Lauderdale County, Tennessee
History Page
Lauderdale County was formed in 1835 from Haywood, Dyer and Tipton counties.
The county seat is Ripley.

The people who lived in the upper part of Tipton County and the lower part of Dyer were cut off from the two county seats by considerable rivers, the Hatchie and the Forked Deer, respectively. These streams had wide bottoms and in bad weather convenient access was denied. Those rivers were, by nature, county boundaries. Accordingly, Lauderdale County was created by the Legislature on Nov. 24th, 1835, from parts of Tipton, Dyer and Haywood Counties, and named in honor of and to perpetuate the memory of Col. James Lauderdale, who fell in one of the battles before New Orleans, on the night of Dec. 23rd, 1814.

As is elsewhere shown Henry Rutherford in 1785, fixed his Key Corner at the first high ground along the south side of the Forked Deer River, the Cole Creek Bluff. In the spring of 1819 Rutherford with his brothers, Benjamin Porter and one Crenshaw, returned to Key Corner and established a settlement, bringing with them live-stock, poultry, farming implements and a good supply of provisions. They made the trip overland to Reynoldsburg on the Tennessee River, where they took the flat-boats for the remainder of the journey. Rutherford settled on a tract he had entered a generation before, about two miles east of Key Corner.

Benjamin Porter erected a dwelling at Porter's Gap nearby, where his son, Benjamin Jr., was born June 12, 1820, the first white male child born in the county. Benjamin Porter, Jr. lived all his life in the house in which he was born, and died a very old age. He had the unusual experience of having been a resident of three different counties without a removal. It is related of him that he was a celebrated bear hunter, having killed, by actual count, over one hundred bears, and on one day four full-grown panthers, which averaged nine and one-half feet in length.

The first grist mill in the limits of Lauderdale was built at Key Corner in 1826 for Griffith Rutherford, a son of Henry. The first cotton gin was built at the same place in 1827 by John Jordan and Williams Chambers. The first sermon perched was in the same settlement by a Baptist minister, Mr. Lanier, in 1821. The same neighborhood received an accession from Knox County in John Flippen and his family in 1822.

So promising was the neighborhood that in 1821 Colonel Wm. Polk, Judge A. D. Murphey, of North Carolina, and Herndon Haralson formulated a plan to establish a town there. The scheme of a town on the Bluff of the Mississippi appears to me to be idle in the extreme, when the Bluff on Forked Deer is so near, and the distance to Orleans less down the Forked Deer from the Bluff than down the Mississippi from the other. Would it not be well to direct Capt. Haralson to lay out the town immediately? We could instruct Mr. (Samuel) Dickens to make a sale of some lots this fall.

While Key Corner was the principal settlement in the county, it was not the first, since a man named Vincent settled on the site of Fulton in 1819, and upon the authority of Col. G. J. Hutcheson, of Lauderdale, his grandfather, Samuel Andrew Given, born in North Carolina in 1771, emigrated prior to 1818 to the West, and traveling past the later site of Jackson, they went by a rude boat down the Forked Deer to the Mississippi, thence to the site of Fulton, near which place they obtained from the Chickasaw Indians a tract of land and settled. In 1818, a daughter was born to Samuel A. Given, who was the first white child born in the country. The tradition is that obtained from the Indians was at the time in part a cleared field. This may have been the site of the village of the Natchez Indians shown upon James Adair's map.

The first settler in the southern section of Lauderdale in the Big Hatchie country was the father of Joseph S. Williams, author of Old Times in West Tennessee.

The oldest town, Fulton, was laid out in 1827 by Judge James Trimble, of Nashville, and for a time flourished. It stood near the site of Fort Pillow, of the Civil War. Col. Thomas Durham located three miles north of the Williams settlement in 1826, and he established there a town in 1829 bearing the name of Durhamville.

About the same time Captain Stephen Childress located six miles below, where he opened a large plantation. His wife was the sister of Thomas H. Benton and Jesse Benton, Jr. Later prominent settlers were Joseph Wardlaw and Larkin Gaines, and his sons Pendleton, Powell, and Abner. The first church in the county was Turner's Chapel, established near Durhamville in 1829, with William Taylor as pastor, though without doubt religious services were held much earlier and in probability congregations formed but without regular pastors. The first school was taught by Edith Kenley in her home two and a half miles north of Double Bridges. The first newspaper was the Ripley Gazette, established about 1860 by Mr. Youngblood.

General William Conner and others promoted the town of Ashport on the Mississippi, and in 1835 the Ashport Turnpike Company was chartered. In the early forties it constructed a high and wide levee on the south side of Big Open Lake.

Lauderdale County has in its borders several small lakes, the largest of which is Big Open Lake, five miles east of Ashport, which, with its arms, covers seven or eight thousand acres of land. Other lakes are Chisholm, Crutcher, Sunk and other smaller lakes. Some of these lakes certainly ante-dated the earthquakes of 1811-1812, since Chisholm Lake was in existence when Henry Rutherford ascended the Forked Deer in 1785.


After the creation of Lauderdale County commissioners were appointed to select a county seat. On Feb. 24, 1836, Howell Taylor, Nicholas T. Perkins & David Hay as commissioners, purchased from Thomas Brown about sixty-two acres of land on which the town of Ripley was laid out by Abel E. Pope. The town received its name from that of General E. Ripley, of the War of 1812. The site was selected here, also, on account of a large spring, in a ravine just north of the public square.

In the same year commissioners were appointed, including Griffith L. Rutherford, to sell town lots; and in the fall of 1836 a log court house was erected with the proceeds, which served through our period. The first court had been organized at the home of Samuel Lusk, three miles north of the site, in June, 1836.

The first mercantile business in Ripley was conducted by J. N. Smith in a log cabin. The Baptist's were in the first denomination to organize a church in the town, with the Rev. Joseph H. Borum as first pastor.

Statistics on Lauderdale County 1921
1920, Population: 21,494#
1921, Assessed Value of Taxable Property: $15,266,680
Area: 450 Square Miles
Number of Farms: 3,406#
Railway Mileage: 26#
Riply, the county seat, on the Illinois Central Railroad, has the population of 2,070.
Halls and Henning are other towns in the county.
Bounded on the West by the Mississippi River and drained by smaller streams. Surface nearly level, with large good growth of timber. Soil fertile, and the county is a large producer of cotton. Other staple products are corn, fruit, and live stock.
The Illinois Central Railroad passes through the county.
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2001 by Lauderdale County Coordinator