Goodspeed's History of Stewart County

Published 1897

Part 5: Creation of Stewart County

   Stewart County was created by an act of the General Assembly of Tennessee, passed November 1, 1803, and was named in honor of Duncan Stewart, one of the pioneer farmers of the county. The act creating the county is in substance as follows:

Section 1. Be it enacted, etc., That Montgomery County be divided by a line which shall commence on the Kentucky line, 13 miles west of the meridian of Clarksville and run south to the southern boundary of this State, and all the territory west of said line shall constitute a separate and distinct county, to be called Stewart.

Section 2 provides that James Elder be appointed surveyor to run the division line between the said counties of Montgomery and Stewart. Section 3 provides that James Huling, James Elder, Amos Bird, Harry Small and John Blair be appointed a commission for the purpose of fixing on the most central and eligible place for the permanent seat of justice. section provides that the first court of said county shall be held at the dwelling house of William Martin, near Bald Island; from thence to adjourn to such place as they may think proper until the public buildings of said county are ready for their reception. Section 5 provides for the taxes of the present year by the sheriff of Montgomery County. Section 8 provides for the appointment of George Petty, Caleb Williams and James Tagart as a commission, who, as soon as a location shall be selected fro the county site, are authorized to purchase from the owner or owner's thirty acres of land, including the site so selected, and shall take a deed for the same. Section 9 provides that the above commission shall cause a town to be laid off on the said thirty acres, said town to be known by the name of Monroe, one and a half acres of which shall be reserved for the public square, including the spaces fixed on for the erection of the court house, jail and stocks. Section 10 provides for the sale of the lots of said town at public sale at six month's credit, the money so obtained to be applied to the payment of the aforesaid thirty acres of land and to the building of the court house, jail and stocks, and the commission are hereby authorized to prepare plans and award to any suitable person the contract for the erection of said public buildings.

At the time of organization, Stewart County extended west to the Tennessee River, and south to the Alabama line, and upon extinguishment of the title of the Chickasaws to the lands in the Western Purchase, as it was then called, in 1819, the county had jurisdiction over all that country reaching to the Mississippi River. The major portion of that vast domain, however, was taken from Stewart County and erected into new counties by an act of the legislature in 1821. The last time her territory was reduced was in 1871, when Houston County was created.

The county has an area of 425 square miles. The population of the county in 1860 was 9896; in 1870, 12019; in 1880, 12690; and is close to 13000 at the present. There are 2500 voters in the county; four-fifths of whom are members of the Democratic party. There are 120 town lots in the county, which are valued at $40,625, and 300,375 acres of land, valued at $924,784, and of which 57000 acres are improved. The total valuation of real estate and personal property, is assessed at $1,015,242; the school tax collected in 1885 was $7,872.95; highway, $507.59; total tax, including poll and county, $15,932.58. The county is practically out of debt, her liabilities amounting to less than $500, which will all be liquidated during the present year. There are three bridges only in the county, one across Elk Creek, in the Sixth District, which was built in 1883, at a cost of about $500; one across South Cross Creek in the Sixth District, built in 1885 at a cost of about $600; and one across Leatherwood creek at La Grange iron works in the Eleventh District, which was completed during the present year at a cost of about $500. The roads of Stewart County for many years were in a most deplorable condition, being rough and uncared for to a great extent. Within the last few years, however, more attention has been bestowed on the road system, and they are now in a comparatively good condition. In 1885, there were grown in the county 70 bushels of buckwheat; 778,404 bushels of corn; 26,629 bushels of oats; 34,855 bushels of wheat and 99 bushels of rye.

On Monday, March 12, 1804, Thomas Clinton, Joshua Williams, William Allen and George Petty, Esqrs., met at the house of George Martin, near Bald Island, and after taking the oath as justices, proceeded to organize the new county of Stewart. Thomas Clinton occupied the chair and David Dickson and William Curl were appointed county clerk and sheriff pro tem, respectively. An adjournment was then taken until the following day, when the court reconvened and proceeded at once to the election of permanent county officers: Samuel A. Smith was elected county clerk; William Curl, Sheriff; George Petty, register; Yancy Thornton, revenue collector; James Smith, trustee; Benjamin Downs, ranger; and Nathaniel McNairy, solicitor general. The officers at once qualified and assumed their respective duties. Among the first acts of the court were the appointment of David Cowan and Aaron Fletcher, as jurors to the superior court, to prove the will of William Massey, deceased, and appoint his widow, Elizabeth, executrix of the estate, and order the sheriff to levy and collect a county tax as follows: 12.5 cents on every 100 acres of land; 12.5 cents on each white poll, and 25 cents on each black poll. The following June term of the court also met at the house of Mr. Martin, when a grand jury was appointed. Perry W. Thompson, gentleman, was admitted to practice before the court, and Mason Bennett was granted license to sell whisky at his dwelling house. The September term of the same year was held at the house of Mason Bennett. At that term William Bell was granted permission to erect a public grist mill on Well's Creek below the mouth of Dry Hollow, and Mason Bennett was granted permission to keep a ferry across Cumberland River at the landing at his house. The charges for ferriage were regulated as follows: For man and horse. 4.5 d. from the 1st of June to the 1st of December, and during the balance of the year 12.5 cents, and half the above amounts for foot passengers. The December term met at the house of George Petty, when Simon Fletcher was bound over in the sum of $2000 to keep the peace for twelve months, and George Petty was granted license to keep a tavern at his house and also a ferry across the Cumberland River.

Return to Stewart County Index Page.