Benton County, Tennessee Genealogy

Early Benton County History


Benton County was formed from the western section of Humphreys County by an act of the state legislature on December 19, 1835, noting that as of January 1, 1836, "the county of Humphreys shall be and the same is hereby declared divided, making the Tennessee River the dividing line of said county". George Camp, Sr., Green Flowers, Ephraim Perkins, Lewis Brewer and John F. Johnston were directed as commissioners to locate the county seat at Camden. Samuel Halliburton housed the county and circuit courts at his home on Cypress Creek until permanent facilities could be located.

The first eight civil districts were laid out in January, 1836 with Benton County formally being organized at Tranquillity, on the Reynoldsburg-Huntingdon stage road, on February 7, 1836. Four days later, the state legislature took a small portion of the southeastern corner of Henry Country, and added to Benton County, it's ninth civil district.


Benton County was originally named for Thomas Hart Benton who was born in Orange County, North Carolina, in 1782. Benton was a conservative who concluded that slavery was economically and morally wrong. He subsequently fell out of favor with most southerners who regretted having named their county after him. The state legislature voted on February 4, 1852, "That the county of Benton retain its original name in honor of David Benton, an old and respected citizen of said county".


Middle Tennessee was permanently settled by Whites at the site of Nashville by 1779. Although claimed by North Carolina, it was actually held by Native Americans. The cession of this area by North Carolina was accepted by the federal government in 1790. In 1796, this territory was incorporated into the State of Tennessee with it's admittance to the Union on June 1st.

In order to provide some form of government for the area of Western Tennessee, Stewart County was formed in 1803. As the southern portion of Stewart County became more populated, Humphreys County was formed in October of 1809.

Even though North Carolina had ceded it's western territory to the federal government, it still retained the right to issue land grants in the territory. By 1838, North Carolinians had claimed over 8 million acres in Middle and Western Tennessee. It wasn't until 1818, that Tennessee rather than North Carolina was granted the ability to issue land titles to the Western District of Tennessee, and then only after it had been purchased, through the Jackson Purchase of 1818, from the Chickasaws.

In 1819, the Western District was divided into seven surveyor's districts. Benton county was in Surveyor's District 12. It was also required that all North Carolina grants had to be executed by October 1, 1820. In December of 1820, though still part of Humphreys County, the area of the future Benton County was opened to settlement by the general public.

The first Benton County land entry was made by Daniel Buchanan on November 28, 1820 for 160 acres on the Big Sandy River. The town of Big Sandy now includes part of it.

Some of the above information was summarized from Jonathan K.T. Smith's "Benton County
volume of the Tennessee County History Series"
by Memphis State University Press (1979).

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