Source: Killebrew, J. B., “Introduction to the Resources of Tennessee”, Nashville, TN: Tavel, Eastman & Howell, 1874.



This county, at the time of its organization in 1819, contained territory enough to make a small State. The boundaries extended “westward to the Mississippi River.” It was named in honor of Col. Joseph Hardin. The southern boundary of the county coincides with the State boundary. The States of Alabama and Mississippi “corner” on the Tennessee line at a point which bisects the Hardin line. At this point, also, the Tennessee River, after flowing in a westerly direction through northern Alabama, re-enters the State. Hardin is separated into an eastern and western portion by the river, which has in general a northerly direction, but sweeps through the county in a considerable curve. Politically, Hardin belongs to West Tennessee; physically, its western portion pertains to this division of the State, but its eastern part to Middle Tennessee. From a local report to the State Bureau of Agriculture, we find that the county contains 371,400 acres, equal to 580 square miles. According to the Comptroller’s report for 1873, it embraces 317,656 acres, or nearly 496 square miles. In the census of 1870 the lands of Hardin are thus reported:





Other unimproved





These figures of the census are of course much below the mark. Most probably including town lots and river and creek beds, the area will be found to be fully equal to the estimate made for the State Bureau.

Characteristics. Were we asked, what is the especial characteristic of the natural features of the county we are considering, our answer would be, variety. This is true of its topography, geology, and necessarily of its soils, or agricultural features. Its geological formations are more varied than any county as yet described in West Tennessee. Its topography includes such features as cypress bottoms, the gravel-covered areas, the sand bluffs, etc.

Topography, Water-courses. The valley of the Tennessee River extends in a northerly direction through the county, and of course is a leading feature of its topography. This valley is comparatively rough and broken, presenting by no means such a country as we should expect to find bordering so beautiful and large a stream. We do not mean to say that there are no rich bottoms, nor good agricultural areas in it, for there are many of these, not a few of which are most excellent and worth a hundred dollars per acre, but, in the aggregate the amount of good arable land is less than we would look for. Perhaps the whole bottom of the Tennessee River in this county would embrace 140 square miles. On the eastern side of the river there are four large creeks, namely: Horse, Turkey, Indian and Hardin’s creeks. The upper part of the latter however, is in Wayne county. The others are mainly in Hardin. They all flow in a north-westerly direction into the Tennessee River, have long valleys, and are well bordered with farms. On the western side of the river are a number of streams, among which are White Oak River, Snake, Owl, Yellow, Mud, Beoison’s, Chambers’ and Lick creeks. These rise, for the most part, in McNairy county, and flow eastward through the western part of Hardin into the Tennessee. The country through which they flow is made up of sandy and clayey formations, and in consequence the topographical features attending them are quite different from those characteristic of the creeks first mentioned, and in the eastern part of the county, where limestone bluffs abound. All of the streams afford sites for mills, many of which have excellent water powers. In the eastern and south-eastern parts of the county there are many high, flat-topped ridges between the valleys of the creeks. In the northwestern part are many limestone ridges and knolls, upon which are occasionally glady places showing gravel, rocks and young cedars. Approaching the McNairy county line, on the western side of the river, the country becomes rolling. In McNairy is a high ridge dividing the waters of the Tennessee from those of the Mississippi, from which spurs and broken ridges extend eastward more or less into Hardin county.

Geology. It may be startling to some, nevertheless we have good reason for asserting that along a line running in a northerly direction through the county, and coinciding in part with the present channel of the Tennessee River, was once a shore of a salt-water gulf, or the shore of a arm of the Gulf of Mexico, which extended far northward into the very bosom of the Mississippi valley. The reader may inquire what evidences exist for believing it to have been a salt-water gulf. To this we answer, that the first or lowest deposits are full of marine remains, such as oyster-shells, shark’s teeth, corals, etc. Overlying this marine deposit is a fluviatile deposit, which is first sandy, terminating with loess or silt. Altogether, it is one of the most interesting exhibitions of geological changes to be met with in the United States, marking the period when mighty continental changes were effected, and when gradual elevations caused the ocean to retire and give place to the grandest river in North America. Along this old shore we have the western boundary of the limestones, slates and sandstones (the hard rocks) of Middle Tennessee, or the line separating these rocks from the sandy and clayey beds (the soft rocks) of the Western District. The horizontal limestones and other hard strata are here suddenly beveled off, and their edges are overlapped by the sand and clay beds of the west, which are of far more recent age. In the northern and southern parts of the county the hard rocks extend a short distance to the west of the Tennessee, but for a distance equal to half the length of the county the river coincides with the line of the old shore, so that on the east side the bluffs are limestone, while on the west they are made up of strata of gray and yellowish sands, interstratified more of less with dark and white seams of clay. The rocks east of the old shore line belong to several formations. The lowest seen at many points in the bed of the Tennessee River below Savannah, and also in the beds of several of the creeks, is a group of blue, thinly laminated limestones, which when burned yield a fair article of hydraulic cement. At a number of points in Hardin cement has been manufactured from this rock. This formation belongs to the Nashville rocks, and may reach at some points a hundred feet in thickness. The formation is not of much agricultural importance, as it is mostly confined to the channels of the streams. Above the hydraulic rock is a series of Gray limestones about two hundred feet in maximum thickness, which are the principal, and form, in an agricultural point of view, the most important limestones in the county. They are seen in many bluffs on the Tennessee and on the creeks and are the rocks of the most valuable parts of the valleys, and outcrop on the glades. We have said they are gray, but many are reddish, and some few make a handsome marble. These rocks belong to the formations called by geologists Niagara and Lower Helderberg, both of which, together with the hydraulic limestone, belong to a larger division called Silurian. Above these, and making the topmost formation of the eastern part of the county, is a series of flinty layers, interstratified with more of less limestone, and presenting a few beds of sandstone, which a geologist would call the Siliceous Group, or the base of the great Carboniferous Formation. This group caps the high ridges for the most part. In the southern part of the county, however, near the State line, it dips down and appears in the bed of the Tennessee River. On the western side of the old shore line, we have a very different set of formations. The first and lowest is a bed of laminated sand, showing many thin clayey seams. This formation is well seen in the now historic bluff at Pittsburgh landing, as well as in the bluffs at Crump’s and Coffee landings. The formation has been called the Coffee Sand. A considerable belt of country lying west of the river, and extending through the county, is underlaid with this formation. Next above this, and outcropping principally near the McNairy line, is a formation of clayey material containing sand and abounding in fossil shells. It also contains dark green grains, which frequently give a dark appearance to the mass, for which reason the formation is known as the Green Sand. When freshly dug this material is used as a fertilizer, often with good results, its effects being attributable to the shells, small quantities of phosphoric acid and of potash present in the mass. The two formations just mentioned, the Coffee and the Green Sands, are members of the Cretaceous system of geologists.

Such are the principal formations of Hardin. In addition to these however, a superficial formation of gravel is seen at many points on both sides of the river. When present the gravel is always on top. It is seen on the high ridges of the eastern part of the county, and now and then on the lowlands; it caps the sand bluffs of which we have spoken, on the west side of the river, and appears at other points on uplands and hills.

Soils and Lands. We have already said something about the soils. The geology being so varied, they are of course many kinds. The best are those of the bottom lands, and many of these are unsurpassed in fertility. The soils of the Tennessee bottom, on the west side of the river, are of three distinct kinds, arranged in strips nearly equal in width and parallel with the river. The first of these next to the river is a deep black alluvium, highly productive; the second is sandy, and in point of productiveness is about equal to the uplands; the last is swampy, bluish in color, “crawfishy” and cold, the home of greenbriers, but it is usually heavily timbered. In the southern end of the county on the east side sandy hills prevail. The country is rough and the hills are covered with pine timber and oaks. These hills extend seven miles down the river, after which the country become more level and the soils better, running into the Green Sand belt. The soils in this hilly region wash easily by reason of the predominance of sand, and are moderately productive. The soils on the creeks on the east side of the river are limestone, and the best in the county, and especially those in the bottoms lying on Indian Creek, which cover in the aggregate about twenty-two square miles. The soils of the uplands on the east side of the river are thin and unproductive. Much of this upland is high and rolling, but covered with an abundance of excellent timber. Three miles east of Savannah there is a belt of flat or barren land. It has a white subsoil, shading off into yellow. Some of this land is quite productive when first opened, but its fertility is soon exhausted. This flat region covers about fifty square miles. The summits of the ridges in the eastern part of the county have sometimes a tolerably good soil, but more frequently a thin one. On many of these ridges chestnut oaks abound, and can be made to furnish much bark for tanning purposes. The value of the lands in Hardin county, according to the local report, is as follows:

First quality, improved


per acre.









Rents are as follows: Best bottom, per acre, $6; best uplands, $5; medium, $3; one-third of the crop is usually given. According to the census report, the number of farms in the county is 1,059, the sizes of which are as follows:

Three and under 10 acres


Ten 20


Twenty 50


Fifty 100


One-hundred and under 500


One hundred thousand acres are for sale, the rates being one-third cash, the balance in one and two years.

Crops. The principal crops of the county are corn, cotton, wheat, oats, peanuts, Irish and sweet potatoes, hay, apples and peaches. The following are the products of the county for 1870, as reported in the census of that year:




Wheat, spring


, winter

19,662 ─ 35,566











Potatoes, Irish



Potatoes, sweet

















The census report omits peanuts. This crop for the year 1872 was given at 112,500 bushels, which we think must be too high. The crop of buckwheat for the same year is stated to have been 1,000 bushels. Fruit (especially apples and peaches) is an important product of the county. Figs ripen in the open air. Plums are not troubled with curculio. The experiments made with the pear have proved entirely satisfactory. Nuts, blackberries, raspberries, etc., are to be found everywhere. Muscadines grow with unparalleled luxuriance on river bottoms. Grapes have been grown with success on the flat barren lands. On the best river bottoms the yield of corn reaches sometimes 75 and 100 bushels per acre. The best lands for the production of cotton are on Mud Creek, where the quantity raised is sometimes as much as 1,200 pounds of seed cotton per acre. The raising of cotton and stock is regarded as the most profitable branches of husbandry. The great amount of bottom lands in the county afford excellent soils for meadows. Wheat is usually sown too late to do well, the largest sowing being in November and December, and sometimes in January. The average is about ten bushels per acre. Tennessee bottoms sometimes yield the latter amount, but the fields are liable to late overflows. Irish potatoes yield bountifully on bottoms ─ black sandy land.

Stock. In the census report the stock is given as follows:

Number of horses


mules and asses


milch cows


working oxen


other cattle






Value of all live stock


animals slaughtered and sold for slaughter


Population, Labor. The population of the county was in 1870 as follows: White, 10,321; black, 1,447; total, 11,768. The people are intelligent, hospitable and open-hearted, and would welcome industrious, well-disposed immigrants of any nationality. There is ample room in this county. Many of the river bottoms are yet dark with forests of heavy timber, and considering the character of the soil, the amount of timber and the means of transportation, it is the most thinly settled county in West Tennessee. Colonies could be formed and moved to this county, as land is cheap and a large quantity is for sale. We know of no county that offers greater inducements to working men. According to the late Judge Walker, a hard-working man can make on the farm from $500 to $600, and keep on hand a full supply of provender for stock and food for family use. In speaking of this subject he said to the writer, just before his death: “If the same industry and economy were practiced in Hardin county that is practiced in the North-west, our farmers would grow rich in spite of themselves.”

A healthful moral tone pervades the county. The principal religious denominations are Methodist, Cumberland Presbyterian and Baptist, the first having about 1,300 communicants, the second 1,100, and the third 600. There is considerable demand in the county for farm hands. Wages are as follows:

Farm hands (with board) per year


“ without


“ with month


“ without


Harvest “ with day


“ without


House servants, cooks, and washers, per month


For picking cotton $1 per day is paid; carpenters are worth $2.50 per day; blacksmiths, $2.50; bricklayers, $3.00; for splitting and putting up rails, $1 per day. Farms hands are usually hired for the season of cultivation.

Minerals. In addition to the hydraulic rock (from which thousands of barrels of cement were made formerly at Laden’s Mill, on Indian Creek), and green sand heretofore mentioned, there is a bluff of quartz sand a mile and a half long, which furnishes excellent material for the manufacture of class. The sand has been tested and pronounced very superior. Iron ore is found in many parts of the county, but it is too siliceous or sandy for profitable working. There was one furnace in operation on Hardin’s Creek before the war. Drift lead has been picked up in the bottoms of streams, but no regular deposits have been discovered. Mineral waters are abundant. Two miles from Saltillo more than twenty years ago a well was bored in search of salt water to the depth of 890 feet. From this well a large stream of sulphur water (white and red sulphur) in the hilly parts of the county west of the Tennessee River, which were resorted to before the late civil contest. Several sulphur and chalybeate springs are also found on the east side of the Tennessee River, but they have never been improved.

The Fair Grounds in Savannah were first improved in 1859, but the buildings were destroyed by the Federal soldiers. They were rebuilt in 1872, and two successful fairs have been held.

Manufactories. The only establishments for manufacturing in the county are tanneries and saw-mills. There were in 1873 six tanneries in operation, turning out leather to the value of $60,000 annually. The county offers very superior inducements for the building up of spoke and hub factories, and for saw-mills. All kinds of timber abound ─ red and white oak, pin oak, hickory, gum, sugar-tree, cypress, walnut and box-elder. One of the finest pine forests to be found in the State is in this county.

Towns. Savannah, the county seat and principal town in the county, is midway between Nashville and Memphis. It has a population of about 500. The business houses of the place consist of eight stores, one drug-store, two confectioneries, three saloons, one tanyard, two hotels and two blacksmith shops. There are three churches ─ Methodist, Presbyterian and African. Savannah College is located here, and has about one hundred students in attendance. The quantity of cotton annually shipped from this point is 1,200 bales. Lumber, corn, wheat and leather are shipped in considerable quantities. Hamburg is on the Tennessee River, ten miles south of Savannah, has about 100 inhabitants, is a steamboat landing, has two stores, a grocery, post-office and church. Saltillo is also a landing on the Tennessee River, and is twelve miles north of Savannah; has about 300 inhabitants, four or five dry-goods stores, one drugstore, two or three groceries, one blacksmith shop, one good school, post-office and one church. About 1,500 bales of cotton are annually shipped from this point. Coffee Landing, on the Tennessee River, north of Savannah, ships about 1,500 bales of cotton annually. The other villages and landings are, Boyd’s Landing, 13½ miles from Savannah, Economy, Lowryville, Monticello and Nelson. Each has one or more stores. All, except Economy, Lowryville and Monticello, are landings on the Tennessee River.

Antiquities. Many curious Indian mounds are met with near the Tennessee River, several of them within the town limits of Savannah.


Number of acres assessed for taxation in 1873




Number of town lots 89, valued at


Value of personal property


Total valuation


Number polls


State tax 40c

County tax 20

State (school) tax 10—


Poll tax


One dollar of the poll-tax goes to schools, and fifty cents to county purposes.