Benton County, Tennessee Genealogy
Early Benton County Settlements
county seat, Camden (named for Camden, South Carolina) is
the oldest town in Benton County. It was located on the
Cane Creek tributary of Cypress Creek in 1836. Centrally
positioned in the county, Camden has always been the
focal point of both county commerce, government and
politics. Although Paris in Henry County lays claim to
the "Biggest Fish Fry" in the country, the best
fried catfish in the country is in Benton County,
particularly in Camden.
itself owes its existence to the Memphis and Ohio
Railroad, that was built in 1859 and completed in the
spring of 1861. This was later to become the Louisville
and Nashville Railroad and ran East and West, about one
mile North of the settlement of Sandy Springs. On land
belonging to Dr. Elijah Alsup, a water tank and fuel yard
was established and the town grew up around it. The first
recorded business being a log saloon belonging to J.B.
Linsey, according to some historians, and/or Silas W.
Bullock, according to GOODSPEEDS HISTORY.
were settlers in this area, who came inland from the
river for the abundant resources: timber, game, salt,
land and water. They were here, shortly after this part
of the Western Territory was ceded to the United States
by the Chickasaw Indians in the Jackson Purchase of Oct.
19, 1818. There was in this treaty a provision that the
Indians would not relinquish 4 square miles of 10,240
acres for a salt lick. This area was located just
Northwwest of today's town of Big Sandy. William Lewis of
Nashville and Robert Currin of Franklin, however, leased
this land for 750 bushels of salt per annum. They
proceeded to dig a 400 foot artesian well, in what is now
Henry county, producing no salt; only sulpher water. The
water from this well was believed by many to have
medicinal value and therefore their well became the
gathering place for people of the area until the present
Tennessee Valley lake covered it.
settlers in and around Big Sandy were: Daniel Buchanan,
who filed for the first 160 acre tract of land in what
was to later become Benton County on Nov. 29, 1820;
Dennis, Willis and Abel Rushing, who erected the first
house built by a white man in Benton County in 1818 on
the creek that now bears their name; Nicholas and Lewis
Brewer, who settled on Ramble Creek; Isham Jones, Malcomb
McKenzie and Alexander McRae who settled on Sugar Creek.
Zachariah Wyatt built and operated a grist mill on the
Big Sandy River, at the edge of the settlement. Colonel
Daniel Mason, a Revolutionary War soldier, operated a
successful ferry and merchantile business on the river,
at what is now known as Point Mason.
businesses in the town of Big Sandy were: a saloon,
grocery and hotel operated by John Burwell Lindsey, Big
Sandys' first postmaster and one of Elijah Alsups
sons-in-laws. William "Buck" Caraway owned a
sawmill and cotton gin. J.T. Dowdy operated a hotel while
Silas Bullcok and George W. Cantrell owned a drug store.
Blacksmiths were: A. Bell, John DeBruce and J.E. Wilson
and his son. Robert Graham was an attorney. Granville T.
Morris while a physician also owned a general store. J.R.
Young was a physician, a collier and farmer. Dr. James
Moses was a physician who organized the Farmers Bank and
served as president of it until it closed in 1925 for
lack of business. The First National Bank opened in 1925
and closed in 1929. There had been a Citizens Bank that
failed in July of 1911 after operating for some time. At
present, the town has the Bank of Camden-Big Sandy Branch
which opened for business on Oct. of 1972.
peak in the 1800's Big Sandy was a thriving railroad town
boasting a canning factory, cotton gin, stave mill,
pencil factory, retail stores, bank, dentist, funeral
home, two millinery shops, a hardware store, poultry
house and a cattle yard. Since the decline of the rail
transport and the subsequent removal of the tracks, the
town changed dramatically. At present, living in Big
Sandy means relaxation and getting away from the hustle
and bustle of city life. There is ample opportunity for
hunting (deer, turkey, rabbit, squirrel, dove, quail,
raccoon) and fishing (Bass, Catfish, Crappie, Bluegill)
and musselling, skiing, boating, swimming, sailing,
camping, etc. The town has been and will ocntinue to be a
religios area. There are churches still in existence,
which were formed before the town itself. Some of the
early churches were: Rushings Creek Missionary Baptist
established in 1825, Ramble Creek Baptist in 1835,
Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian in 1849, McRae's Chapel, on
Sugar Creek, Methodist in 1863, Mount Carmel Methodist in
1893, Bakers Chapel United Methodist before 1874, Big
Sandy Methodist, 1902 and First Baptist Church in 1914.
longest running establishment in the town is the Wilson
Brothers' Grocery. Joe Wilson and his sister
"Girlie" still own and operate the family
business established by their father, John Wilson in
original settlement in the area of Big Sandy was once on
higher ground. It was apparently located closer to the
present site of the school and more South and West than
now. When the railroad came into existence the town began
to move closer to it. In 1944, the Tennessee Valley
Authority flooded much of the surrounding land. It was
suggested to relocate the town on higher ground, but the
city fathers refused and an alternate plan, to build a
levee or dike around the town was used.
of Big Sandy was incorporated in 1903. Although there are
ony 650 persons living within the city limits of Big
Sandy, the local Post Office serves 1141 households, with
approximately 3425 people who identify with the town
itself. Those people living in the outlying communities
of Faxon, Danville, Lick Creek, Granny's Brandh, Ruchings
Creek, Bakers Chapel, Sulphur Creek, Point Mason and
Crooked Creek now identify with the town of Big Sandy.
County Genealogical Society
Families and Histories Vol. 1
Transcribed by Norma
Bartlett's Switch, Eva is located near Pilot Knob on the
west bank of the Tennessee River. Eva was named after
Miss Eva Steele who was a girlfriend of Lola Lowery,
daughter of the towns first postmaster, Thomas Lowery.
located seven miles east of Big Sandy, and was settled by
Irish immigrant families including Harney, Murphy and
Fitzsimmons. The town was named after its first
postmaster, George B. Faxon
lies 15 miles south of Camden in the Birdsong Valley. The
Mt. Carmel Cumberland Presbyterian Church was formed here
in 1848 on land donated by Robert J. Lawrence. The town
was named for school teacher John Milton Holladay who
distinguished himself in the Civil War and local
a ghost town, Chaseville is located on Wolf Creek about
14 miles south of Camden. Two miles further is current
day McIllwain, which dates from 1890.
Chalk Level, named for the local rock
outcrops, was first organized in 1831 by John D. Camp. It
is about 7 miles southwest of Camden, and is considered
one of the earliest communities in the county.
Point Mason was one of the earliest
settlements in the county. Named for Colonel Daniel Mason
who arrived in 1819, he developed a highly successful
ferry and store at the location. He later sold the area
to Holden Rushing who further improved the business on
his way to local prominence.
Other Early Communities
Coxburg, Point Mason, Doherty's
Landing, Pavatt's Landing, Rockport Landing, Gismonda,
Sawyer's Mill, Eli, Thompson's Point, Eggville, &
Claud were all riverboat landings or settlements that
contributed to the early history of Benton County.
Some of the above
information was summarized from Jonathan K.T. "Smith's Benton
volume of the Tennessee County History Series" by Memphis State University Press (1979).
If you have suggestions and/or
additions for these pages, write Ken
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