Tennessee Formation Maps

History of County Formations in Tennessee 1776-1985

(See below for:
History of County Formations in Text,
County Abbreviations,
Discontinued Tennessee Counties, and
Destroyed Court Houses.)

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County Formation Chronology in Text

Washington District of North Carolina formed--------------12 November 1776
Washington County of North Carolina formed-------------------November 1777
Sullivan County, NC, formed from Washington---------------------------1779
Greene County, NC, formed from Washington-------------------------May 1783
Davidson County, NC, formed from Washington---------------------------1783
North Carolina cedes its Western Territory to the Federal
   Government--------------------------------------------------2 June 1784
Washington, Greene, & Sullivan form provisional State
   of Franklin----------------------------------------------23 August 1784
North Carolina repeals cession to the Federal Government-----November 1784
State of Franklin forms new counties-----------------------------1785-1787
Caswell formed from Greene & "Indian Lands"---------------------------1785
Sevier formed from Greene & "Indian Lands"----------------------------1785
Spencer formed from Greene & Sullivan---------------------------------1785
Wayne formed from Washington & Wilkes---------------------------------1785
All 7 eastern counties, Washington, Sullivan, Greene, Caswell,
   Sevier, Spencer, & Wayne, function as the State of Franklin--------1785

Blount formed from "Indian Lands"-------------------------------------1786
North Carolina reconstitutes its government in Greene,
   Sullivan, and Washington, which function in parallel
   with the State of Franklin's in those counties---------------------1786

Hawkins County, NC, formed from Sullivan, which functioned
   in parallel with State of Franklin's Spencer-----------------------1787
Sumner County, NC, formed from Davidson-------------------------------1787
North Carolina's county governments gain supremacy
   over the State of Franklin's government----------------------------1787

Tennessee County, NC, formed from Davidson----------------------------1788
North Carolina gains supremacy over State of Franklin.  Caswell,
   Sevier, Spencer, & Wayne Counties, formed by State of Franklin,
   cease to exist-----------------------------------------------------1788

North Carolina passes legislation ceding Western Region
   to the Federal Government------------------------------22 December 1789

North Carolina's cession of Western Region
   to the Federal Government executed--------------------------26 May 1790

United States Congress establishes a territorial government
   called "Territory of the United States South of the
   River Ohio"-------------------------------------------------26 May 1790

Jefferson formed from Greene & Hawkins--------------------------------1792
Knox formed from Green & Hawkins--------------------------------------1792
Sevier formed from Jefferson------------------------------------------1794
Blount formed from Knox-----------------------------------------------1795
Tennessee admitted as a state----------------------------------1 June 1796
Grainger formed from Hawkins & Knox-----------------------------------1796
Carter formed from Washington-----------------------------------------1796
Tennessee divided into Montgomery & Robertson; ceases to exist--------1796
Cocke formed from Jefferson-------------------------------------------1797
Indians cede all land of present-day Tennessee; all land
   not already part of a county becomes "Indian Lands"----------------1798

Smith formed from Sumner----------------------------------------------1799
Wilson formed from Sumner---------------------------------------------1799
Williamson formed from Davidson---------------------------------------1799
Anderson formed from Knox---------------------------------------------1801
Roane formed from Knox------------------------------------------------1801
Claiborne formed from Grainger & Hawkins------------------------------1801
Jackson formed from Smith---------------------------------------------1801
Dickson formed from Montgomery & Robertson----------------------------1803
Stewart formed from Montgomery----------------------------------------1803
Rutherford formed from Davidson---------------------------------------1803
Anderson gained from "Indian Lands"-----------------------------------1803
Roane gained from "Indian Lands"--------------------------------------1803
Western Tennessee area containing no counties renamed from
   "Indian Lands" to "Western District"-------------------------------1803

Campbell formed from Anderson & Claiborne-----------------------------1806
Overton formed from Jackson-------------------------------------------1806
White formed from Jackson & Smith-------------------------------------1806
Sevier gained from Blount---------------------------------------------1806
Bledsoe formed from Roane---------------------------------------------1807
Bedford formed from Rutherford----------------------------------------1807
Warren formed from White----------------------------------------------1807
Franklin formed from Bedford & Warren---------------------------------1807
Hickman formed from Dickson-------------------------------------------1807
Maury formed from Williamson------------------------------------------1807
Rhea formed from Roane------------------------------------------------1807
Giles formed from Maury-----------------------------------------------1809
Humphreys formed from Stewart-----------------------------------------1809
Lincoln formed from Bedford-------------------------------------------1809
Marion formed from "Indian Lands"-------------------------------------1817
Morgan formed from Roane----------------------------------------------1817
Lawrence formed from Hickman & Giles----------------------------------1817
Wayne formed from Hickman---------------------------------------------1817
Hamilton formed from Rhea---------------------------------------------1819
McMinn formed from "Indian Lands"-------------------------------------1819
Monroe formed from Roane----------------------------------------------1819
Shelby formed from "Western District"---------------------------------1819
Hardin formed from "Western District"---------------------------------1819
Perry formed from Hickman---------------------------------------------1819
Carroll formed from "Western District"--------------------------------1821
Henderson formed from "Western District"------------------------------1821
Henry formed from "Western District"----------------------------------1821
Madison formed from "Western District"--------------------------------1821
("Western District" no longer exists.)
Dyer formed from Carroll----------------------------------------------1823
Gibson formed from Carroll & Madison (pending)------------------------1823
Hardeman formed from Hardin & Madison---------------------------------1823
Haywood formed from Madison-------------------------------------------1823
Tipton formed from Madison--------------------------------------------1823
Obion formed from Henry-----------------------------------------------1823
McNairy formed from Hardin--------------------------------------------1823
Weakley formed from Carroll & Henry-----------------------------------1823
Fentress formed from Morgan & Overton---------------------------------1823
Fayette formed from Hardeman & Shelby---------------------------------1824
Gibson organized------------------------------------------------------1824

(Boundary changes 1830-1840:)
Haywood gained from Dyer-----------------------------------------1830-1840
Weakley exchanged with Gibson------------------------------------1830-1840
Weakley Gained from Carroll--------------------------------------1830-1840
Blount gained from Monroe----------------------------------------1830-1840
Humphreys gained from Dickson, Hickman, & Stewart----------------1830-1840

Benton formed from Humphreys (pending)--------------------------------1835
Lauderdale formed from Dyer & Tipton----------------------------------1835
Powell authorized from Greene, Hawkins,
   Sullivan, & Washington; never organized----------------------------1835
Benton organized------------------------------------------------------1836
Bradley formed from "Indian Lands"------------------------------------1836
Cannon formed from Rutherford, Warren, & Wilson-----------------------1836
Coffee formed from Bedford, Franklin, Rutherford, & Warren------------1836
Johnson formed from Carter--------------------------------------------1836
Marshall formed from Bedford, Lincoln, & Maury------------------------1836
Meigs formed from Hamilton & Rhea-------------------------------------1836
DeKalb authorized from Cannon, Warren, & White (pending)--------------1837
Cumberland authorized from Robertson, Montgomery,
   Dickson, & Davidson; never organized-------------------------------1837
DeKalb organized------------------------------------------------------1838
Polk formed from Bradley & McMinn-------------------------------------1839
Van Buren formed from Warren & White----------------------------------1840
Macon formed from Smith & Sumner--------------------------------------1841
Putnam formed from DeKalb, Fentress, Jackson, Overton, Smith, & White-1842
Lewis formed from Hickman, Lawrence, Maury, & Wayne-------------------1843
Grundy formed from Coffee & Warren------------------------------------1844
Hancock formed from Claiborne & Hawkins-------------------------------1844
Putnam abolished; area returned to DeKalb, Fentress,
   Jackson, Overton, Smith, & White-----------------------------------1844
Cumberland authorized from Davidson, Dickson,
   Robertson, & Montgomery; never organized---------------------------1844
Hanover authorized from Fayette & Shelby; never organized-------------1844
Jones authorized from Blount & Monroe; never organized----------------1844
Crockett authorized from Dyer, Gibson, Haywood,
   Lauderdale, & Madison; not organized at this time------------------1845
Decatur formed from Henderson & Perry---------------------------------1845
Perry gained from Wayne-----------------------------------------------1845
Wayne gained from Hardin----------------------------------------------1845
Rutherford gained from Williamson-------------------------------------1845
Hatchie authorized from Hardeman & McNairy; never organized-----------1846
Cocke name changed to Union County------------------------------------1846
Scott formed from Anderson, Campbell, Fentress, & Morgan--------------1849

(Boundary changes 1850-1860:)
Scott gained from Morgan, Anderson, & Campbell-------------------1850-1860
Campbell gained from Scott---------------------------------------1850-1860
Decatur gained from Hardin---------------------------------------1850-1860
Wayne gained from Perry------------------------------------------1850-1860
Lewis gained from Wayne & Lawrence-------------------------------1850-1860
Maury gained from Lewis------------------------------------------1850-1860
Monroe gained from McMinn----------------------------------------1850-1860

Union name changed back to Cocke County-------------------------------1850
Union (new) formed from Anderson, Campbell,
   Grainger, Knox, & Claiborne----------------------------------------1850
Christian authorized from Carroll, Gibson,
   Henderson, & Madison; never organized------------------------------1852
Taylor authorized from Wayne & Hardin---------------------------------1852
Putnam reestablished from DeKalb, Fentress,
   Jackson, Overton, Smith, & White-----------------------------------1854
Morgan gained from Overton--------------------------------------------1854
DeKalb gained from Smith----------------------------------------------1854
DeKalb exchanged with White-------------------------------------------1854
Cumberland (finally) authorized again from Bledsoe,
   Morgan, Roane, & White; organized----------------------------------1855
Cheatham formed from Davidson, Dickson, Montgomery, & Robertson-------1856
Sequatchie formed from Bledsoe, Grundy, & Marion----------------------1857
Lewis abolished-------------------------------------------------------1866
Lewis reestablished---------------------------------------------------1867

(Boundary changes 1860-1870:)
Claiborne & Campbell county lines defined------------------------1860-1870
Union gained from Claiborne--------------------------------------1860-1870
Sequatchie gained from Bledsoe-----------------------------------1860-1870
Grundy gained from Marion----------------------------------------1860-1870
Rutherford exchanged with Williamson-----------------------------1860-1870
Davidson, Montgomery, & Williamson gained from Cheatham----------1860-1870
Hickman gained from Williamson-----------------------------------1860-1870
Dickson gained from Williamson-----------------------------------1860-1870
Cheatham exchanged with Dickson----------------------------------1860-1870
Obion gained from Weakley----------------------------------------1860-1870
Shelby gained from Tipton----------------------------------------1860-1870
Decatur gained from Wayne----------------------------------------1860-1870

Grant authorized from Carroll, Gibson,
   Henderson, & Madison; never organized------------------------------1869
Clay formed from Jackson & Overton------------------------------------1870
Hamblen formed from Grainger, Hawkins, & Jefferson--------------------1870
Lake formed from Obion------------------------------------------------1870
Loudon formed from Blount, McMinn, Monroe, & Roane--------------------1870
Trousdale formed from Macon, Smith, & Wilson--------------------------1870
James formed from Bradley & Hamilton----------------------------------1870
Ethridge authorized from Carroll, Gibson, & Weakley; never organized--1870
Bell authorized from Fayette & Hardeman; never organized--------------1870
Houston formed from Dickson, Humphreys, & Stewart---------------------1871
Moore formed from Franklin & Lincoln----------------------------------1871
Nashoba authorized from Fayette & Shelby; never organized-------------1871
Crockett reauthorized from Dyer, Gibson, Haywood, & Madison (pending)-1871
Crockett effective----------------------------------------------------1872
Webster authorized from Campbell, Claiborne, & Union; never organized-1873
Unicoi formed from Carter & Washington--------------------------------1875
Wisdom authorized from Hardeman, Henderson,
   McNairy, & Madison; never organized--------------------------------1875

(Boundary changes 1870-1880:)
Hawkins gained from Hancock--------------------------------------1870-1880
Campbell gained from Scott---------------------------------------1870-1880
Marshall gained from Giles---------------------------------------1870-1880
Carroll gained from Henderson------------------------------------1870-1880

Hanes authorized from Benton, Carroll,
   Decatur, & Henderson; never organized------------------------------1877
Chester formed from Hardeman, Henderson, McNairy, & Madison-----------1879
Pickett formed from Fentress & Overton--------------------------------1879
Scott gained from Fentress--------------------------------------------1879

(Boundary changes 1880-1890:)
Meigs gained from Roane------------------------------------------1880-1890
Greene gained from Unicoi & Washington---------------------------1880-1890
Lake gained from Dyer--------------------------------------------1880-1890
Madison gained from Henderson------------------------------------1880-1890
Tipton gained from Fayette---------------------------------------1880-1890

(Boundary changes 1890-1900:)
Davidson gained from Williamson----------------------------------1890-1900
Maury gained from Williamson-------------------------------------1890-1900
Benton gained from Decatur & Henry-------------------------------1890-1900
Tipton gained from Shelby----------------------------------------1890-1900

Sevier gained from Blount---------------------------------------------1903
Morgan gained from Anderson-------------------------------------------1903
James merged into Hamilton--------------------------------------------1919

(Boundary changes 1910-1930:)
Morgan gained from Scott-----------------------------------------1910-1930
Clay gained from Overton-----------------------------------------1910-1930
Williamson gained from Marshall----------------------------------1910-1930
Lawrence gained from Giles---------------------------------------1910-1930

(Boundary changes 1930-1960:)
Washington gained from Sullivan----------------------------------1930-1960
Grainger gained from Union---------------------------------------1930-1960
White gained from Van Buren--------------------------------------1930-1960
Giles gained from Lawrence---------------------------------------1930-1960
Humphreys gained from Perry--------------------------------------1930-1960
Shelby gained from Tipton----------------------------------------1930-1960

(Boundary changes 1960-1985:)
Monroe exchanged with Loudon-------------------------------------1960-1985
Monroe gained from McMinn----------------------------------------1960-1985
Loudon gained from McMinn----------------------------------------1960-1985
Sumner gained from Macon-----------------------------------------1960-1985
Haywood gained from Lauderdale & Tipton--------------------------1960-1985

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Tennessee County Abbreviations
(There are 96 counties; those in red do not exist now.)

An =Anderson
Br =Bradley
Cr =Crockett
Cu =Cumberland
Da =Davidson
DK =DeKalb
Di =Dickson
Dy =Dyer
Et =Ethridge
Fa =Fayette

Fe =Fentress
Fr =Franklin
Hi =Hickman
Ho =Houston
Hu =Humphreys
Je =Jefferson
Jo =Johnson

Kn =Knox
Le =Lewis
Li =Lincoln
Lo =Loudon
Me =Meigs
Na =Nashoba
Ob =Obion
Ov =Overton
Pe =Perry
Pi =Pickett
Po =Polk
Pu =Putnam
Rh =Rhea

Ru =Rutherford
Sc =Scott
Sh =Shelby
Sm =Smith
Sp =Spencer
St =Stewart
Ta =Taylor
Te =Tennessee
Ti =Tipton
Tr =Trousdale
VB =Van Buren
We =Weakley
Wh =White
Wms=Williamson Wls=Wilson

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Tennessee Discontinued Counties

Spencer: Formed in 1785 from Sullivan County.
Renamed Hawkins County in 1786.
Tennessee: Created in 1788 from Davidson County.
It was abolished and divided into Montgomery and Robertson Counties in 1796.

Records are now located in Robertson County.

The County Seat was Clarksville

Wayne: There is an existing Wayne County that was formed from Humphreys and Hickman Counties in 1817.  The Wayne County discussed here was an earlier, but completely different Wayne County, which makes up present-day Carter County and part of Johnson County.  It was established in 1785 under the State of Franklin, from Washington and Wilkes Counties, but was abolished in 1788 and included in Washington County.  That area was moved to Carter County in 1796, and part of it was later moved to Johnson County in 1836.
Formed in 1870 from Hamilton and Bradley Counties.
It was abolished in 1919 and merged with Hamilton County.
All records are located in Hamilton County.
The County Seat was Ooltewah.

James County was the first county in the United States to be consolidated with another.  It was a unique venture in government and the only such instance in Tennessee history of an entire county being wholly merged into another county.  Organized in 1870, largely from Hamilton County and a fraction of Bradley County, its forty-eight-year history was plagued with political strife and ended in bankruptcy in 1919.  (It was merged into Hamilton County in 1920.)

The Tennessee General Assembly passed the act creating the new county in January 1871, and Governor Dewitt Senter signed the law.  The Honorable Elbert Abdiel James, a representative from Hamilton County, introduced the measure.  The county was named in honor of his father, Reverend Jesse J. James.  A Methodist minister and native of Sullivan County, Reverend James moved his family to Chattanooga around 1854, where they became prominently identified with the industrial and financial growth of the city.

Political motives played a role in the creation of the new 285-square-mile county.  The citizens of James County were predominately Republican and rural, while Chattanooga residents were largely Democratic and urban.  In the 1870 Census the population of the area that encompassed James County was reported at five thousand people of Scots-Irish, English, German, and Huguenot ancestry, with some blacks, and a few mixed-blood Indians and Melungeons.

Thirteen towns or communities lay scattered across James County, including Ooltewah, Harrison, Apison, and Thatcher's Switch (Collegedale).  Ferries along the Tennessee River played a vital role in the lives of James Countians and included Vann's Ferry, Field's Ferry, Teenor's Ferry, McCallie's Ferry, Daughtery's Ferry, and Blythe's Ferry.  In 1920 when James County was merged with Hamilton County, it had over only twelve miles of graveled roads, which were poorly kept.  Although the creators of the county expected the overflow from Chattanooga's flourishing economy to provide the tax base for building schools and roads for the rural area, the revenues never materialized.  In 1919 James County made its quiet exit from politics and the American scene.  Created out of political rivalry, plagued by chicanery throughout its history, insufficiently capitalized to provide proper services, deficient in natural resources, and unable to take advantage of nearby industrialization, the county had based its hopes on an agrarian economy dependent on the efforts of self-sufficient farmers, but as their labors provided an inadequate tax base, the result was substandard banking, communication, and transportation facilities.

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Tennessee Destroyed Courthouses

The destruction of courthouses greatly affects genealogists in their searches.  Not only are the historic structures destroyed, the records they housed are lost forever.  Because of courthouse fires and other disasters, some Tennessee records filed at the county level no longer exist.  Records filed at the county level include marriages; wills and other probate records; records of county, circuit and chancery courts; deeds; and tax records.  Even if they have been placed on mircofilm, photographed, or put on computers, computers and film burn too.

. This does NOT mean that ALL RECORDS in these courthouses were lost.  Some times, citizens took their documents in again for recording after a disaster and later deeds will contain long chains of title, etc.  The following list shows when courthouse fires and other disasters occurred in Tennessee.

  • Bedford - 1830 (tornado), 1863 & 1934 (fires)
  • Bledsoe - 1908 - (fire)
  • Blount - 1879 & 1906 (fires)
  • Cannon - 1934 (fire)
  • Carroll - 1931 (fire)
  • Carter - 1933 (fire)
  • Chester - 1910 (fire)
  • Claiborne - 1863 & 1931 (fires)
  • Cocke - 1876 (fire)
  • Coffee - 1870 (fire)
  • Cumberland - 1905 (fire)
  • Davidson - 1856 (fire)
  • Decatur - 1869 & 1927 (fires)
  • Dickson - 1830 (tornado)
  • Dyer - 1864 (fire)
  • Fayette - 1925 (fire)
  • Fentress - 1905 (fire)
  • Gibson??? - 1941 (fire)
  • Giles - 1813, 1857 & 1907 (fires)
  • Grainger - 1946 (fire)
  • Grundy - 1853 & 1990 (fires)
  • Hamilton - 1910 (fire)
  • Hancock - 1885 & 1930 (fires)
  • Hardeman - 1864 (fire)
  • Hardin - 1859, 1864 & 1949 (fire)
  • Hawkins - 1863 (fire)
  • Henderson - 1896 (fire)
  • Hickman - 1864 (fire)
  • Humphreys - 1876 & 1898 (fires)
  • Jackson - 1872 & 1926 (fires)
  • Lauderdale - 1869 (fire)
  • McMinn - 1964 (fire)
  • McNairy - 1881 (fire)
  • Macon - 1860 & 1901 & 1932 (fires)
  • Marion - 1922 (fire)
  • Marshall - 1872 & 1927 (fires)
  • Meigs - 1904 & 1964 (fire)
  • Monroe - 1820s (fire) 1860 (razed/Civil War)
  • Montgomery - 1878 & 1900 (fires) 1999 (tornado)
  • Morgan - 1826 & 1870 & 1904 (fires)
  • Obion - 1842 (earthquake)
  • Overton - 1865 (fire)
  • Perry - 1863 & 1928 (fires)
  • Pickett - 1934 - (fire)
  • Polk - 1895 & 1935??? (fires)
  • Putnam - 1860s (burned/Civil War) 1898 (fires)
  • Rhea - 1869 & 1927 (fires)
  • Rutherford - 1832 (tornado)
  • Scott - 1946 (fire)
  • Sevier - 1856 (fire)
  • Stewart - 1862 (fire/Federal troops)
  • Sullivan - 1863 (fire)
  • Trousdale - 1900 & 1904 (fires)
  • Union - 1870s & 1969 (fires)
  • Warren - 1852? (fire)?
  • Washington - 1839 (fire)
  • Wayne - 1973 (fire)
  • Weakley - 1948 (fire)
  • Wilson - 1881 (fire)

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