From Family Findings
Vol. IV, No. 3, July 1972, pp. 1-3
Copyright, Mid-West Tennessee Genealogical Society, 1972
Appears on this web site by permission


            It is said that Paul Harvey, journalist, once said of Jackson and Madison County, "No where west of Jamestown is so much American history crammed in eight square miles".

            Jackson, which is located in the heart of West Tennessee, was settled by those who came mainly from Middle Tennessee, the Carolinas and Virginia, and followed Indian trails and poled keel boats and flat boats down the Ohio, Mississippi, Tennessee and Forked Deer Rivers. They began settling in this section in 1819-1820.

            Madison County, named for President James Madison, was created by an Act of the Tennessee Legislature and was organized December 18, 1821.

            By another Act of the Legislature, Sterling Brewer, speaker of the Senate, James Fentress, speaker of the House, and Adam Murray, were appointed to "fix a place for the County Seat"...procure the land by purchase or otherwise, and appoint five commissioners ... they were to sell lots at public sale on one year's credit, the money being used to purchase land, build the Courthouse, prison and stocks.

            Deeds dated April 9, 1822, show that Judge John McNairy, Joseph Phillips and William E. Butler, conveyed 30 acres and 111 poles to Brewer and Fentress, and that Thomas Shannon conveyed 3 lots containing an aggregate of 24 acres and 111 poles to the same officials. Sales began August 1 and 2 of the year 1822 and continued for about a week. Prices ranged from $31 to $503 per lot. $19,202 was realized from the sale of 104 lots. The town was not incorporated until l~45.

            The town was named Jackson, in honor of General Andrew "Old Hickory" Jackson, hero of the War of 1812, statesman, and later President of the United States.

            Mrs. William E. Butler, Mrs. Robert J. Chester, Stokely D. Hays, Samuel Jackson Hays and Miss Narcissa Hays, early settlers were all the children of Jane Donelson Hays, sister of Rachel, wife of Andrew Jackson.

            James Caruthers, one of the Early Surveyors and Settlers, and Dr. W. E. Butler, who is called the "father of the town of Jackson", Robert J. Chester, Stokley D. Hays and Thomas Williamson, a senator from the District, had all served under Jackson in the recent War with Great Britain, so it is assumed that they had something to do with naming the town after their hero.

            The first Courthouse built on the northeast corner of the Square Was said to have been built by John Houston at a cost of $135, and had a dirt floor and chimney of sticks and mud. It was replaced by a brick one in about two years. The first jail was built in 1822. The building stood South of the Courthouse and was erected by Samuel Shannon at a cost of $95.

            One of the early settlers was William H. Doak, who according to Goodspeed's History of Tennessee, raised a crop of corn in 1821 about where the Public Square now stands.

            Through the years Jackson has enjoyed a rich heritage, as many of its inhabitants from 1822 to the present, have been prominent and worthwhile citizens and have left their names inscribed in history.

            David Crockett, the famous pioneer, and U.S. Congressman, visited here many times, and had many friends here. It was here that Crockett, after losing the U.S. Congressional race to peg-legged Adam Huntsman, supposedly told his constitutents that they "could go to hell but he was going to Texas", and he did and died a hero's death at the Alamo. Adam Huntsman is buried along with three of his wives in old Salem Cemetery near the East boundary of town.

            Gen. U.S. Grant, once headquartered on East Main Street. Thomas Edison once worked here, and Andrew Jackson spoke here, the place marked by a historic marker near the south edge of town. Jackson was the home of the famous railroad engineer, Casey Jones, told of in song and story. It is also said that Lew Wallace, the author of "Ben Hur" once lived here.

            Direct descendants of William Blount, first territorial Governor of Tennessee still live here, as well as a number of relatives of General John Sevier, Governor of the State of Franklin, first Governor of the State of Tennessee, and six 'times Governor of the State. Also relatives of James K. Polk, former President of the United States, are prominent citizens of the town.

            At the entrance of Jackson's historic Riverside Cemetery, are these words "Here Sleep the Founders of Jackson", and many of their descendants and kinsmen still make their homes here. These first settlers, brave men and women, helped carve this County and City from a wilderness, and laid the foundation of a City which has not forgotten its founders and its past, and has enjoyed 150 years of interesting history, thriving industry, and progress!

Elizabeth White Sevier

Sources: Goodspeed's History of Tennessee; Historic Madison by Williams; material from Chamber of Commerce; survey of Tennessee Historic Records; and interviews with residents of Jackson.