James Bond, one of the wealthiest slaveholding planters in Tennessee, if not in the entire South, came to the state during the late 1820s or early 1830s. Bond and two brothers moved from Bertie County, North Carolina, to the Forked Deer region of West Tennessee and rapidly acquired large landholdings in Haywood County.
By the eve of the Civil War, Bond had amassed property holdings in Haywood County alone of more than seventeen thousand acres and approximately 220 slaves. In 1859 his five plantations yielded more than one thousand bales of cotton and nearly twenty-two thousand bushels of corn. The federal manuscript census for 1860 estimated his total wealth at just under $800,000. (By comparison, the total value of all farmland, buildings, and other improvements in the entire county of Johnson–situated in the mountainous region in the northeastern part of the state–was just under $790,000.) In addition to investing heavily in land and slaves, Bond participated in a variety of other economic endeavors. For example, he owned or invested as a silent partner in a variety of mercantile establishments in the county seat of Brownsville. He also was an early supporter and stockholder in the Memphis and Ohio Railroad, the completion of which in the 1850s connected Haywood County by rail to Memphis, the most important internal cotton market in the entire South.
A Unionist during the secession crisis in 1861, Bond readily swore an oath of loyalty to the Union upon the occupation of Haywood County by federal troops in June 1862. Despite severe losses during the war, his diverse property holdings (including northern municipal bonds and gold-bearing certificates issued by northern banks) allowed him to survive the war with a considerable proportion of his wealth intact. Until his death during the 1870s, Bond remained the richest planter in Haywood County and among the wealthiest landholders in the state.