The Fly Arts Center - Theater, Art Gallery & Museum
Bedford County History Museum
Located at
The Fly Arts Center
204 S. Main St.
Shelbyville, TN.
Open: Mon., Tues. and Thurs. 11:00am - 4:00pm
Curators: Jerry W. Cook and Gene Williams
Bedford County History
Bedford County History
Bedford County Was Formed In 1807

Before Bedford County was established, it was sparsely settled, and certain areas were believed impenetrable.

During the time period of, 1800-1810 the state of Tennessee began to give land grants.

People didn't start settling permanently in the area until 1805. Some of the first settlements were; Clement Cannon was a resident of Williamson County when he made the first offer, and donated 100 acres of land on May 2, 1810. He became a resident of Shelbyville after that or at the time, John Blackwell supposedly settled near the "Three Forks" of the Duck River, and Captain Matt Martin and his brother Barkley, and William McMahan settled on Garrison Fork on Duck River, and Phillip Burrow, Freeman Burrow and William Wilbourn at Thompson Creek. These settlements were made concurrently.

The militia laws were followed during the early years. Two battalions which formed a regiment forced these laws.

In 1807, citizens of Rutherford County submitted a petition to form a new county. The Tennessee Legislature met in Knoxville later that year to recognize the area as Bedford County. A portion of Rutherford County was cut off in the process. Rutherford counties requested that the new county be named after Thomas Bedford Jr., a member of the Virginia Assembly and an officer in' the Revolutionary War.

The man to be honored was the fifth child of Thomas Bedford, a captain in the Continental Army. His family originated in Goochland County, Virginia. They moved to east Nashville in 1795 and then to Rutherford County near Jefferson Springs.

His father married Ann Robertson in Chesterfield County, Virginia. She was the daughter of John and Sarah Robertson, first cousins to Thomas Jefferson.

Bedford's name was chosen since he played a vital role in the development and growth of Jefferson Springs, once the county seat of Rutherford County.

In 1808, the Bedford County was surveyed and organized. Originally, the county was bordered by Rutherford, Williamson, and Maury counties. The southern boundary was the state line. At that time there were 2,000 square miles.

During this time, Bedford County's area included the present day counties of Lincoln, Moore, half of Marshall and half of Coffee counties.

In 1809, commissioners began to look for an area within two miles of the county's center on Duck River to locate the county seat. After considering three offers, the commissioners chose 100 acres of land to be donated by Clement Cannon. When Cannon heard the commissioners were looking for a location, he went to North Carolina in 1810 to purchase a 1,000 acre land grant which included the 100 acres he donated. The 100 acres were divided into lots and sold. Cannon repurchased some of this land for investment, but later donated lots for the building of Dixon Academy and the First Methodist Church.

In 1810, Shelbyville was established by commissioners John Atkinson, William Woods, Bartlett Martin, Howel Dawdy and Daniel McKissick.

The County seat was named Shelbyville in honor of Col. Isaac Shelby, a soldier in the Indian struggles before and during the Revolutionary War and a colonel in the engagement with the British at King's Mountain.

Cannon is considered as "one of the founding fathers along with the commissioners and was the eldest son of Minos Cannon, a native of Maryland.

As an early settler in Bedford County, Cannon owned a considerable amount of acreage south of Duck River and a mill on the north side of the river inside the present day city limits.

"First " In Bedford County

First Mill - Clement Cannon built the first mill on the north side of Duck River inside the present day city limits. Other early mills that followed included: the mill at Goge Creek built in 1810; the mill on Garrison Fork built by Joseph Walker in 1812; Wilhoit Germany mills built on the Duck River between 1814 and 1815.

First Cotton Gin - Clement Cannon built the first cotton gin near Shelbyville in 1812. It was called the Cannon Gin. Cannon was followed by John Tillman, Tom Mosley, and L. P. Fields who built their cotton gins in the Fairfield area.
First Still - Phillip Burrow was known to have operated the first still near Flat Creek. Many stills were replaced by distilleries.

First Distillery - The Zach Thompson Distillery, established near Wartrace, was the first and largest distillery at the time. Other distilleries that followed were the Marcus L. Rabey Distillery and the Blackmore and Company's Distillery. Both distilleries had the capacity to process 60 gallons of whiskey per day.

First Courthouse - The first courthouse in the county was a log cabin located three miles northwest of present-day Lynchburg. The cabin was the private home of a Mrs. Payne. Sometime in December of 1807, the first court was held.

First Jail - In the beginning of the county there were several small jails. However, the main jail was built in 1867 at a cost of $35,000. Made of limestone, the structure was considered one of the finest buildings in the city. The structure is still standing and still being used today for prisoners.

First School - Mount Reserve Academy is the first school of which there is any record. It was established in 1815 or 1816 in the Bethsalem Community by Rev. George Newton.

How A County Is Born:

Taken from the The Tennessee County Legislative Body, a book complied by the comptroller of the treasury, William R. Snodgrass. As geographic area, Tennessee counties are creations of the state General Assembly, and are sanctioned by voters where the counties were formed. From the beginning of Tennessee's state-hood, there was no specific constitutional authority to create a given number of counties, only directions for the formation of new ones. Today, Article 10. Sec. 4, of the state Constitution, as well as Tennessee Code Annotated, gives instructions for the creation of new counties. Any new county must not be less than 275 square miles in area and must have at least population of 700 qualified voters. The new county line cannot be drawn nearer the 11 miles to the courthouse of any county from which a new county will be made, nor can the older county be reduced to an area less than 500 square miles. Should any citizens desire to form a new county, they must present to the General Assembly a petition or memorial accompanied by an accurate survey and plat showing the new county lines meet constitutional and legal criteria. If it chooses, the General Assembly may pass legislation creating the county. if two-thirds of the voters in the area to become the new county approve of its formation, the county will come into existence. General law makes provision for transitional matters such as voting procedures, transfer of records, and responsibility for debts of the old county.

Since the 1870 amendment Article 10, Sec. 4, 11 counties have been created, although none has come into existence since 1881. Despite the legislation permitting creation of new counties it is highly improbable it will occur again. There is no single county with sufficient area to have 500 square miles remaining after a county is carved from it, and securing approval from portions more than one county would be even more difficult.

About Bedford County's Location

Bedford County lies generally in the great Central Basin of Tennessee in the south-central part of the state. It is separated from Alabama by Lincoln and Moore counties on the south. It is roughly rectangular in outline and contains 475.35 square miles, or 304,640 acres.

A small part of the county, a crescent-shaped belt one-half to five miles wide along the southern, eastern and northeastern boundaries of the county, is in the physiographic province known as the Highland Rim and is divided into the Highland Rim plateau and the Highland Rim escarpment. The remainder of the county has been divided into what is called the inner Central Basin and the outer Central basin, mainly in the western and northwestern parts of the county,

Limestones of two varieties belong to the Nashville and Lebanon formations around in the county. These two are called white rock, found in the northwest corner of the county, and sandstone or fire rock, west of Shelbyville and in other parts of the county.
Duck River enters the county on the east near Normandy where its water is backed up by the Normandy Dam to form Normandy Lake, meanders through the county by Shelbyville in a westward direction, and exits the county west of Halls Mills a little north of the center of the western border of the county.

The tributaries of the Duck River on the south are Norman, Shipman, Thompson, Little Flat, Big Flat, Sugar, Power and Sinking Creeks; and on the north, Noah Fork, Garrison Fork, Wartrace Fork, Butler's Creek, Fall Creek, North Fork, and Clem Creek.
Bedford County is bound on the north by Rutherford County, on the east by Coffee County, on the south by Moore and Lincoln counties, and on the east by Marshall County.
Elevations in the Central Basin range from about 600 to 850 feet, and on the Highland Rim about 900 to 1,200 feet according to data from the U. S. Geological Survey topographical maps.

In 1830, Bedford County has 30,396 people and was the most populous in the state, but with its reduction in size in 1836 by parts cut off when coffee was formed on the east and Marshall on the west, and with further reduction in size when Moore County was formed in 1871, it has never again reached that figure in population until 1990 population was 30,411 and in 2000 population was 37586 for Bedford County. Shelbyville's city population for 1990 was 14,049 and in 2000 it was 16,105.

Source: Information - Impressions of Shelbyville and Bedford County, a book of facts and data about our community. Spring 1988, pp 6, 8, Shelbyville Times-Gazette.
Sam the Juggler
Assembled by Carl Rogers in Shelbyville, TN. what started out as an iron mailbox holder turned into a full life size iron sculpture. Mr. Rogers began assembling Sam in 1980. Weighing approximately 300 lbs. and standing 5' 8" the scuplture was completed in 1988.
Sam the Juggler
The Helen Womack Arrowhead Collection
The Helen Womack Arrowhead Collection
This collection of arrowheads was donated to The Bedford County History Museum by the Womack Family of Bedford County, Tennessee. Helen Womack was born September 15, 1907 and died May 15, 1989.
Military History
Military History
Military History
Military History
The Fly History
The Fly History