Western District of Tennessee: West Tennessee

The Western District of Tennessee–West Tennessee– includes three counties along the border with Middle Tennessee, 13 counties and three cities, and Shelby County,  which was the first county created in the district.

Shelby, 1819, Hardin 1819, Perry 1819, and part of  Humphreys originally created in 1809.  City of  Memphis built on one the noblest of the Chickasaw Bluffs.

Henry 1821, Carroll 1821, Madison 1821, and Henderson 1821.  City of Jackson, originally named Alexandria.  City of Paris, established 1823 in Henry County.

Dyer, Fayette, Gibson, Hardeman, Haywood, McNairy, Obion, Tipton,  and Weakley counties created in 1823.

With the cession of the Western Country in 1784, the right of entry to lands was restricted to citizens of North Carolina.  The Land Office was actually opened 20 Oct 1783, at Hillsborough NC, with John Armstrong as the entry taker.   Entries could be made for not more than 5,000 acres at one time at 10 pounds per 100 acres.  [This was a stiff price, considering that Georgia was selling land for 1 1/2 cents per acre.]

Over 2 1/2 million acres were entered by the leading politicians of North Carolina who also voted to close the Land Office in 1784.  They intended to sell their entries to the highest bidder.

Surveyors included William Tyrell Lewis headquartered at Nashville, Col James Robertson at Cumberland, Henry Rutherford, Edward Harriss, and Isaac Roberts.

Lands continuted to be granted, by extension of the law, since there were no counties or civil authorities west of Nashville.  In 1787, however, a trace was opened from Nashville into West Tennessee.  It was called Glover’s Trace after William Glover, a leader of the Chickasaw.  And Trace Creek, in Humpherys County turned south into Henderson and McNairy counties to the Chickasaw towns of North Mississippi.  A branch extended to the Chickasaw Bluffs overlooking the Mississippi River.

Trading posts, called factories (using the Scottish outpost term) were established at Chickasaw Bluffs.  And Andrew Jackson proposed that the factories deliberately run the Chickasaws into debt for goods so they would be willing to cede their lands to clear it.

The Natchez Trace, the most well-known road, was negotiated in 1801 with the Chickasaws to run from the Cumberland settlements to Natchez on the River.  It linked Fort Adams and Fort Pickering.

These historical facts are recounted by Samuel Cole Williams in his Beginnings of  West Tennessee:  In the Land of the Chickasaws, 1541-1841. Johnson City TN:  The Watauga Press, 1930.

Two other references are recommended if you have West Tennessee Roots–

  1. Genealogical Nuggets from Some of the Antebellum Newspapers of Memphis and Randolph Tennessee. Compiled by Jonathan K.T. Smith, 1998.  Available from the author, PO Box 2767, Station 238, Jackson TN 38302.  I saw a copy of this volume at the Memphis Public Library and found it very useful.
  2. “The Chickasaw Bluffs Factory and its Removal to the Arkansas River, 1818-1822,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 11 (Mar 1952) 41-56.  This article written long ago by the Rev. Aloysius Plaisance, describes a whole series of early records that document settlement and trade in the Western District:  Trading Houses–Colerain on the St. Mary’s River, to the Creeks; Tellico to the Cherokees; and Chickasaw Bluffs (1802) to the Chickasaws; Piqua, Illinois Bayou, and Spadre Bluffs, 1820-24.

Plaisance also describes NARA Record Group 75, Bureau of Indian Affairs:

Ledger Accounts, Chickasaw Bluffs, 1803-05

Indent Books, 1804-1819

Invoices Inward, 1796-1805

Record Copies, Letters Sent, Vol A 1807-08, Vol B 1809-1812, Vol D 1816-1818, Vol E 1818-1820.

Lists of Goods Needed, 1808

Journals, 1814

Letters Received, 1817-1824

Documents printed in American State Papers–Indian Affairs (printed by the Government Printing Office).

To my knowledge, these sources have never been quoted in a family history or genealogy.  Probably have not been consulted either for those ancestors who begin their presence in West Tennessee before the formation of counties and civil jurisdictions.  Your favorite Tennessee genealogist, Arlene Eakle  http://www.arleneeakle.com

PS Add these sources to your growing list of Tennessee genealogy resources.  And remember that I am compiling a Master List of Tennessee Genealogy Records and Sources.

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