Jackson County

Located in the picturesque foothills of the Cumberland Mountains, Jackson County is known as the “Switzerland of the Cumberlands.” Although the western part of Jackson County lies within the Nashville Basin, most of the eastern part of the county is situated within the Highland Rim physiographic province at the foot of the Higher Cumberland Plateau to the east and is part of the Interior Low Plateau. There is much rolling land between sharply incised stream valleys.

Jackson County, named in honor of Andrew Jackson, was created by the Tennessee legislature in November 1801. It is the second oldest of the twenty-three counties named for Jackson in the United States; only Jackson County in Georgia is older. Temporary county seats were used until about the year 1806, when Williamsburg, named for Sampson Williams, an early pioneer in the area, was named as the county seat.

In 1817 Gainesboro was designated as the permanent county seat and was incorporated in 1820. The land was donated by David Cox. Gainesborough, as it was then spelled, is one of the oldest towns in the state and was named for General Edmund Pendleton Gaines, who fought with Jackson at the battle of New Orleans. The Gainesboro Historic District, which includes the town square and the 1927 Jackson County Courthouse, is listed 0n the National Register of Historic Places.

The same mountains that give Jackson County its beauty also made travel difficult in the days before paved roads and steel bridges. Both the Cumberland and Roaring Rivers cross the county. Timber and farming have been primary occupations in the county since its establishment, and riverboats of bygone days passed through the county daily, carrying passengers, merchandise, agricultural produce, and lumber products. With the flooding of the Cumberland River in 1963 by the Cordell Hull Dam, built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the opening of a deepwater port in 1981 near Gainesboro, the river once again became very important to Jackson County.

Sportsmen can enjoy the abundant wildlife–from deer and quail to bass and catfish–in Jackson County year-round. The American bald eagle and the whooping crane can still be seen, and Canadian geese winter in Jackson County. The Granville Marina on the Cordell Hull Lake offers every pleasure in outdoor recreation–from boating to camping. Two U.S. Army Corps of Engineers recreation areas are at Roaring River and Salt Lick Creek.

Jackson County also offers one of the most important historic sites in the upper Cumberlands in Fort Blount and the nearby old town site of Williamsburg. Governor William Blount ordered this frontier fort to be built in 1794 to protect the increasing number of settlers moving over the trail on their way west. William Gilespie operated a tavern and ferry there. The site is located near the Cumberland River about sixteen miles downstream from Gainesboro. The Fort Blount-Williamsburg site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Future projects of the Jackson County Historical Society include the restoration of Fort Blount and the creation of an interest in, and appreciation of, the Old Avery Trace, the first road to enter Jackson County. A bicentennial project traces its roots to a visit to Fort Blount by noted French botanist and explorer Andre Michaux on March 1, 1796.

Since the state legislature passed a law in 1992 designating the yellowwood as Tennessee's official bicentennial tree, Jackson County residents have placed yellowwood trees across the state, including one on the grounds of the State Capitol in Nashville.

Much of the material for a comprehensive history of Gainesboro and Jackson County was destroyed when the courthouse burned on the night of August 14, 1872. All county records were lost in the blaze except those of the chancery court. The chancery court records survived because Robert A. Cox, clerk and master, maintained his office in a private building away from the courthouse. The loss of the records of the circuit court clerk, the county court clerk, the register of deeds, and the tax assessor generated great confusion for many years.

Agriculture is the oldest enterprise in Jackson County. In 1940, for instance, of the 194,000 acres listed in the county, over 172,000 acres were devoted to farming. Tobacco, livestock, and corn continue to be important farm products. The land area of Jackson County comprises 327 square miles and the population of Gainesboro, in the 2000 census, was 879. The population of Jackson County was 10,984.

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Jackson County
  • Author
  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
  • URL
  • Access Date May 25, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018