Warren County Tennessee
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Between the formation of Warren Countys first Civil Districts in 1836 and the final addition of the Sixteenth Civil District in 1889, there have been many changes in both the number districts and the boundary lines of the districts. Unfortunately, none of maps of those various Civil Districts changes are extant.
Additionally, reference to First, Second, and Third Districts as found in early (pre-1836) Warren County land documents are not references to Civil Districts, but rather to the three Surveyors Districts which covered early Warren County. Those Districts went out of business in 1824 when the Tennessee counties took over the job of surveying public land. Still, you will see references to those three Surveyors Districts in post-1836 land documents as the earlier calls were copied and recopied in land conveyances.
Between 1836 and 1844, a number of new counties were formed in part with land sacrificed by Warren County. That reduction in area would have also reduced Warrens population and therefore would have had an effect on the Civil Districts. See our Population, 1810-2000 page.
Like some other states and territories, Tennessees Counties were originally divided into Militia Districts. These districts were created for the purpose of organizing military companies to defend the area from Indian raids or other threats. The Militia Districts were also used as divisions for census enumeration, voting, and taxation. The 1812 Warren County Tax List shows twelve Militia Districts. As was the usual practice, the districts were listed by the names their individual Captains. These Captains were elected by the men of the local companies. Those names are:
John B. Perkins
By the 1830s, both the federal government and the State of Tennessee were considering an overhaul of the militia system. President Andrew Jackson in his forth Annual Message, 4 December 1832, said: ... But it is obvious that the militia system is imperfect. Much time is lost, much unnecessary expense incurred, and much public property wasted under the present arrangement. Little useful knowledge is gained by the musters and drills as now established, and the whole subject evidently requires a thorough examination ...
Under the provisions of the 1835 Tennessee State Constitution, and further Acts of Tennessee, the old Militia Districts were were superseded by the Civil Districts. Of course, the State Militia still continued. The 1835 Tennessee Constitution had ample provisions for the Militia and today we know the Militia as the Tennessee National Guard. (An act of the 45th General Assembly in 1887 created the military organization known as the Tennessee National Guard.)
Tennessee Justices of the Peace were officers of the states county court system, a system that provided the justices concurrent jurisdiction with their peers of the Chancery Courts. Prior to Tennessees 1835 Constitution two justices were appointed by the governor for each captains company--a militia unit arbitrarily assigned to a county by the state legislature, commanded by a captain who was appointed by its eligible male constituency, and utilized as a distinct voting district for elections and tax collecting--and when a company included the county seat the number of appointments could not exceed three. The 1835 state constitution replaced this system of judicial appointments with an electorial process that required each civil district to elect their justices. In both systems the justices were required to legally qualify for their elected or appointed positions, and they were restricted from holding any other public office during their tenure. They were also required to reside in their civil district for their full terms of office.Under the new 1835 Tennessee Court System, we see this structure which is still in use today:
The 1836 Tax List was used to initially establish the Civil Districts throughout Tennessee. This Tax List was taken under the direction of the Tennessee Assembly for the purpose of redistricting - if necessary - the counties of Tennessee. The 1836 Warren County Tax List had thirteen Civil Districts. The 1838 Tax List was used to either confirm the newly established 1836 district boundaries or implement changes based on the population. The 1838 Warren County Tax List shows twelve Civil Districts, a small adjustment but certainly a change from the 1836 Tax List.
The 1850 U.S. Federal Census for Warren County shows sixteen Civil Districts.
The 1854 Tax List shows thirteen Civil Districts.
The 1870 U.S. Federal Census for Warren County shows fifteen Civil Districts.
The 1880 U.S. Federal Census for Warren County shows fifteen Civil Districts.
In 1889, the sixteenth Civil District was added for a second time.
The 1890 U.S. Federal Census for most of the United States including Warren County was lost.
The 1900 U.S. Federal Census for Warren County shows sixteen Civil Districts.
Between 1850 and 1870, there was a rearrangement of the numbering pattern of the Warren County Civil Districts: i.e., household or visitation Number 1119 (Wm Smoot) in the 1850 census will be found in Civil District 13. The 1870 (No. 117, William Smoot), 1880 (No. 4, Matilda Smoot), 1900 (No. 178, John Smoot) censuses place that same household (with differnt visitation numbers) in Civil District 10. The old farm house did not move nor did the family, only the Civil District numbering patterns changed.
On the 1850 census, we see Civil District 1 as small district being composed of mostly farmers and their families. This is not an urban Civil District and certainly not McMinnville. On the 1870 census, we see Civil District 1 as outside city and McMinnville. Apparently, Civil District 1 moved to town.
Therefore, it is safe to say that the 1850 Civil District numbering patterns are very unlike the 1870 and later numbering patterns. The 1870 and onward numbering patterns seem relatively constant except that a sixteenth district was added in 1889.
Tennessees second Constitutional Convention met in Nashville during the spring of 1834 and a new constitution was passed by the Convention in August 1834. This new constitution was approved by the people in March, 1835. This constitution is often and erroneously referred to as the 1834 Tennessee Constitution.
When reading the 1835 Tennessee Constitution, it is not immediately obvious that the Militia Districts were to be changed to Civil Districts. The actual law giving direction to the counties should be found in the Acts of Tennessee.
The Tennessee State Library and Archives lists these tax lists as being avalible on microfilm: 1805, 1812, 1836, 1838, 1876-1883, 1885, 1887-1900. Note that this does not include the 1854 tax list which is found at the Magness Memorial Library in McMinnville.
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updated on Sunday, March 24, 2013