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James County, Tennessee

Part of the TNGenWeb Project

James County was located in East Tennessee, one of the state's three "grand divisions."

Map of James County ca 1902

Map of James County Civil Districts

James County History

James County was formed in 1871 from a tiny portion of western Bradley County and the eastern third of Hamilton County. It went bankrupt in 1919 and lands were returned to Hamilton County. Chattanooga and Harrison in Hamilton County fought for a railhead. Harrison lost several times. It was bypassed or the lines were never built. Hamilton County wanted to move their county seat from Dallas. Chattanooga and Harrison vied for this. Harrison lost and decided to secede from Hamilton or join Bradley County. Instead they decided to form a new county. Also some people living in Bradley County that lived far out in the county from the county seat, Cleveland, decided to petition the legislature for joining James. Hamilton ceded 1/3 of its territory. The following Civil Districts: 6, 8, 9, 10, and 13th. These districts were largely Republican, white and rural. Chattanooga was largely Democratic and urban.

Legislation was introduced, 27 Jan 1871, by Elbert Abdiel James, Representative from Hamilton County in the 37th General Assembly. The county was named James in honor of his father, Rev. Jesse J. James (no relation to the outlaw), a Methodist minister who first moved to Chattanooga in the 1850's. He was a native of Sullivan County. The county was signed into law 30 Jan 1871.

Election in late Apr 1871 to choose permanent seat of government. Harrison which had a courthouse and jail and Ooltewah, a small town founded in 1856, important rail junction of Southern Railway with it's Southern Division located there, were placed in nomination. It's county seat became Ooltewah, an Indian name meaning 'place of the owl'.

Harrison lost to the railroad again. Harrison having lost several railroad bids and the county seat twice got itself returned to the parent county, Hamilton, in 1893. Just prior to creation, the county had a population of about 5000. Because Harrison was not chosen as county seat, more centrally located, the northern river folks and the southern railroad folk, the northern never accepted Ooltewah location or cooperated well with the southern part of the county.

Records for the county are hampered by two courthouse fires, the first in Jan 1890 and the second in Mar 1913. The county was dissolved 15 Apr 1919 because of bankruptcy. James County citizens voted to join Hamilton, 11 Dec 1919. The former citizens of Bradley County also voted to join Hamilton.

Goodspeed's History of James County

Goodspeed's Tennessee Regimental Sketches


James County Bios
James County Cemeteries
Confederate Pension Applications
James County: Part 1 ( A - Z & Miscellaneous) - TENNESSEE Death Index 1914 - 1925
James County Lookups
1914 - 1919 James County Marriages
James County Postal History
School Photos
Southern Claims Commission Index - 1871 - 1873


James County Query board 30 Apr 2020
Manual James County Queries
Archived James County Queries

Question: Where are the records for James County located?

Answer: After the county was disbanded, the records were sent to Hamilton County.

Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library
Holdings include Census Records, Soundex, Military Records, State and County Records, Obituary Indexes and City Directories
and these James County records.

Community Events

New book may reveal Your Ancestors in the State Penitentiary!

Announcing the publication of the second volume of Tennessee Convicts: Early Records of the State Penitentiary. This volume covers records from 1850 through 1870, including more than 2,200 prisoners and their family members who are named in the original ledger volumes.

During this period abolitionists, Confederate bushwhackers and Union army soldiers convicted by courts martial were among those who crowded the State Penitentiary. In addition, the regular complement of counterfeiters, horse thieves and murderers from across the state are also represented.

For more information on this book please see this site

You may also contact the author, Chuck Sherrill, by e-mail at:

East Tennessee Historical Society

Join the James County Mailing List replacement

A group dedicated to finding cousins in James County.

Join Group

SEARCH the ENTIRE James County site.

29 Apr 2020

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Links to Neighboring Counties

Go to Bradley County page

Go to Hamilton County page

Links to Other Sites

Tennessee Genealogy page

Tennessee County Selection page


This page was created by Tim Stowell / Chattanooga, TN.
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This page last updated: 30 Apr 2020