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Industrial Development and Weakley County History

Weakley County was established October 21, 1823, from land ceded by the Chickasaw Indians and was named for Colonel Robert Weakley, who was then Speaker of the Tennessee State Senate. Weakley County was created by an act of General Assembly. Weakley County encompasses 580 square miles.

Discovery and Establishment
In spring of 1824, two men were delegated to choose a site for the county seat. It was to be situated on a hill overlooking the country, with a spring there, as hat was the only source of a water supply. These men were set out to find a location and were accompanied by a German pioneer named Mears Warner. They found a wooded hill and decided it was perfect for the seat of Weakley County, but there was no spring there. They then walked to the top of what is now referred to as the "Red Hill" area and found the view was so commanding that they could not ignore it. They found upon returning to the hill a spring, just at the bottom of the hill, in a little ravine. This discovery made the location perfect, so the men took their flask of whiskey from their pocket and drank it. Then, they broke the flask on a tree and christened the town "Dresden" at the request of Mears Warner, who wished it to be named for the birthplace of his father, Dresden, Germany. Mears Warner was born in 1799 and died in 1863. His grave is found in Sunset Cemetery in Dresden.

Before the town or village of Dresden was mapped, the entire county was wilderness. The first settlers to come to Weakley were Reuben Edmonston and his brother-in-law, John Bradshaw and family. This was in the fallof 1819. Mr. Edmonston and Mr. Bradshaw, in the first season after their settlement, killed 85 bears, one of which was killed only 200 yards from where the present courthouse stands.

The town of Martin was established in 1873, on lands belonging to the heirs of William Martin. The town of Greenfield was established in 1873 on the lands of Joseph H. Ward and Samuel Baker. Sources: Welcome to Dresden Tennessee, County Seat of Weakley County Map and Guide, Designed by the Dresden Jaycees and Jaycettes Dresden is the County seat and Gleason, Greenfield, Martin and Sharon make up the incorporated cities within the County. There are several other small towns and communities in the county. They are Latham, Dukedom, Mount Pelia, Ore Springs, Gardner,McConnell, Palmersville, Sidonia, and Ralston. (Map of Weakley County, 1836.)

Early Weakley County Map Weakley County Courthouse
The first courthouse in Weakley County was erected in 1827 by John Scarbrough, of Stewart County.Being unsafe and too small, it was taken down in 1852 and the second one was completed for occupancy in 1854. This courthouse was destroyed by fire in February 1948. The present courthouse now standing was dedicated by the Honorable Gordon Browning, then Governor of our great State of Tennessee, on May 30, 1949, in the amount of $750,000. (Map by Rand and McNally Co., 1882, 1888)

Interesting Facts About Weakley County

From History of Tennessee, 1887: (together with a historical and a biographical sketch of Gibson, Obion Dyer, Weakley, and Lake counties, and with the sketches of Carroll, Henry, and Benton Counties; besides a valuable fund of notes reminiscenses, observations, etc.)

► The first hogshead of tobacco was raised by Vincent Rust in 1835. Hauled into Hickman, Kentucky by Dr. John H. Reams, the crop was sold at five cents per pound.
► Davy Crockett settled near the junction of South and Rutherford Forks of Obion in Weakley County.
► The town of Martin in Weakley County was first called "Green Glade," then later changed to "Frost" [Frost Station, Frost Depot], but finally changed to "Martin" when Captain William Martin bought all the land thereabouts. The name was chosen to honor his 3 sons: George, Marshall, and William Martin. Martin was incorporated in 1874.
► The uplands of Weakley County, excluding the eastern part of the county, were originally covered with a dense growth of oaks, hickory, sweet gum, ash and other timbers, with some walnut and poplar.
► The first settlers in Weakley County were Ruben Edmonston and his brother-in-law, John Bradshaw and family. They settled in fall of 1819 on Mud Creek, which is about six miles west of Dresden.
► The land that is now the court square in Dresden was owned by John Terrell in 1824, and was covered in crops.
► The first mill was "Lumbricks Mill," which was located 13 miles from Dresden on the dirt road to Paris.
► The first cotton gin was erected by James Craig eight miles west of Dresden.
► The first settlers killed 86 bears the first season after they settled in Weakley County. Other animals that were common in Weakley County at that time included elk, deer, panthers, wolves, wildcars, beavers, and venison.
► According to the census in 1880, Weakley County ranked third in the State in quantity of tobacco.

► The act of General Assembly that established Weakley County provided that the early sessions of court for the county should be held at the house of John Terrell (until otherwise provided by law).
► The Nashville and Northwestern railroad was completed through Weakley County in 1861. It stopped at Gleason, Dresden, Ralston, Martin, and Gardner.

* All information on this page has been taken from History of Tennessee, published in 1887.


Transcription of the General Assembly Act that Established Weakley County, Tennessee


See a PDF of this General Assembly Act from October 21, 1823
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Section 1. Be it enacted, by the General Assembly of the State of Tennessee, that a new county to be called and known, by the name of Weakley County, shall be and is hereby established west of Henry County. Beginning at the northwest corner of Henry County, running west with the state line to a point four miles west of the northwest corner of Range 3, fractional section 10, in the 13th District, thence south to the fourth sectional line in said District, running parallel with the Range line, thence east with the fourth sectional line to the second Range line in the Twelfth Surveyor's District, thence north with said Range line to the beginning.

Section 2. Be it enacted, that for the administration of justice, the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions and Circuit Courts of said county, until otherwise provided for by law, shall be holden at the House of John Tyrrell under the same regulations and restrictions, and shall have and exercise the same powers and jurisdiction as are or shall hereafter be prescribed for the several counties of this State.

Section 3. Be it enacted, that it shall be the duty of the Sheriff of said County, to hold an election at the place of holding courts in said county, on the first Thursday and Friday in February next for the purpose of electing Field Officers for said County, which shall be conducted under the same rules and regulations as are prescribed by law in similar cases, and the militia of said County shall compose the ------ Regiment and be attached to the ------ Brigade.

Section 4. Be it enacted, that the election of company officers for said County, shall be held at such places as the commandant of the militia of said County may think proper to appoint, which said election shall be held on the ------ Monday in ------ next under the same rules, regulations, and restrictions, as are prescribed in like cases.

Section 5. Be it enacted, that the Sheriff of said County on the days prescribed by law, shall hold an election at the place of holding court, for the purpose of electing a Governor, members of the State Legislature, members of Congress and electors, to elect a President and Vice President of the United States, under the same rules and regulations as are prescribed by law.
(Signed) James Fentress Speaker of the House of Representatives
(Signed) T. Weakley Speaker of the Senate
Passed October 21st 1823.
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A rich history is not the only aspects in making a county great. The interest and sense of pride felt by all residents make Weakley County one of the leading manufacturing, agricultural, business, and educational counties in northwest Tennessee. The quality of life is surely unsurpassed with its inviting residential atmosphere, educational opportunities, recreational facilities and programs, health care systems and easy way of life.