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Hamilton County, Tennessee

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Hamilton County was formed on October 25, 1819 and was named after Alexander Hamilton, an officer in the American Revolutionary War, member of the Continental Congress, the first US Secretary of Treasury, and one of the founding fathers of the United States.

The area was originally occupied by the Cherokee Nation under the leadership of John Ross. What is now known as Chattanooga was formerly Ross's Landing, a busy trading post recognized as the center of the Cherokee Nation. Over a series of treaties between 1819 and 1835, the Cherokee had been mostly moved out of the area. If any Cherokee wished to stay in the area, the head of the family would have to become an American citizen. Once a citizen, they would be entitled to 640 acres of land. At the time of death, the person's heirs would be entitled to the land. Of the 107 reservations reported to Congress in 1819, only 39 were listed as fee simple. The other 68 reservations were allowed to stay as long as the family stayed on the land. Once the family moved, the land could be sold. This made it easier to remove the Cherokee from the area. The 1835 Treaty of New Echota provided the US government a legal basis for the forced removal of the Cherokee, opening the land for settlement.

At the time of the 1820 census, the County counted 821 residents, including 16 blacks, 39 slaves, and about 100 Cherokee living on 6 reservations. The original legislature says that John Gamble, William Lauderdale, and John Patterson, the 3 men who were responsible for founding the County, would conduct all county business in the county seat. The original county seat was in the home of Hasten Poe, who owned a popular tavern located near the 3 men. In 1822 the County Court was moved to the farm of Ashael Rawlings, the newly appointed County Clerk, in Dallas, TN. The town of Dallas died after the county seat was moved. The seat was then moved to Harrison and later moved to Chattanooga in 1835.

Hamilton County was the site of an important saltpeter mine during the Civil War. Saltpeter is the main ingredient of gunpowder and was obtained by leaching the earth from caves. Lookout Mountain Cave was a major source of saltpeter during the Civil War. The mine was operated by Robert Cravens, who owned the property where the cave is located. In May 1861, Cravens contracted with the Tennessee Military and Financial Board to deliver 20,000 pounds of saltpeter. On the 24th of the same month, he reported that he had ten hoppers already set up in his cave. In 1862 he quit mining at Lookout Mountain Cave and rented the cave to the Confederate Nitre and Mining Bureau, which mined the cave from June 1862 through July 1863. Mining ceased when Chattanooga was occupied by Federal forces in 1863.

After the war, Tennessee rejoined the Union and Tennessee started to recover from the war. James County was established by the Tennessee General Assembly in January 1871 and was named after Reverend Jesse J. James. In early 1919 James County went bankrupt and became a part of Hamilton County.

Adjacent Counties

Cities & Towns

  • Chattanooga (County Seat)
  • Collegedale
  • East Ridge
  • Lakesite
  • Lookout Mountain
  • Red Bank
  • Ridgeside
  • Signal Mountain
  • Soddy-Daisy
  • Walden

Other Communities: Apison, Bakewell, Balmoral, Birchwood (part), East Brainerd, Fairmount, Falling Water, Flat Top Mountain, Georgetown (part), Harrison, Hixson, Middle Valley, Mowbray Mountain, Ooltewah, Sale Creek and Shady Grove


Cemeteries of Tennessee



National Register of Historic Places

Chickamauga & Chattanooga National Military Park

Hamilton County Genealogical Society

Genealogy Trails

The Colemans of Hamilton County

Hearthstone Legacy