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History of the County


Settled in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, Russell County had the resources to be an early manufacturing center. In the 1780s, the region south of Jamestown was a center for local manufacturers. By the 1840s, cotton and woolen mills were in production. By the 1890s, the county had a number of resorts, including the Big Boiling Springs health spa, established by Sam Patterson around 1850. A large frame hotel and twelve log cabins accommodated guests who came to take the mineral water and escape the summer heat. Creelsboro was the center of an oil boom in the 1920s. While oil production has declined, the county's wells produced 17,219 barrels of crude in 1989. 

The county's industrial growth began in the 1950s, when wood products, furniture, pallets, and railroad ties were first manufactured. In 1960s, Russell Sports Company, which produces women's sportswear, and Medaris Marine, a houseboat manufacturer, came to the county. Russell Sportswear, a division of Marlene Industries, closed down in the mid-1980s. In the 1970s, new operations included Stephens' Pipe and Steel, manufacturers of farm and chain link gates, hay feeders, and dog kennels, and Sutton Shirt Corporation, makers of men's clothing. Other clothing and textile manufacturing plants have opened in and near Russell County, but most have closed down or drastically downsized in recent years, probably due to lower wages abroad. 

In 1990 nineteen of the county's twenty-four manufacturing plants were located in Russell Springs, where U.S. 127 intersects the Cumberland Parkway. Fifty-nine percent of the workforce is employed in manufacturing. In 1988 tourism expenditures of $30.6 million generated 1,060 jobs in the county. The $15 million Jamestown Resort and Marina opened in 1990 with 750 boat slips, a dinner boat, houseboat rentals, and a forty-unit motel. Manufacturing has been on the decline and the focus has shifted toward tourism in Russell County and the surrounding community.

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