Previous to 1836 the territory was occupied mainly by the Cherokee Indians, some of whom were possessed of considerable wealth. Joseph Vann, who lived on the present site of Harrison owned a large number of slaves, as did also "Judge Brown," whose residence was about six miles above Ooltewah. White settlers began to come into the territory in 1833 and 1834. Thomas Shirley located about six miles north of Ooltewah, in which neighborhood Samuel Green, George Montgomery and Alexander Mahan also settled. William Crowder, at a little later date settled about one-half mile north of Ooltewah, with Alexander Starmer and R L McNabb near him. Michael Swisher and William McDonald located a short distance south of where the town now is.
Hamilton County to which the greater part of the territory now included, in James County then belonged, was organized in 1819, and until 1840 Dallas, on the west bank of the Tennessee River, was the county seat. On January 3, 1840, a vote was taken to determine whether the seat of justice should remain at Dallas or be transferred to a point within one mile of the place occupied by Joseph Vann, on the opposite side of the river. A majority of twenty-five was necessary to secure the removal. This majority was obtained and the removal took place during the year. Soon after a town was laid out and named in honor of Gen. Harrison, who was elected to the Presidency during that year. A substantial brick courthouse and jail were erected, and the town attained considerable importance. Among the first merchants were N N Rollins, A G W Pickett, A Hunter, Joshua Hunter and Thomas Spencer. Richard Henderson, L B Shirley, D C Trewhitt, A G W Puckett and _____ Blacknell were the leading lawyers of the town. In November, 1870, the county seat was removed to Chattanooga, and on the 30th of the following January an act was approved fo rthe formation of James County, to include that portion of Hamilton County east of the Tennessee River, and a line running from the mouth of Harrison's Spring branch to the Georgia State line, and also to include a small part of Bradley County. The county court was organized in April, 1871, and two places, Ooltewah and Harrison were put in nomination for the county seat. The election was held, resulting in a majority of one vote for Ooltewah. Sixty-three votes returned from the Second Civil District were thrown out, as it was not stated for which place they were cast. The voters of the district asserted that they were cast for Harrison, and a long litigation ensued. It terminated in favor of Ooltewah, and in 1874 the erection of a courthouse was begun. It is a three story brick building. The third story was built by W A Nelson Lodge No. 391, and is used by them. In 1878 a jail building was completed.
The officers of the county since its organization has been as follows: County Court Clerks --- James Childers, 1871-74; J C Heaton, 1874. Circuit Court Clerks --- A S Stultz, 1871-74; S I Yarnell, 1874-86; A E Bell, 1886. Sheriffs --- J A Green, 1871-76; R K Smith and Bruce Guthrie, 1876; E E Clingan, 1876-78; Samuel Lewis, 1878-80; E E Clingan, 1880-82; J W Watkiins, 1882-86; J A Green, 1886. Trustees --- E E Padgett, 1871-74; Samuel J Blair, 1874-76; John W Smith, 1876-78; George Montgomery, 1878-80; J M Seagle, 1880-82; J M McCully, 1882-84; W H Langston, 1884-86; W F Anderson, 1886. Registers --- J Rustin, 1871-78; R B Campbell, 1878-82; H H McNabb, 1882. Clerk and Master --- T H Roddy, 1871.
Ooltewah was laid out upon the completion of the Hiwassee or East Tennessee & Georgia Railroad. The land upon which it is located was owned by F P Watkins and William Stone. The first store was opened by George B Guthrie and F P Watkins, the latter of whom was the first depot agent. Among the other merchants previous to the war were J H Barnett, Chestnut & Brownlow and A Howard. Soon after the town was laid out a Cumberland Presbyterian Church was organized by Hiram Douglass. The congregation erected a frame house, which was used also by the other denominations. About three years ago, the Baptists built a place of worship, which, although not entirely finished has since been occupied by them.
The business interests of the town at the present time are represented by the following individuals and firms: Z T Watkins, G P Wells and W H Mitchell, dry goods and groceries; G W Howard, drugs; Isaac Wolf and A Phillips, family groceries. Ooltewah Merchant Mills, owned by Green & Langston, are situated about two miles north of the town. The physicians are T H Roddy and S I Yarnell, and the attorneys at law, H H McNabb and J P Parker.
The other towns in the county are Harrison and Birchwood. The former, since the removal of the county seat, has greatly declined, and now consists of little more than two stores, a church and a blacksmith shop. Birchwood is a small village, consisting of about 150 souls. It is situated in the extreme northern part of the county.
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