More than half of Cannon County lies in the Central Basin, and the remainder on the Highland Rim. Spurs shoot out from the highlands, forming numerous valleys, through which course mountain streams, giving the county probably as much varied and picturesque scenery as any in the State. The soils on the highlands are light colored, and are for the most part thin and unproductive, save of a rank, barren grass which affords good summer grazing. Fruits and tobacco will also grow, in the highland soils. The knobs of the Central basin are usually fertile to the top, but limestone crops out in such abundance as to render much of the surface unfit for cultivation. In the basin, however, is found the valuable farm lands of the county. The soil is rich, loamy and pebbly, easily worked and highly productive. Bluegrass grows spontaneously and luxuriantly on the slopes and tops of the hills, and even in the glades, furnishing rich pasturage. The crops of the county are corn, wheat, hay, clover, tobacco and the grasses, while the timber embraces species of oak, ash, poplar, walnut, hickory, chestnut, gum, maple, beech, buckeye, cherry and elm.
Stone River traverses the county from the east to the west, receiving the waters of numerous tributaries, and is the principal water course of the county. Other streams are Rockhouse, Carpenter, Rush, Lock, Hill, Hollis and Brawley Creeks, all emptying into the Stone River, Carson Fork, emptying into Brawley Creek, and Barren Fork of Collins River, Clear Fork, Sycamore, Hurricane, Saunders and Marshall Creeks.
The country now embraced in Cannon County was settled as early as 1807 and 1809, though it then belonged to several other counties in part. The early settlers were chiefly North Carolinians, who, however, came here from East Tennessee, to which section they had previously immigrated in quest of homes, but pushed on over the mountains as Middle Tennessee opened up for settlement. Among the settlers living here in 1836, when Cannon County was organized, were Henry D. McBroom, John Wood, James and Edmond Taylor, Wm. Hollis, Noel Lilly, Isham Cherry, Alexander Hill, Phillip Rough, Phillip Hoas, Henry Ford, Benjamin Allen, Usibid Stone, George St. John, Wm. Mears, Melchesedec Self, Joseph Harrison, Samuel Lewis, Wm. Middleton, James and John Barkley, Richard Vincent, Alexander Orr, Wm. McFerrin, Calvin Carlee, Jackson Wherry, Daniel Travis, Arthur Warren, Phillip Mouser, Joshua Barton, George Petty, Benjamin Arant, L.S. Gilliam, Reuben Evans, Benjamin Blodes, Tilman Bethal, G.W. Duncan, Joseph Simpson, D.M. Stewart, James Ferrell, Archibald Stone, J.G.W. Rose, Joseph Clark, Asa Smith, Elijah Stephens, James M. Brown, John Wright, Pumphry Bynum, Charles Espy, Wm. Preston, Sr., Walter Wood, Benjamin Cummings, Sr., Warren Cummings, Wm. Cummings, Sr., John Stone, Andrew Melton, Caleb and Wm. Sevillirant, Joseph James, James Miles, Alexander McBroom, Kit and Wm. Pyburn, Cullin Corlee, Edmond Sutton, William, James and John Wood, Nathan Finley, Jesse and James Todd, Robert Carson, Jonathan Jones, Ambrose Petty, Thomas Williams, John McClain, Archibald Hicks, Thomas Fowler, Gideon Rucker, Jesse G. Moore, Louis Jetton, Gabriel Elkins, James Hawkins and Charles Evans, many of who are still living. One of the first schools taught in what is now Cannon County was the one situated about seven miles west of Woodbury, of which James Barklay was the teacher.. This school was taught as early as 1810 or 1812. Other Early schools of the years between the above school and 1815 were taught by Jacob Mackeroy, on Hill Creek, one and a half miles east of Woodbury; by Bartlett Wade, in the same neighborhood, and later in that neighborhood by John Finley. In about 1814 James Rucker opened a school in Woodbury (then Danville), and a few years later Elliot Tunley taught a school in the Methodist meeting-house in town. The next school in Woodbury was taught by Thomas G. Wood. Laurens Academy was established in Woodbury in 1838 as a county academy, for which a frame building was erected. In 1859 the house was destroyed by a fire, when a substantial brick was erected, which is now occupied as a private residence. In about 1855 Baptists established a school, which has since become the Woodbury College. The school building is a large two-story brick, and the school a most excellent one. The other schools of the county besides the commons schools are those at Short Mountain, Auburn, Bradysville and Readerville, those at Woodbury and Short Mountain being chartered and working under the four-mile law. In 1838 the scholastic population of Cannon County was 1,961; in 1868, 3,559, and in 1885, as follows: White--male, 2,296; female, 2,251. Colored--male, 118; female, 179; total, white and colored, 4,844. Among the first churches of Cannon County were Brawley Fork Baptist Church, in which is now the Third District; Prospect Methodist Church, on Hill Creek, in the Sixth District; Ford Meeting-house, Christian, in the Sixth District, and Corlees Meeting-house, on Brawley Fork, also in the Sixth District, all of which were log houses and built all along between 1815 and 1820. The first church erected in Woodbury was a log house, built about 1820 by the Methodists. This stood until about 1840, when the present brick was erected. The next was a frame church erected by the Baptists about 1841, which is still in use, and the next was the Christian Church, frame, which was erected about 1842 and is still in use. The Cumberland Presbyterians have an organization and meet in the courthouse, they having no building of their own. The churches of the county by districts are as follows: First District, New Hope, Christian; Second District, Berea, Christian; Third Distract, Marion, Baptist, and Corlee, Christian; Fourth District, Bethlehem, Christian, and Wesley Chapel, Methodist Episcopal South; Fifth District, Daniels Chapel, Methodist Episcopal South; Seventh District, Cold Springs, Christian, and Walnut Grove, Methodist Episcopal South; Eighth District, Woods Meeting-house, Christian, and Blue Wing, Methodist Episcopal South; Ninth District, Osment schoolhouse and Baptist, and Melton, Christian; Eleventh District, New Hope, Cumberland Presbyterian, Shiloh and Poplar Stand, Baptist, and Auburn, Christian; Twelfth District, Bradyville, Christian, and Thytira, Cumberland Presbyterian; Thirteenth District, Holly Springs, Baptist, and Parkers Chapel and Gilley Hill, Methodist Episcopal South; Fourteenth District, Pleasant Ridge Christian, and Pleasant Ridge Baptist; Fifteenth District, Jones schoolhouse Methodist Episcopal South.
Among the early mills of the county were those of Nathaniel Moorhead at Woodbury, on the Stone River, about 1813; Chas. Readys mill on Stone River, at Readyville, about 1812; Thomas Rookers mill on the same stream, four miles west from Woodbury, about 1814; Bryants mill, on the same stream eight miles west from Woodbury, about 1816; David Whittakers mill, near town, at about the same time; Archibald Praters mill, on a branch of Stone River, five miles east of town, about 1820, and Alexander Hills mill, on Hill Creek, about 1821. The principal mills of the present are the Readerville flour-mills, owned by P.C. Talley; Isaac McBrooms mill on Stone River, in the Second District; W.F. Brerards mill, on Stone River, at Woodbury, and J. L. Sheckleys mill, on Stone River, in the Second District, all of which are excellent flour and meal-mills, and like the above named old mills, are operated by water power. Upon almost every creek in the county are found small, water-powered corn-mills, and there are from ten to fifteen portable, steam saw-mills at work in the county.
Cannon County was established by the act of the General Assembly, passed January 21, 1836, and was organized the following May. It was named in honor of Gov. Cannon, and its county seat for Hon. Levi Woodbury of New Hampshire. The county is bounded on the north by the counties of Wilson and Smith, east by Warren and De Kalb, south by Coffee, west by Rutherford, and has an area of 420 square miles. The county court in 1836 ordered the erection of a courthouse and jail. The former was completed in 1838 after the style and plan of the Rutherford County Courthouse, and cost about $13,000. The building is in use at the present and bids fair to do service for the next fifty years. It is a large, square, two-story brick building and is very conveniently arranged. The jail was also completed in 1838, was a brick building, but being too near Stone River it was washed away in the freshet of 1850. A second brick jail was erected in 1852 which served until 1880, when the present substantial stone building was erected.
In 1840 Cannon County had a population of 7,163, of 8,982 in 1850, of 9,509 in 1860, of 10,502 in 1870, of 11,200 in 1880 and of about 12,500 in 1886. In 1870 there were assessed in the county for taxation 160,013 acres of land, valued at $1,452,220, and the valuation of the real and personal property was $1,079,260. The tax duplicate for 1886 shows taxes assessed as follows: State, $3,237.78; county, $3,117.90; school, $4,796.90; road, $539.63, and poll $1,670, making a total of $11,692.21. In 1870 the live stock of the county amounted to 4,839 head of horses and mules, 3,533 head of cattle, 12,198 head of sheep and 23,550 head of hogs. In 1870 the cereal products of the country amounted to 79,520 bushels of wheat, 564,330 bushels of corn, 26,870 bushels of oats and 3,167 bushels of rye. In 1886 the products were 94,150 bushels of wheat, 821,012 bushels of corn, 22,802 bushels of oats and 6,985 bushels of rye.
In May, 1836, Thomas Powell. Isaac Finley, Allen Haley, Joseph Simpson, Blake Sedgly, James L. Essary, John Pendleton, Isaac W. Eledge, Elijah Stephens, I.M. Brown, F.L. Turner, John Milton, Charles C. Evans, Samuel Lance, Wm. Bates, Wm. B. Foster, John Martin, John Frazier, Martin Phillips, Reuben Evans, Lemuel Moore, James Goodwin, Peter Reynolds, James Beatie, Joel Cheatham and Jonathan Fuson, all bearing commissions as justices, met at the house of Henry d. McBroom, which was the old hotel, in Woodbury, for the purpose of organizing the county court. The body was called to order by Leighton Ferrell, sheriff of Warren County, and the oath of office was administered by Eli Bailey, acting justice for Warren County. The court then organized by the election of Thomas Powell as chairman, and the wheels of government were put in motion.
The Cannon Circuit Court was organized at McBrooms tavern in Woodbury in 1836 by Judge Edmund Dillahunty, who presided in the inter-change with regular judge, Wm. Anderson.
Judge B. L. Ridley organized the Cannon Chancery Court at the old tavern in Woodbury in 1836, and appointed Henry Tratt, first clerk and master.
Among the early lawyers of Woodbury were Jonathan Farr, Abraham Burger, Jr., M.W. McKnight, J.S. Barton and Thomas G. Wood. The present attorneys are J.H. Cummings, H.J. St. John, A. Finley, James A. Jones, John S. Wood, W.C. Huston, A.J. Smithson and W.H. Cummings. Of the above M.W. McKnight was attorney-general of this circuit for eight years, 1866-74; H.J. St. John represented the county in the Legislature, 1857-58; J.H. Cummings held the same position, 1875-76; W.C. Huston filled the same office, 1877-78, and James A. Jones represented this district in the State Senate, 1875-76.
County Court Clerks: Samuel Garrison, 1836-39; James M. Brown, 1839-40; Rezin Fowler, 1840-52; Brinkley Lassater, 1852-60; Thomas Smith, 1860-62; Josephus Finley, 1865-70; E.B. Vance, 1870-78; Wylie W. Gray, 1878-86; J.G. Moore, 1886, and present incumbent.
Circuit Court Clerks: Thomas G. Wood, 1836-44; John Q. Weatherford, 1844-52; James Wood, 1852-56; D.L. Elkins, 1856-68; E.T. Dillon, 1868-72; Thomas Finley, 1872-78; E.C. Preston, 1878-86; Josephus Finley, 1886, and present incumbent.
Clerk and Masters: Henry Tratt, 1836-42; Caleb B. Davis, 1842-47; Thomas G. Wood, 1847-62; J.S. Ridley, 1865-68: A.F. McFerrin, 1868-70; W.J. Wood, 1870-76; J.E. New, 1876-82; F.B. Martin, 1882, and present incumbent.
Sheriffs: George Grizzle, 1836-38; Higdon R. Jarrett, 1838-40; John A. George, 1840-42, Isaac W. Elledge, 1842-44, Samuel Vance, 1844-46; R.A. Smith 1846-50; Clint Elledge, 1850-52; Baden Raines, 1852-54; Warren Cummings, 1854-62; A.F. Todd, 1865-70; George Finley, 1870-72; B.F. Vincent, 1872-76; James H. Mitchell, 1876-80; B.F. Vincent, 1880-82; James H. Mitchell, 1882-84; H.L. Preston, 1884 and present incumbent.
Registers: Alexander McFerrin, 1836-40; Isaac Finley, 1840-42; Thomas J. Williams, 1842-48; Barton S. Travis, 1848-52; Burrel Spicer, 1852-56; James Ward, 1856-58; Cicero Sowers, 1858-62; Jack Merritt, 1865-66; Jack McBroom, 1866-77; Zebediah Brevard, 1871-72; A.G. Brown, 1872-78; W.A. Moody, 1878-86; Adam Fuller, 1886, and present incumbent.
Cannon County, as a county, furnished to the wars of 1836 and 1846, but they went as individuals, there being no regularly organized bodies or companies raised in the county for either of those wars.Not so, however, with the late Rebellion, to which she furnished the following eight companies, all regularly organized within the county:
Three full companies to the Eighteenth Regiment of Tennessee Infantry, organized in May, 1861, and commanded by Capts. Richmond Rushing, A.J. St. John and Grand Wood; one company to Col. Bartons Mississippi Regiment of Calvary, organized in the latter part of 1861, commanded by Capt. Timothy Ellison, who was killed in 1862, and succeeded by W.M. McKnight; two companies to Col. Hills Fourth Regiment of Tennessee Infantry, organized in 1862, and commanded by Capts. M.M. Brin, Jr., and J.H. Wood, and two companies to the Fourth Regiment of Tennessee Calvary, organized in 1863, and commanded by Capt. H.A. Wylie and J.W. Nichols.
The county was occupied first by the Northern and then the Southern Armies during the struggle, and numerous skirmishes were fought in the county, but none of sufficient importance or consequence to merit mention.
Woodbury, the county seat, was formerly Danville, and belonged to Warren County. Danville was founded in about 1819 by Henry D. McBroom and Henry Watt, who were the first merchants, and the former the first tavern-keeper. Other early merchants were Henry Watt, Jr., Wylie & Dunkerson, Nathan Neeley, and Wood & Wylie. In 1836, when Cannon County was established, the commissioners entrusted with the locating of a county seat, selected Danville, and the name of the town was changed to that of Woodbury. At that time there were not over 100 inhabitants in the place. Woodbury now has a population of about 600, and is situated on the south bank of Stone River, at the terminus of the Woodbury and Murfreesboro Turnpike, nineteen miles east from the latter town, and fifty miles southeast from Nashville, in the lovely valley of Stone River, surrounded by high, rounded hills, and having beautiful scenery and excellent health. Woodbury was incorporated in 1852, and with the exception of the years of the late war, worked continually under the charter of incorporation then secured until 1880, when the charter was surrendered in order to give the four-mile temperance law force and effect.
The first merchants of Woodbury were Henry Trott, Jr., James J. Trott, Joseph Ramsey, Ramsey and Garrison, Parker F. Stone, Thomas C. Wood, Bates and Hume, and Nathan Neeley. Henry D. Broom continued as tavern-keeper up to about 1857-58. The merchants of the present are Martin & Gribble, McFerrin & Wylie, Hoover & Mason, J.A.H. Thompson, C.P. McBroom, J.G. Smith & Bros., and E. and J.T. Stephens, dry goods and groceries; R.H. Preston, groceries; William Brewer, C.C. Broom, and J.H. Thrower, drugs; Z. Dillon & Bro.,saddle and harness shop; T.J. Vance, livery stable; J.H. Thrower, undertaker and furniture, and W.A. Talley, hotel.
The Cannon Carrier, W.T. Mingle, editor and proprietor, is the only paper published in the county. The Courier was established in 1882, is Democratic in politics and is prosperous.
The early physicians of Woodbury were Drs. Gowan, New, Barnes, Flowers and Tatum, and those of the present are Drs. Robert F. Tatum, B.F. Lester, L.B. McCreary, H.M. Hern and Dr. Barton.
The villages of the county, all of which are small and have only from fifty to one hundred and fifty inhabitants each, are Bradyville, ten miles southwest from Woodbury, in the Twelfth District; Auburn, sixteen miles north from Woodbury, in the Eleventh District; Mechanicsville, at Short Mountain, ten miles northeast from Woodbury, in the Ninth District. Readerville, seven miles from Woodbury and twelve miles from Murfreesboro,on the pike, is part in Cannon and part in Rutherford County, the county line running through the town, yet it is placed in Rutherford County, and the postoffice is in that county.