Important Dates - Chronology of Early Bledsoe County
DATE EVENT 1795 John McClellan and Charles McClung explore the northern part of Sequatchie Valley. 1796 Tennessee becomes the 16th state 1801 Roane County, which contained most of Bledsoe is created. 1805 Cherokee Nation surrenders claims to the area that is now Bledsoe County 1807 Bledsoe County established 1811 Madison becomes the county seat 1812 War of 1812 1816 Town of Pikeville established; county seat relocated 1821 First Bledsoe Courthouse 1830 Pikeville incorporated as a town 1838 Trail of Tears crossed Bledsoe County about 5 miles south of Pikeville 1856 1st, 2nd, and 3rd civil districts taken from Bledsoe County to become part of Cumberland County 1857 10th Civil district taken from Bledsoe to become part of Sequatchie County 1861 Civil War. Tennessee secedes from the Union, and joins the 1865 Confederate States of America 1866 Tennessee re-admitted to the Union 1891 Pikeville-Banner begins publication
IN THE BEGINNING....
The first settlers moved into the Sequatchie Valley, then Roane County, around 1805, soon after the first treaty was signed with the native people. Some of these early settlers were Wilson, Oxsheer, Tollett, Standefer, Griffith and Anderson. Louise Maxwell Anderson is believed to be the first white child born in Sequatchie Valley in September 1806.
The oldest county in Sequatchie Valley, Bledsoe was named for a member of the prominent Bledsoe family of Sumner County. The most likely candidate for this honor is Anthony Bledsoe, a practical surveyor and Revolutionary war patriot.
Bledsoe became a county in 1807, during James Sevier's last term as governor. James Standefer and John Tollett were appointed in 1811 to select a place for the county seat. Alexander Coulter donated forty acres "to erect the town of Madison."
Much of the land acquired by early settlers was a result of laws passed by the Tennessee State Legislature 1806-1809 which allowed a settler to claim the land he was living on as well as other unclaimed lands. Some of these early claimants were John Billingsley, John Hankins and John Narramore.
Sometime between 1816 and 1818 the county seat was moved to Pikeville.
Bledsoe County was and is comprised of many small communities often bearing the name of a church, store, or post office. These are very often family names.
In 1832 Matthew Rhea listed four place names on his map: Pikeville, Big Springs, Madison and Rainey.
In 1836, by an act of the Tennessee State Assembly, Bledsoe County was divided into 10 Civil Districts. The gentlemen responsible for the districting were Isaac Stephens, Samuel McReynolds and Samuel L. Story.
In 1856 the Northern part of Bledsoe County became part of Cumberland County and in 1858 portions of Southern Bledsoe County were given up to Sequatchie County.
BLEDSOE COUNTY IN THE CIVIL WAR
This time period created much confusion and dissension among the citizens. Bledsoe County voted against withdrawal from the Union and while the state itself voted for secession, much of the eastern part of Tennessee remained loyal to the Union.
Despite the fact that Bledsoe voted against secession, several Confederate companies were organized. The Tulloss Rangers were organized by John Bridgeman in July 1861 and named to honor James A. Tulloss of Pikeville for his contributions to the company. In August, 1861, Weatherston S. Greer also organized a company with men from Bledsoe, Rhea and Roane Counties. Other Confederate units were organized by William J. Hill, Alexander H. Roberson and Oliver P. Schoolfield.
Most of the Bledsoe men who joined the Union forces enlisted in upper east Tennessee, Huntsville, Athens and at Camp Dick Robinson in Kentucky.
During the Civil War the men of Bledsoe County were found fighting for both Confederate and Union units. While no complete list of participants exists, a partial list of Civil War soldiers from Bledsoe county is included here. You can also view the 1890 Veteran's and Widow's Census of Bledsoe County, which happily includes some Confederate entries.
Some general Civil War sites of interest include: Researching People of the Civil War Era , from the Civil War Center, at Louisiana State University.
For unit histories for all states, try these Tarleton links:
EARLY HISTORY OF PIKEVILLE
Pikeville had its beginning as a small frontier village that grew up around a large spring. It was known as Thurmans, and although Madison was the county seat at that time, court was held at Thurmans. In 1816 Charles Love of Virginia sold 30 acres of land on Sequatchie or Crow Creek for the town of Pikeville.
There are two stories about the naming of Pikeville, one is that it was named for General Zebulon Pike, an American soldier and explorer. The other is that it was named by John Bridgeman who came from North Carolina, naming the settlement, Pikeville in honor of his native home: Pike, NC.
Sometime between 1816 and 1818 the county seat was moved from Madison to Pikeville. Its central location and access to the stage stop on the route from Knoxville to Huntsville, Alabama probably contributed to the growth of the village. Pikeville was incorporated as a town in 1830 and remains the only incorporated are in Bledsoe County. By 1860 Pikeville boasted a population of 200 folks.
In 1836, the Tennessee State Legislature appointed 3 citizens of Bledsoe County to "lay off the county into districts for the purpose of electing Justices of the Peace and Constables." Isaac Stephens, Samuel McReynolds and Samuel L. Story divided the county into 10 districts, each with a designated voting place, the northern most being District 1 and the southernmost being District 10.
Take a look at a recreation of an 1836 map of the county and read the descriptions of each district which include the places where elections were held.
It is important to note that in 1856 Cumberland County was created and took Civil Districts 1, 2, and 3 as part of its territory and in the same year the State Legislature detached the 10th district along with the 1st and 2nd districts of Marion County to become part of Sequatchie County.
BLEDSOE COUNTY HISTORIAN
Route One, Box 234
Pikeville, Tennessee 37367
Ms. Elizabeth Parham Robnett has served as Bledsoe County Historian for more than 25 years. Born and raised in Pikeville, her deep sense of the past, led her not only to become a teacher of history but also to publish the excellent books mentioned elsewhere on this page. I am deeply indebted to Ms. Robnett for much of the historical information presented here.
Legend of the Dogwood Tree
There is a legend, that at the time of Jesus Christ's Crucifixion the dogwood was the size of the oak and other forest trees. So firm and strong was the tree that it was chosen as the timber for the cross. To be used thus for such a cruel purpose greatly distressed the tree, and Jesus, nailed upon it, sensed this, and in his suffering said to it: Because of your regret and pity for My suffering, never again shall the dogwood tree grow large enough to be used as a cross. Henceforth it shall be slender and bent and twisted and its blossoms shall be in the form of a cross...two long and two short petals. And in the center of the outer edge of each petal there will be nail prints, brown with rust and stained with red, and in the center of the flower will be a crown of thorns, and all who see it will remember.