Sunday, December 27, 2015

Why Did They Divide the County into Two?

William Kennedy Dickson (~1811-1860's), my 3rd great grandfather, signed a petition in 1845. At the time, he was living in Perry County, Tennessee. The petition? Some citizens of Perry County are asking that their county be divided. So, why do they want the county divided?
Detail from map of the United States of America by H. S. Tanner, 1834
(found on various sites)
Above is an 1834 map of Perry County, Tennessee. Running almost down the center is the Tennessee River. Perryville, the county seat, is on the west side of the river. That was the issue. The people on the east side of the river, including William K Dickson, pointed out the hardships of crossing the river: "the citizens residing on the east side of the Ten[essee] River are compelled to submit to a constant [unreadable] and unjust tax for ferriages in attending courts said which is oppressive in the extreme besides the risk of their personal safety." (Petition transcribed by Jerry L. Butler & posted on the TNGenWeb site.)

In other words, they are complaining about the cost and danger of crossing the river via ferry anytime they need to go to the courthouse!

According to "Historical Resources on Microfilm: Perry County," in "November, 1845 Perry County was divided to create Decatur county from lands lying west of the Tennessee River. The division took effect on 1846 Apr 6. Perryville was retained as the county seat for Decatur (until it was moved to Decaturville) and a new county seat for Perry was needed. For two years between 1846 and 1848, the Perry court met at the Harris farm, about four miles south of present-day Linden. A new woodframe courthouse was constructed at Linden in 1849. This is said to have burned during the Civil War, destroying a body of records."

I enjoyed learning more about my ancestor's hardships & why he would get involved in trying to have the county line & county seat moved. And, it's always a good idea to know the geography of where our ancestors lived. "Little things" like rivers could make a BIG difference in their daily lives!


  1. Very interesting! Great job on explaining why...excellent researching. We don't often overlook the WHY a county was formed and only look at the WHEN.

    1. Thanks, Jill. It was interesting seeing both the "why" & seeing that my ancestor was involved!


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