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History and Facts of Tennessee Counties

Today’s Tennessee counties did not always exist in the present form. They went through many different changes in the space of a few short years.

In 1784 the “State” of Franklin was created with 3 original counties of the Washington District. The Lost State of Franklin  was short-lived attempt to create a new state in the trans-Appalachian settlement of present-day East Tennessee.

The 3 original counties were Greene, Sullivan and Washington counties. By 1785 they had added 5 more counties (Sevier, Blount, Caswell, Spencer and Wayne) to total 8 counties. In 1789 settlers were allowed re-join North Carolina and Franklin was disbanded.

North Carolina ceded the area to the federal government in 1790, after which the territory to the Ohio River’s south was officially organized as the Southwest Territory by Congress in 1790.

The Southwest Territory existed from May 26, 1790, until June 1, 1796. The State of Tennessee entered the union as the 16th state on June 1, 1796.

Tennessee is currently divided into 95 counties. States bordering Tennessee are  Virginia KentuckyNorth CarolinaAlabamaMississippi, Georgia, Missouri and Arkansas.

Each county serves as the local level of government within its borders with 3 Tennessee counties operate under consolidated city–county governments, a city and county that have been merged into one jurisdiction.

As such, these governments are simultaneously a city, which is a municipal corporation, and a county, which is an administrative division of a state.

  • City of Nashville – Davidson County
  • City of Lynchburg – Moore County
  • City of Hartsville – Trousdale County

In 1777 the first Tennessee counties were formed. The First was Washington County and the last county to be formed was Chester County in 1879.

Fun Facts about Tennessee Counties

Counties by Year

County Size Facts

County Population Facts

Tennessee City Facts

Tennessee’s 10  largest cities (2017 est.) are:

  1. Nashville – Davidson County (667,560) is in Davidson County
  2. Memphis (652,236) is in Shelby County
  3. Knoxville (186,239) is in Knox County
  4. Chattanooga (177,571) is in Hamilton County
  5. Clarksville (150,287) is in Montgomery County
  6. Murfreesboro (131,947) is in Rutherford County
  7. Franklin (74,794) is in Williamson County
  8. Jackson (67,005) is in Madison County
  9. Johnson City (66,677) is in Washington County
  10. Bartlett (58,622) is in Shelby County

Boundary Changes of Tennessee Counties from 1777 to 1985

This Interactive Map of Tennessee Counties show the historical boundaries, names, organization, and attachments of every county, extinct county and unsuccessful county proposal from the creation of Tennessee from 1777-1985.

List of Tennessee Counties

List of Old Former / Extinct Tennessee Counties

Tennessee contains some counties that no longer exist because they were discontinued, renamed or merged with another county. These are important for genealogy research purposes.

The below Tennessee counties no longer exist:

Bell County, (Proposed) Tennessee

Legislature authorized creation on December 20, 1870 from Fayette, Hardeman and McNairy counties. It was voided by Tennessee Supreme Court on June 8, 1871.

Blount County, State of Franklin

Created by Oct 1785 from part of Greene County by the Second General Assembly of Franklin in August 1785.

On February 1, 1789, Blount County was abolished with all other counties in the State of Franklin when the governor of the State of Franklin, formally swore allegiance to North Carolina, effectively ending Franklin’s operation and signaling the region’s return to North Carolina control. 

Caswell County, State of Franklin

Created on March 1, 1785 from part of Greene County by The First General Assembly of the State of Franklin convening in Jonesborough.

On February 1, 1789, Caswell County was abolished with all other counties in the State of Franklin when the governor of the State of Franklin, formally swore allegiance to North Carolina, effectively ending Franklin’s operation and signaling the region’s return to North Carolina control. 

Christian County, (Proposed) Tennessee

Legislature again authorized creation on February 24, 1852 from Gibson, Carroll, Henderson and Madison counties. The creation did not take effect.

In 1869 another unsuccessful attempt was made to create Grant County in the same general area.

Christiana County, Tennessee

Created on June 18, 1870 from Monroe, Monroe and Roane counties.  But on July 7, 1870, the Tennessee legislature renamed it Loudon County.

Crocket County, (Proposed) Tennessee

Legislature authorized creation on December 20, 1845 from Dyer, Gibson, Haywood and Madison counties. In October 1846, Circuit Court Judge in Madison County decreed Crocket County’s creation unconstitutional and creation did not take effect.

Legislature again authorized creation on February 24, 1852 from Dyer, Gibson, Haywood and Madison counties. The creation did not take effect.

Legislature again authorized creation on January 25, 1866 from Dyer, Gibson, Haywood and Madison counties. The creation did not take effect.

Legislature again authorized creation on July 7, 1870 from Dyer, Gibson, Haywood and Madison counties. The creation did not take effect.

Cumberland County, (Proposed) Tennessee

Legislature authorized creation on November 27, 1837 from Davidson, Dickson, Montgomery and Robertson counties.  It was never created.

Legislature again authorized creation on January 3, 1844 from Davidson, Dickson, Montgomery and Robertson counties.  It was never created.

Cheatham County was created in this same general area in 1856. Not related to the present Cumberland County.

Etheridge County, (Proposed) Tennessee

Legislature authorized creation on June 6, 1870 from Gibson, Carroll, Henderson, Madison and Weakley counties. It was never created.

Grant County, (Proposed) Tennessee

Legislature authorized creation on February 25, 1869 from Gibson, Carroll, Henderson and Madison counties. It was never created.

Grant County was to be in the same general area as Christian County, which was proposed in 1852 but never organized.

Hanes County, (Proposed) Tennessee

Legislature authorized creation on March 19, 1877 from Benton, Carroll, Decatur and McNairy counties. It was never created.

Hanover County, (Proposed) Tennessee

Legislature authorized creation on January 16, 1844 from Fayette and Shelby counties. It was never created.

Hatchee County, (Proposed) Tennessee

Legislature authorized creation on January 31, 1846 from Hardeman and McNairy counties. It was never created.

James County, Tennessee

Created on February 18, 1871 from Bradley and Hamilton counties. 

On March 11, 1890, the Tennessee Legislature authorized the abolition of James County but act was overturned by Tennessee Supreme Court, October 4, 1890.

James County went bankrupt in 1919. On January 20, 1920, James County was reincorporated into Hamilton County and is now extinct.

All records located in Hamilton County. County seat was Ooltewah

Jones County, (Proposed) Tennessee

Legislature authorized creation on January 27, 1844 from Blount and Monroe counties. It was never created.

Noshoba County, (Proposed) Tennessee

Legislature authorized creation on November 4, 1871 from Fayette and Shelby counties. It was never created.

Powell County, (Proposed) Tennessee

Legislature authorized creation in December 1835 from Greene, Hawkins, Sullivan and Washington counties. It was dependent on local referendum which failed, was not created.

Legislature authorized creation in January 1838 from Greene, Hawkins, Sullivan and Washington counties. It was never created.

Legislature authorized creation in November 1839 from Greene, Hawkins, Sullivan and Washington counties. This creation was disallowed by the Tennessee Supreme Court in 1841.

Legislature authorized creation on March 2, 1854 from Greene, Hawkins, Sullivan and Washington counties. It was never created.

Legislature authorized creation on March 17, 1858 from Greene, Hawkins, Sullivan and Washington counties. It was never created.

Legislature authorized creation on December 7, 1869 from Greene, Hawkins, Sullivan and Washington counties. It was never created.

Sevier County, State of Franklin

Created on March 1, 1785 from part of Greene County by The First General Assembly of the State of Franklin convening in Jonesborough.

On February 1, 1789, Sevier County was abolished with all other counties in the State of Franklin when the governor of the State of Franklin, formally swore allegiance to North Carolina, effectively ending Franklin’s operation and signaling the region’s return to North Carolina control. 

Spencer County, State of Franklin

Created on March 1, 1785 from part of Greene County and Sullivan County by The First General Assembly of the State of Franklin convening in Jonesborough. It was named after Samuel Spencer, a judge in North Carolina.

On January 6, 1787, the North Carolina legislature created a parallel-county and called it Hawkins County. It was known by both county names while Frankln’s statehood efforts lasted.

On February 1, 1789, Spencer County was abolished with all other counties in the State of Franklin when the governor of the State of Franklin, formally swore allegiance to North Carolina, effectively ending Franklin’s operation and signaling the region’s return to North Carolina control. 

Taylor County, (Proposed) Tennessee

Legislature authorized creation on January 14, 1852 from Hardin and Wayne counties. It was never created.

Tennessee County, Tennessee

Created on December 06, 1788 from Davidson County.

On May 26, 1790, The United States created the Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio (Southwest Territory), covering the territory ceded in April 1790 by North Carolina.

Tennessee County became a county in the Southwest Territory. Tennessee County was abolished and divided into Montgomery County and Robertson County on April 9, 1796 when Tennessee became the nation’s 16th state.

Records now located in Robertson County. County Seat was Clarksville

Wayne County, State of Franklin

Created on March 1, 1785 from part of Washington County and Wilkes County by The First General Assembly of the State of Franklin convening in Jonesborough. This was not the modern day Wanye County.

On February 1, 1789, Wayne County was abolished with all other counties in the State of Franklin when the governor of the State of Franklin, formally swore allegiance to North Carolina, effectively ending Franklin’s operation and signaling the region’s return to North Carolina control. 

Webster County, (Proposed) Tennessee

Legislature authorized creation on March 24, 1873 from Campbell, Claiborne and Union counties. It was never created.

Wisdom County, (Proposed) Tennessee

Legislature authorized creation on March 23, 1875 from Hardeman, McNairy, Henderson and Madison counties. It was never created. Chester County was created in this same general area in 1882.