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"The Beginning"


Tipton County Courthouse in Covington TN 


The first settlements in the territory which afterwards became Tipton County were made by General Jacob Tipton in 1821, by Jesse Benton below the third Chickasaw Bluffs, by H. Yarbrough on Indian Creek, and by Henry Turnidge and others on Big Creek. The county was named for Captain Jacob Tipton, who fell in St. Clair's defeat near Fort Washington in 1791, and who was the father of General Tipton. The county court was organized in 1823 at the house of Nathaniel Hartsfield, about one mile south of Covington. Covington, the county seat, was located on lands donated by John C. McLemore and Tyree Rhodes. The constitution of 1834 having provided for the formation of a new county out of territory lying between Hatchie and Forked Deer, Lauderdale was established in 1835, leaving Hatchie as the north boundary of Tipton County. The proximity of Tipton County to the Mississippi River and the bluffs within its limits gave it great prominence in the annals of settlement and the struggle for precedence which make up the early history of West Tennessee counties. Jesse Benton's place was a general landing for emigrants who came by river, and soon became a distributing point for the adjacent country. Benton's Trace still remains in local geographical nomenclature. Randolph soon became a flourishing town. Indeed, at first all indications pointed to its future success in the contest for commercial mastery which geographical position forced upon the two towns, Randolph and Memphis. Like Memphis, it was situated upon one of the Chickasaw Bluffs and at the mouth of a small inland stream. But Big Hatchie was navigable as far up as Bolivar, and Randolph carried on a lucrative trade by water with many of the newly established counties east of Hardemaln. It became at once the shipping point for all the western counties except Shelby and Fayette. This was during the internal improvement mania, and a plan was suggested which, if carried out, might have enabled Randolph to carry off the palm in its contest with Memphis. This was to connect the Tennessee and the Hatchie by means of a lateral canal or drain. This would have given Randolph the trade of the fertile sections of country through which the Tennessee runs, and would probably have given it the greatness which has fallen to its rival. The governor of Tennessee recommended the project to the General Assembly, but nothing came of it. In 1834 the " Randolph Recorder " was issued by F. S. Latham, who soon afterwards sold out to A. M. Scott and removed to Memphis. In 1836 or 1837 the " Randolph Whig"' was established by the McPhersons, but was soon discontinued. In 1836 Randolph shipped 40,000 bales of cotton, and in 1839 from 20,000 to 25,000. Some time in the thirties Randolph established a bank. In 1833 a semi-weekly stage was started by James Brown from Jackson to Randolph. A great drawback to the growth of Randolph was the A. M. Cambreling suit, involving the title to 1,000 acres of land, on part of which Randolph was located. This prevented the growth of population, and was not settled until 1835. The removal of the Indians and the settlement of North Mississippi helped Memphis, and finally a few steamboats that navigated the Hatchie began to unload at Memphis. The foresight and liberal policy of John Overton caused Memphis to prosper rapidly, and by the time the Memphis and Charleston Railroad was built, the leading merchants of Randolph had removed to the lower town.
The last attempt of Randolph to regain its earlier importance was in 1852, when, by a bare majority of the voters in the county, it was decided not to move the seat of justice to that point from Covington. A Tipton County institution, which exerted a beneficent influence upon the development of the western part of the State, was the Mountain Academy, founded by the Reverend James Holmes, of which it is chronicled that it,was long noted as the best in West Tennessee, and hundreds of youths were instructed and trained there, who became eminent as teachers and professional men. The name of James Holmes, D. D., is more intimately connected with West Tennessee as an educator and instructor of the young, both male and female, than perhaps 'any other man living."

History of Tennessee: the making of a state By James Phelan 1888

(Submitted by Barbara Ziegenmeyer)



October 29, 1823

From territory within Shelby County, Tipton County is established.  Approximately 1/3 of the new county is north of the Hatchie River.


December 1, 1823

Officers of the Tipton County Court are elected:

John C. McKean - Chairman of the court

Andrew Greer - Clerk

John T. Brown - Sheriff

Nathan Hartsfield - Register

John Robinson - Trustee

William Henson - Ranger

George Robinson - Coroner


December 2, 1823

The first tax levy is ordered - Twelve and 1/2 cents on each white person and 25 cents on each black person (to be paid by slave's master).  Levy on land is set the same as the state levy.


March 1824

The first jury is selected which consisted of the following citizens:  Thomas Ralph, Anderson Ralph, Henry Allen, Hopson Ferrell, John Eckford, Alexander McCullough, Thomas Hodge, James Hodge, John Person, William K. Kulbreath (Culbreath), Jesse Benton, Michael Holshouser, William Henson, John Robinson, William Robinson, George Keller, Samuel Robinson, Adam Logan, Joseph G. Stone, Samuel Young, and Hubert Ferrell.


June 1, 1824

First Deed is recorded at the register's office - 640 acres of land in Tipton County "on the waters of Big Creek of Loosahatchie River" from Thomas Hickman of Davidson County to Samuel Perkins of Williamson County.


October 11, 1824

The Tipton County Circuit Court is organized.  Thomas Taylor is appointed clerk and William Stoddart is sworn in as attorney-at-law.


December 11, 1824

James Fentress, Benjamin Reynolds, Robert Jetton, and William Martin (commissioners appointed by the state legislature to locate sites for the county seats of counties in West Tennessee) appear before the county court and announce they have "located the county site to Tipton county on the lands of John C. McLemore and Tyree Rhodes in range 4 and section 8 of said county and to be called Covington". 

Commissioners and superintendents of buildings of Covington are elected to succeed the commissioners appointed by the state legislature.  Elected were: John Eckford, Alexander Robinson, Robert G. Green, Elias F. Pope and Marquis Calmes.


January 5, 1825

Covington Commissioners petition the county court for enough money to build a temporary courthouse.


April 12, 1825

The sale of lots begins in Covington.


July 4, 1825

The county court moves into the newly completed frame courthouse located on the northeast square in Covington.  (the center of the square was left vacant for a permanent courthouse to be built at a later date)  The court had been meeting at the home of Nathan Hartsfield.  Mr. Hartsfield is paid $50 as payment for the court's use and occupation of his house.

John Robinson, Thomas Ralph and John Eckford are appointed judges.

Aquilla Davis is appointed road overseer.  Workers are assigned to Mr. Davis for the purpose of opening a road to the county line in the direction of Brownsville.  Plans are also made to lay off a road to the county line in the direction of Somerville.