as attorneys to practice in said court. At the September term, 1823, John Montgomery was prosecuted by the State for an "affray," whereupon Howell Ward, Julius Webb, Walter Connell, Wilson Lightfoot, Mathis Brigham, David Robison, Edward Busey, Theophilus Morgan, Jesse Walker, Nathan Nesbit, and Elijah Wheelis were einpaneled and sworn to try the prisoner, which they did upon the law and the evidence, and returned a verdict of "not guilty." This was the first petit jury em-paneled in the county, and the trial was the first criminal prosecution in the circuit court. During the war period this court suspended business from April 1862, until August, 1865, when it was reorganized, with Hon. L. L. Hawkins as judge thereof.

Only two persons have been hanged for the crime of murder in Carroll County. The first was Frank Oliver, colored, for the murder of a widow lady by the name of Rumley. After trial and conviction he was executed on the gallows in May, 1847, in the presence of 10,000 spectators. The other was Charley Phillips, colored, for the murder of Frank Prince, colored. After trial and conviction he was executed on the gallows in July, 1884. This execution was private, as provided by late statute.

The chancery court was established at Huntingdon about the year 1835, for all of West Tennessee. The records thereof having been destroyed during the civil war, the exact date is not given. As fast as chancery courts were established in other counties, the territory over which this court held jurisdiction grew less until finally it was limited to that of Carroll County. Pleasant M. Miller, of Jackson, Tenn., is said to have been the first chancellor. He was succeeded by George W. Gibbs, Milton Brown of Jackson, Andrew McCampbell of Paris, Calvin Jones of Somerville, and Stephen C. Pavatt of Camden, Tenn., the latter being chancellor at the beginning of the civil war. This court suspended business from 1862 until February, 1866, when it was reorganized, with Robert H. Rose as chancellor, and S. W. Hawkins, clerk and master. Chancellor Rose was succeeded by James W. Dougherty, and he by John Somers, who was succeeded in 1886 by A. G. Hawkins, the present chancellor. Joel R. Smith was the first clerk and master, and the following gentlemen have been his successors in that office, in the order here named: Henry Strange, Napoleon Priest, who died during his term; J. P. Priestley, who held the office when the war began; S. W. Hawkins and J. P. Priestley, the present incumbent, who has held the office ever since 1870. Among the distinguished early resident attorneys of Carroll County were Chancellor Milton Brown, Thomas Jennings and Berry Gillespie. Later came John McKernan, Benjamin C. Totton, Chancellor Stephen C. Pavatt, William and J. W. Dougherty, Josiah Hubbard, N. B. Burrow, V. S. and B. S. Allen, none of whom now remain. Then came the Hawkinses, all of whom still remain except Col. Isaac R. Hawkins, who has since died. The present resident attorneys are ex-Gov. Alvin Hawkins and his son Alonzo, Capt. A. W. Hawkins, the present clerk of the circuit court, who is also a physician and minister, and a survivor of the Mexican and civil wars; Joseph R. Hawkins, L. L. Hawkins, S. W. Hawkins and Albert G. Hawkins, the present chancellor; L. W. Beckerdite, H. C. Townes, the present State Senator elect; W. W. Murray, H. C. Brewer, the present postmaster; G. W. McCall and J. P. Wilson; also Commillis Hawkins, B. P. Gilbert and George H. Ralstone, the latter three being residents of McKenzie, and also I. M. L. Barker, who resides in the Nineteenth Civil District

Source: Goodspeeds History of TN
Barecroft mentioned in this article is probably meant to be Barcroft per Jack Barcroft.


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