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Lake County

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Coming Soon: Lake County Biographical Sketches

LAKE COUNTY occupies the extreme northwestern corner of the State. It includes all the territory lying between the Mississippi River and Reelfoot Lake, and extending from the Kentucky line to the northern boundary of Dyer County. It contains an area of 210 square miles, and in fertility of soil probably surpasses every other county in the State. The soil is a black loam, in many places reaching a depth of ten feet and resting upon a subsoil of sand. It is especially adapted to the growing of cotton and corn, which are the most important farm products. In that portion of the county north of Tiptonville the farms are nearly all improved, and in a high state of cultivation. In the southern part of the county there is much unimproved land, some of which is marshy, and of little value, until it is drained. Originally the county was covered with a heavy growth of poplar, oak, cypress, walnut, beech and other trees, but the greater part of the most valuable timber has now been removed. Among the first settlers in what is now Lake County were Richard Meriwether, who located about one mile north of Tiptonville; Frank Longley, who made a settlement near where Stone’s Ferry now is, and Robert Nolen, who opened a farm near the Kentucky line. All of these men came into the county previous to 1825. Of those who settled at a little later date may be mentioned Stephen Mitchell, William Harris, Thomas Rivers, Joseph Fowlkes and Reuben Anderson.

The first horse-mill was built by Robert Nolen. Owing to the absence of streams no water-mills could be operated, and nearly every well-to-do farmer owned a horse-mill, at which was ground the grain of his less fortunate owner. The first steam saw-mill was erected by Isaac Larmon, near the present site of Tiptonville, early in the forties. Previous to the war, comparatively little cotton was raised, and no gin was established until 1865, when one was built at Tiptonville, by W. B. Batsell. Within the past ten years several steam saw-mills have been established in the county, one of the largest of which was conducted by the Keystone Lumber Company. It did an extensive business for four or five years, and suspended operations about two years ago. Soon after the war a small distillery was built by H. K. Alexander, about three-fourths of a mile from Tiptonville. It was run but a short time when it was burned. At a little later date J. C. Harris created a distillery near Reelfoot Lake, where he did quite an extensive business until about 1874, when it too was destroyed by fire.

Prior to the war the material development of the county was quite slow, but since that time it has been more rapid. In some portions, however, the frequent overflows of the Mississippi River within the past four years have somewhat retarded the clearing of land and reduced the value of property. In 1886 the number of acres of taxable land was 95,123, valued at $648,690. The value of personal property was $19,800, and of all property $692,300, upon which a total tax of $7,054.40 was raised. in 1880 the number of acres taxed was 77,770 valued at $580,695, while the aggregate value of the taxable property was $623,395, and the total tax raised $5,402.35.

Lake County was organized under an act of the General Assembly passed June 9, 1870. The commissioners appointed for that purpose were Robert C. Wall, L. Donaldson, Wyatt Mooring, W. J. Wynn and E. E. Westbrook, who divided the county into civil districts and held an election for county officers. The first county court was held in Atheneum Hall at Tiptonville, on September 5, 1870, at which time the following magistrates were present and took the oath of office: Louis Lechenet, W. A. Downing, J. R. Oldhauser, J. P. Mcelyea, D. L. Tipton, Wyatt Mooring, R. S. Bradford, C. M. Peacock, F. H. Griffin, Joseph Witt, William Mccurdy, M. T. Smith and Henry La Duke. C. M. Peacock was elected chairman, and R. S. Bradford and W. A. Downing, associate justices. Tiptonville was chosen as the permanent seat of justice of the county, and J. M. Alexander, J. H. Tipton, R. Dalton, C. M. Peacock and A. J. Newgent were appointed to secure lots for a court house and jail. This they accordingly did and reported at the next term of the court. For the court house two acres were procured, one acre to be donated by Samuel FREY and the other by Mrs. Howdy Shelt. One acre was also purchased from the latter as a site for a jail. It was afterward decided, however, not to build a court house, and after renting the Atheneum Hall for a year, it was purchased by the county for the sum of $1,300. The jail was erected in 1871 under the supervision of C. M. Peacock, C. H. Riley, R. C. Nall, J. R. Tipton and L. Donaldson, commissioners appointed for that purpose. The building, which is still used, is a frame building two stories high, provided with iron cages. It was built by R. S. Chapman to whom the contract was awarded, for the sum of $1,200.

The circuit court of Lake County was organized by James D. Porter on December 5, 1870, with P. Davis as clerk. This was, however, but a continuation of a special court, which was established for “that portion of Obion County west of Reelfoot Lake” in 1858. The first term of this court was begun on June 14, of that year, at the Masonic Hall about three miles northwest of Tiptonville. Samuel Williams was the presiding judge, Robert C. Nall, clerk, and R. P. Caldwell attorney-general. The first grand jury was empaneled at the October term following and consisted of John B. Hogue, Anderson Cates, D. D. Pollock, Jacob Shipman, W. Donaldson, A. B. Cunningham, E. W. Neville, Thomas Sinclair, J. M. Peacock, A. 0. Sibert, H. M. Darnall, James Bradford and J. M. Crockett.

At the October term, 1859, P. J. Anderson qualified as clerk of this court and so continued until its suspension, in 1862. The first term of this court after the war was held by Isaac Sampson in October, 1865, with R. S. Bradford as clerk. The latter was succeeded the following year by R. C. Nall, and the former in 1868 by John A. Rogers. The first term of the court held in Tiptonville was in September, 1868. After the adoption of the new constitution in 1870 the county formed a part of the Twelfth Judicial Circuit until September, 1886, when it was transferred to the circuit. A chancery court was organized in 1870 by John Somers, with Rivers Donaldson as clerk and master. It contained a portion of the Eleventh Chancery Division until September 1886, since which time, by act of the Legislature, the judge of the circuit court has presided. Since 1873 P. Davis has filled the office of clerk and master. The first resident attorney in the county was G. W. Butt, who opened an office at Tiptonville, in 1866, and remained about two years, when he removed to Memphis. The following year W. H. Adams and L. Donaldson located in the town. The former remained until about 1877, when he removed to Texas. The latter, with E. M. Lowe and R. M. Darnall, constitute the present bar of Lake County.

The first houses erected in Tiptonville were a store-house and dwelling built by William Tipton in 1857. The land next to the river, embracing a portion of the present site of the town, was then owned by James Reeves, of Troy. At about the same time that Tipton opened his store, William Mobley & Co. also began a general mercantile business, and J. T. Davis established a saloon and family grocery. This constituted the business of’ Tiptonville at the beginning of the war, and during that struggle the town was entirely destroyed by the Federal gun-boats. In the fall of 1865 the rebuilding was begun by J. C. Harris and W. H. Shelton, who erected a store-house, and engaged extensively in buying produce and selling general merchandise. During the following year James Cronan engaged in a similar business, and Samuel Frey and J. C. Harris, under the firm name of Samuel Frey & Co., established a general grocery store. Willis Jones also did quite an extensive business at about the same time. In 1868 Harris withdrew from the firm of Harris & Shelton, which then became Neville & Shelton, and established the firm of J. C. Harris & Co., his partner being P. G. Hines. They continued until 1874, when Harris withdrew. Hines then continued for about two years, when he was succeeded by Harris, who has since been one of the leading merchants and shippers of the county. The firm of Harper & Amberg and later, Amberg, did an extensive business for five or six years previous to 1884, when the latter became insolvent. In 1879 J. D. Arnett engaged in selling general merchandise, and buying and shipping cotton and other produce. Both he and J. C. Harris operate a cotton-gin. Several other persons have been engaged in business in the town, but for only a short time. In addition to those already mentioned, the following are the business men of the present: C. M. Peacock & Son, J. G. Tipton and James E. Ward, general merchandise; J. B. Snow and Dr. M. Donaldson, drugs; Walter Chambers and Smith Newton, family groceries.

The first hotel was opened by Washington Howdy Shelt about 1860. After his death it was conducted by his widow, until the house was burned. In 1871 W. H. Anderson built what is now known as the Laurel House, which was conducted for a time by his mother, Mrs. M. S. Anderson. The present proprietor is Charles Barker. Among the first prominent physicians of the county were Drs. Isler, Byrd, Burnett, Harvey and Mccarthy. The first to locate in Tiptonville was Dr. Walker, who began the practice of medicine there just previous to the war. Those of the present are M. Donaldson and W. A. Sims. In 1879 a newspaper, the Lake County Star, was established by C. D. Tresenriter who continued as editor and publisher for two or three years, when he sold the office to A. F. Eastwood. The latter, after continuing about two years, was succeeded by M. Tipton, who conducted it until 1885, when it was suspended. In the summer of 1886 it was revived, and was published for a short time by J. G. Brummel, under the name of the Valley Record.

Since 1868 the town has contained a Masonic lodge. In that year Harmony Lodge, No. 184, was removed to Tiptonville from Cronansville, near which place it was organized. Its charter, which was granted October 11, 1851, bears the following names: J. B. Burnett, Worshipful Master; T. J. Nolen, Senior Warden, and William D. Bloys, Junior Warden. For the first few years meetings were held in a log building, erected for that purpose by the lodge. Later, in co-operation with various church members and other citizens, a two-story building was erected, the upper story of which constituted the Masonic Hall until the lodge wag removed. It has since occupied a room in what is now the court house. The present officers are M. J. Holifield, W. M.; J. W. Tipton, S. W.; T. E. Davis, J. W.; B. F. Beckham, Treasurer; Richard Owens, Secretary; J. C. Harris, S. D., and J. S. Newton, J. D. The membership at present reaches about fifty.

A lodge of the I. 0. 0. F. was organized in 1872, but it was maintained but a short time.

Outside of Tiptonville there is no town or village of any importance in the county. Cronansville, situated about three and one-half miles northwest of Tiptonville, is the nearest approach to a village. It consists of a store, cotton-gin and grist-mill, owned by James Cronan, who located there, at the close of the war, a blacksmith shop and a saloon. Darnall’s Landing has a post office and a store, conducted by R. T. Parks. Ross Landing has a post office; and Reelfoot, a post office and a store, owned by J. C. Harris. W. A. J. Davis has a store at Horn Ridge.

The following is a complete list of the county officers:

Clerks of the County Court - P. G. Hines, 1870-74; Melvin Glasscock, 1874.*

Clerks of the Circuit Court - P. Davis, 1870-74; J. D. Arnett, 1874.*

*Present incumbent.

Sheriffs - J. R. Tipton, 1870-72; J. M. Alexander, 1872-74; J. H. Tipton, 1874-78; W. D. Meriwether, 1878-80†; C. P. Cates, April to September, 1880; J. H. Pittman, 1880-82; A. J. Newgent, 1882-84; A. F. Eastwood, 1884,*

Trustees - William Snow, 1870-74; W. H. Anderson; 1874-76; L. Donaldson, 1876-78; M. J. Holifield, 1878-82; J. G. Tipton, 1882-86; R. T. Webb, 1886.*

Registers - Thomas Keefe, 1870-78; W. W. Meriwether, 1878-82; John Snow, 1882.

Surveyors - J. M. Bradford, 1870-72; R. C. Nall, 1872-80; T. R. Murfrer, [Murfree-?] 1880.*

Superintendents of Public Instruction - H. R. Raymon, ----; L. Donaldson, 187- -82; M. A. Lowe, 1882-84; L. Donaldson, 1884.*

*Present incumbent.
†Died in office.

The first company organized for service in the Confederate Army, in what is now Lake County, was Company E of the Fifteenth Tennessee Infantry, which was formed at Tiptonville in May, 1861, with the following officers: W, B. Isler, captain; R. A. Lewis, first lieutenant; R. B. Donaldson, second lieutenant; R. M. Meriwether, third lieutenant, and C. C. Harris, orderly sergeant. At the reorganization at Corinth, it was consolidated with Company A, and R. B. Donaldson elected captain; R. B. Lane, first lieutenant; J. J. Thornton, second lieutenant, and W. W. Whitson, orderly sergeant. Capt. Donaldson was killed at Marietta, Ga., in May, 1864, and Lieut. Lane succeeded to the command. The company suffered much loss during the four years’ arduous service, and of the ninety-six men mustered in at the beginning, only ten or twelve remained to surrender at the close of the war.

Company K, of the Twelfth Kentucky Partisans (cavalry), was formed principally from Lake County men that had escaped through the lines of the Federals, who then held possession of West Tennessee. It was organized in the fall of 1863, after reaching Mississippi. The officers chosen were W. D. Meriwether, captain; L. Donaldson, first lieutenant; W. H. Anderson, second lieutenant; James Stone, third lieutenant, and M. Ezell, orderly sergeant. The regiment, under Col. Faulkner, was placed in Forrest’s command, and from that time until the close of the war participated in all the campaigns and raids conducted by that brilliant leader. At Okolona, Miss., Capt. Meriwether was wounded, and Lieut. Donaldson succeeded to the command of the company. He continued in that capacity until wounded and captured, after which Lieut. Anderson led the company until the regiment surrendered at Selma, Ala.

During the civil war Lake County furnished to the Confederate Army two companies of infantry, one company of cavalry, and a battery of heavy artillery, besides many individuals who served in various companies not organized in the county. The battery was organized as a part of the First Tennessee Heavy Artillery, and was commanded by Capt. John D. Upton. Company K, of the Thirty-third Infantry, was organized with Walter P. Jones as captain, and Dr. E. R. Morrod and Jacob Carpenter, first and second lieutenants respectively.

Company D, First Tennessee Heavy Artillery, consisting of about eighty-five men, was organized and mustered into service on November 28, 1861, with J. D. UPTON as captain and A. C. Robertson, W. Meriwether, and John Crudup, lieutenants. It was first stationed at Fort Thompson, near New Madrid, where Lieut. Robertson, during an attack on the fort on March 13, 1862, was killed. On the night of that day the company was removed to Tiptonville, and thence to Island No. 10, where the whole command was captured on April 7. A part of the company later made their escape, and, with those who were absent at the surrender, were reorganized at Fort Pillow in May, with the following officers: J. D. Upton, captain; D. M. Upton and John Crudup, first lieutenants, and G. M. Corbitt, second lieutenant. The company remained at Fort Pillow during the siege, and on June 4 removed to Vicksburg. During the same month the company, with nine other companies, was consolidated into four companies, to be known as the First Battery, Tennessee Heavy Artillery, commanded by A. Jackson, Jr., with Robert Sterling as lieutenant-colonel, and J. W. Hoadley, major. The last named died and was succeeded by J. D. Upton, who, during Forrest’s raid to Paducah, Ky., served as chief of artillery.

From June 4, 1862, until July 4, 1863, the battery was stationed at Vicksburg. After the surrender of that place the remnant of Company D was in parole camp in Georgia and Alabama until declared exchanged in December. It was then sent to Mobile Bay. In the spring it was transferred to Fort Morgan, where it remained until the fall of that place in August, 1864. From that time until the close of the war its members were confined as prisoners at New Orleans, New York and Boston, successively.

One of the first schoolhouses in the county was built near Island No. 10 about 1845, and there a school was taught by a Northern man by the name of McCampbell, who was considered a very good teacher. A little later a school was opened at Nolen’s warehouse, near the Kentucky line, by William Beloat. Another teacher, who had a school near Island No. 10, was “Temperance” Brown, a reformed drunkard. He was one of the best of the early teachers. R. B. Lane taught near Cronansville. Immediately after the war Charles Wright conducted a very excellent school near Darnall’s Landing. Of course there were many other early teachers who taught short terms. only those best known having been mentioned.

Upon the adoption of the present public school system in 1873, H. R. Raymon was elected superintendent of public instruction, and so continued until ----. Since that time, with the exception of two years, the schools have been under the supervision of L. Donaldson.

Tiptonville Academy was established in July, 1876, with M. J. Holifield, J. C. Harris and W. H. Anderson as trustees, and J. C. Limbaugh as teacher. Two years later it was incorporated, with J. H. Tipton and L. Donaldson as trustees, in addition to those named above. It has since been conducted as a consolidated school, and is continued ten months, each year with an average attendance of about fifty pupils.

The oldest church organization in the county was formed by the Methodists at what is known as Salem, in District No. 1, some time in the thirties. A log house was erected, which was used until the present frame house was built. For many years camp-meetings. were held in the vicinity of this church. About 1852 or 1853 a church, known as Davis’ Chapel, was built by a congregation, then recently organized, in that vicinity. It was maintained until about 1871, when two other churches, Crockett’s chapel and Tiptonville, having been organized, the remaining members united with the new congregation. Crockett’s Chapel was organized soon after the war, and has since been very prosperous, the present membership being about seventy. The church at Tiptonville was organized with seventeen members in 1871, by M. J. Holifield. It now numbers about sixty-five members. During the same year a church was organized at Horn Ridge, in District No. 5, which now has a membership of about fifty. An organization was formed in District No. 3, known as Oregon, a short time previous to the war. It now has about forty-five members. All of the above churches belong to the Union City District, and are at present under the ministration of W. O. Lanier.

Of the Missionary Baptists there are now three organizations in the county. The oldest is Blue Bank in District No. 4, which was founded in 1874, and now has a membership of about thirty-eight. The most of the original members of this church previously belonged to what was known as Shady Grove Church, which was established previous to the war. For some cause the membership of the latter organization became greatly diminished, and in 1870 only three members remained. They were William Snow, James Box, and Nelly Thompson, an old colored woman. In that year R. A. Coleman, of Gibson County, held a revival, and added twenty-four members to the church. Owing, however, to neglect in securing a deed for the lot upon which the church building stood, it was lost by a transfer of the property and the organization was soon after dissolved, to be revived at Blue Bank as before stated. A second church, known as Pleasant Ridge, was organized in 1884, and now has a membership of forty-one. In December, 1885, an organization was elected at Tiptonville with eight members, and they have recently begun preparations for the erection of a house of worship. All the churches mentioned belong to the Beulah Association. There is no organization of the Church of Christ in the county, although there are several families of that faith, and services are frequently held by Elders R. A. Cooke and J. A. Carter.

In October, 1880, a Presbyterian Church was organized at Tiptonville by Rev. J. B. Carne, consisting of the following members: R. S. Bradford and two daughters; J. D. Arnett and wife; Richard Owens and wife; A. B. Cooke and wife; and Mrs. Alexander. Since its organization the membership has slightly increased. An organization of Cumberland Presbyterians was in existence for a time at Cronansville but is not now maintained.

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