"On an early summer morning, you can stand on the banks of the Tennessee River and watch the fog rise from the glistening water and hang over the surface like a ghostly blanket. The streams flows north out of Alabama here, and it's coursing waters wind between tree covered hills and flat river bottoms, marking it's path with backwashes and silent pools guarded by stands of cedars, pines, walnuts and maples. The Tennessee, it's origins lost in a time long past, has left it's mark on the course of human affairs as well, witness to those constants--birth and death, in all their varied forms.
This is Hardin County, commanded by the mighty Tennessee River. For hundreds of years the fortunes of this primeval area have risen and fallen with the river. The southern boundry of Hardin is approximately twenty-three miles long and almost evenly split between Alabama and Mississippi. Wayne County rests on it's eastern line; McNairy lies on the west. To the north lie Decatur, Henderson, and Chester Counties.
The Tennessee River dominates the area and has served as the most significant geographic influence on the county's history. Not only does the river split the county in half by landmass, it divides the hilly eastern portion--a part of the Highland Rim--from the flat river bottoms of the Western Valley. About 140 square miles of land lie in the Tennessee River bottom, and those same flatlands stand approximately 370 feet above sea level.
A myriad of streams course through the hills and hollows on their way to supply the river. Among the major waterways on the eastern side are Horse and Indian. Horse Creek was originally known as Swift. Local folklorist maintain that the name was changed in recognition of horse thieves who once frequented it's banks.¹ Stretching from the hills of western Wayne County, Horse Creek runs east to west for the first third of its length. It is fed along the way by Germany Branch and Rogers Creek. About four miles east of the Tennessee River, Horse Creek curves north, running parallel to the river until it enters just outside of Cerro Gordo.
Indian Creek is another major waterway in the northeast sector of the county. This stream also has its origin in Wayne County, after which it winds through Olive Hill on its way to the Tennessee River, east and across the river from Saltillo. According to tradition the creek received its name from a band of Native Americans who once made its home along the stream. Foremost among Indian Creeks' feeder streams are Smith's Fork and Flat Gap Branch. Smith's Fork runs southeast from near the Crossroads community to a point several miles south of Highway 64. Flat Gap Branch strays off near Olive Hill and flows due east.
Other streams on the east side of the river include Hardin's Creek in the northeast; Turkey Creek in the center; and Holland's Creek in the southeast. White's Creek and Dry Creek finish out the major elements of the eastern drainage system. Numerous branches of these creeks line the countryside and split the hills.
On the west side of the river, although the terrain is much more level, an equally complex system of streams crisscross the landscape. In the northwest is the sizable White Oak Creek with its own fairly large drainage basin. The stream empties into the Tennessee River just south of Saltillo. Further south, running west to east, is Beason's Creek. Next comes Snake Creek, Owl Creek and Lick Creek--waterways that became well known during the Battle of Shiloh. These streams have cut deep ravines across the western half of the county, and it was along their densely-wooded banks that thousands of men lost their lives during that tragic battle.
Running through the beautiful hills on the Mississippi border is the last of the major streams, Chambers Creek. Named for an early settler in the area--John Chambers--the creek spans the southwest corner of the county.² Geologically, the land on the eastern side rests atop a limestone bed. This limestone is of marble quality along Flat Gap Branch. Other natural features in the east include a number of streams. The Clack Spring, the Gerrard Spring on Indian Creek, the Baugus Spring on Little Turkey Creek, and the Shady Grove Spring all have served Hardin countians since the arrival of the first settlers.
The Tennessee River itself holds three islands--Diamond Island, Wolf Island, and Delaney's Island. Diamond Island, the first encountered coming from the south, is named for its shape. Primarily flat, the island stands, at its highest point, 375 feet above sea level. The island is located just north of Pittsburgh Landing and the Shiloh National Battlefield and embraces approximately 98 acres.
Wolf Island lies slightly south and due west of Savannah. Like Diamond Island, Wolf Island also rises about 375 above sea level. According to tradition, this land mass was named for an early settler, Jacob Wolf. ³ It is comprised of some 78 acres.
The last of these land masses is Delaney's Island, named for one of the county's early residents, Jacob Delaney. The largest of the three--132 acres--Delaney's Island lies at the point where the Tennessee River cuts back toward Clifton.4 All of these islands are composed rich alluvial soil deposited by the river over the course of centuries.
This, then, is Hardin County, an area defined by water and settled by man."
1. Halbert Perry, "Early History of Hardin County, Tennessee"
2. Brazelton, B.G. A History of Hardin County (Nashville Cumberland Presbyterian Publishing House, 1885), 88
3. Ibid, 86
The above is the Introduction from the book-- ON THE BANKS OF THE RIVER : A History of Hardin County Tennessee -by Tony Hays. Tony graciously gave his permission for me to add exerpts from his writings when appropriate.
Tony Hays has the following books about Hardin County available.
Tennessee Historical Commission's Official History of the County
For more information, please email him directly:
My name is Sue Palmer~Elliott and I am the webmaster for the new Hardin Co. website and All Things Hardin County Tennessee....and all that means is that you send information pertaining to your ancestors or life and times in Hardin County to me, I post it...and try to keep the web site informative, entertaining and up-to date.
My ancestors migrated through Wayne and Hardin Cos. TN from before 1830 and after researching myself and hiring the best researcher from Hardin County, I have learned that records pertaining to my ancestors were rare. There are records referred to in books about Hardin County that I found in my local libraries but did not exist where they should have been found. I am certain I am not the only one this has happened to and due to the absence of these records and the lack of information to be had through the normal avenues is the main reason I wanted to create this web site.
I know that there are records, whether they are in someone's basement, family bible, or simply a daybook kept by a concientous family member. I am willing to plead (beg and grovel) to persons who are in possession of the facts, records or diaries or just memories or stories passed down...to come forward and volunteer this information....not only for me and my descendants but many others who have found a brick wall at this juncture in their research.
Reynolds original ledger pages from Reynolds decendant, James Richards!
Tony Hays has generously donated the first part of of the Index to the Hardin County Circuit Court Judge's Docket Book from 1856 to 1872. Click on the Links button to go to that page.
Updated October 22, 2006
Tony Hays is contributing articles that he has written pertaining to the history of Hardin County and this will be an ongoing project....so check back often to read this tremendously talented journalist describe the lives and times of our ancestors of Hardin County.
The first article "BUTTERMILK" can be found by clicking THE WAR tab on the left of the page. You can email Tony and tell him how much you enjoy his articles..and I promise that you will!
Email @ Tony Hays
2. BLOWED by Tony Hayes
3. GUNBOAT by Tony Hayes
If you have images of SW TN and NW AL families or the territory, buildings..etc. Please share them with us. Send them to me and I will post them.
The site is still under construction as it will take me a while to get all of the pages loaded. Please bear with me. If you have information that you want to contribute pertaining to the folks of Hardin County and/or their migrations or any information about Hardin County, send it to me and I will find or make a place for it.
Contact me: Sue Palmer~Elliott
All materials contained on these pages are furnished for the free use of those engaged in researching their family origins. Any commercial use, or other electronic posting of any files/pages without the consent of the host/author of these pages is prohibited. All images used on these pages were obtained from sources permitting free distribution, or generated by the author, and are subject to the same restrictions/permissions. All persons contributing material for posting on these pages does so in recognition of their free, non-commercial distribution, and further, is responsible to assure that no copyright is violated by their submission.
This page was created June 3, 2003.
Updated October 22, 2006
©2003~2006 by Sue Palmer~Elliott
Thanks to Rootsweb for providing space for this site!