In 1966, Robert M. McBride wrote an article, well illustrated with county boundary maps, showing where the lost and discontinued counties of Tennessee were. See “Lost Counties of Tennessee,” East Tennessee Historical Society Publications #38 (1966): 3-15.
There are 95 counties in Tennessee. In the past counties may have existed briefly or only on paper, some were long-lived. Watch for records if your ancestors resided in these areas.
The Watauga Association of 1772 took the name of Washington District at the end of 1775 and in July 1776, petitioned North Carolina for annexation. NC created the county of Washington in 1777 from Burke and Wilkes counties. There is little evidence that either of these NC counties or the District of Salisbury or Western District exercised any jurisdiction over Tennessee territory. At the time of the 1790 census, Tennessee was known as Territory South of the Ohio River.
Bell–1870, along the border of Alabama, present Fayette, Hardeman, McNairy Counties
Christiana– 1870, name changed to present Loudon County
Christian–1852, 1869, parts of present Carroll, Gibson, Madison, tip of Crockett. Also called Grant County.
Caswell–1785-86, under State of Franklin [settled from Caswell NC?], present Jefferson County
Cumberland–1837, 1844, 1856 as present Cheatham County
Etheridge–1870, parts of present Carroll, Henry, Weakley, and Gibson Counties
Hanes–1877, parts of present Benton, Decatur, Henderson, Carroll Counties
Hanover–1844, present Fayette County
Hatchie–1846, present Hardeman and McNairy Counties, overlapped with Bell
James–1871-1919, eastern part of Hamilton County. Citizens brought suit in 1890 to keep county intact until 1919.
Jones–1844, parts of Monroe, Loudon, and Blount Counties
Lewis–1843- 1869, present Lewis County
Nashoba–1871, southeastern Shelby County
Powell–1835, parts of present Hawkins, Greene, Sullivan, Washington Counties
Putnam–1842, 1854, present Putnam County
Spencer– under State of Franklin, 1785-86: present Hawkins, Hancock, parts of Claiborne, Grainger, and Hamblen Counties
Taylor–1852, parts of present Hardin and Wayne Counties
Tennessee–original county, 1788, present Montgomery (1796), Robertson (1796), Cheatham, parts of Dickson, Houston, Stewart
Wayne–1785-86, under State of Franklin, present Johnson, Carter, parts of Unicoi and Washington Counties
Webster–1873, parts of present Claiborne, Campbell,Union
Wisdom–1875, present Chester County
These counties are “lost” because of change of name, failure to comply with constitutional requirements, temporary abolishment then being re-established, consolidation with another county, etc . Your favorite Tennessee genealogist, Arlene Eakle http://www.arleneeakle.com