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Moore County

With a total area of only 129 square miles, Moore County is the second smallest county in the state. Set in the heart of agrarian Middle Tennessee, Moore County contains a diverse landscape, with nearly one half of the county lying along the Highland Rim and most of the remaining area part of the Central Basin. The Elk and Mulberry Rivers create fertile, heavily timbered ridges and farmland that contribute to the agricultural production as well as the lucrative whiskey industry that remains an integral part of the county's heritage.

The first settlements in modern-day Moore County were initially part of Lincoln, Bedford, Franklin, and Coffee Counties. After the Civil War, residents of the remote parts of these contiguous counties petitioned the state legislature for the creation of a new county. To support their demand for a new county, the rural petitioners pointed to the distances to the county seats and described the treacherous road system that made travel difficult, and very often impossible. They argued that the distances and hazardous road conditions made legal protection offered by the courts and grand juries inaccessible to rural residents.

The Tennessee General Assembly established Moore County in 1871 in honor of General William Moore, who was one of Lincoln County's first settlers and a long-time member of the general assembly. The new county originally surveyed at 300 square miles, but the Constitution of 1870 stipulated that no established county should contain less than 275 square miles, and that no new county line could be closer than 11 miles from the courthouse of an old county. Since the Moore County boundaries reduced Lincoln County to 255 square miles, the new act violated the constitution. Lincoln County sued to reclaim its land, and Moore County was reduced to a mere 129 square miles.

Eleven districts comprised of Lynchburg, Ridgeville, Marble Hill, Reed's Store, Tucker Creek, Wagoner's, Prosser's Store, Charity, County Line, Hurricane Church, and William B. Smith's Mill were included in the new boundaries. A countywide election in 1872 designated Lynchburg as the county seat. Many of the townships have all but disappeared, with a few farm sites or a small store as the only indication of population. Lynchburg remains the largest and most populated district, estimated at around 350 residents, while the total population for the entire county is just over 4,700.

In the 1870s Lynchburg was a regional center for the mule trade in Middle Tennessee because it was located in the center of an economic triangle that linked Tullahoma (Coffee County), Shelbyville (Bedford County), and Fayetteville (Lincoln County). Farmers traveling to and from these railroad hubs used the turnpike through Lynchburg, which later became Tennessee Highway 55. Produce, consumer goods, and livestock were traded in the county seat and contributed to Lynchburg's prominence within the county. Most of the town's character is still intact, largely because manufacturing and industry never developed fully, and with the construction of interstate highways, the region was isolated from the major industrial centers.

Moore County's fertile soils and close proximity to the Mulberry and Elk Rivers were excellent for growing corn, wheat, and oats. Many farmers raised cattle, hogs, and sheep to supplement their income. Dairies are still one of the county's major agricultural producers.

Moore County has a long history in the whiskey industry. The first distillery was erected in 1825 along the West Mulberry. By 1876 at least fifteen distilleries were registered in Moore County, and the product formerly known as Lincoln County whiskey became a Lynchburg specialty. One of the largest and most famous distilleries was founded by Jack Daniel, who made Tennessee Sour Mash whiskey a major commodity. Today, Jack Daniel Distillery is the central tourist attraction in Lynchburg and a primary source of tourism revenue for the county.

Although the county is sparsely populated and predominantly agricultural, Moore County is one of the most intact examples of Middle Tennessee's agrarian landscape. Visitors to Lynchburg and the surrounding area can experience the strong feeling of community and see the historic buildings that contribute to the lasting heritage of Moore County. The county's 2000 population was 5,740, an increase of 21.5 percent since 1990.

Published » December 25, 2009 | Last Updated » February 22, 2011