Fentress County, Tennessee

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Fentress County, Tennessee
Fentress County Courthouse in Jamestown
Map of Tennessee highlighting Fentress County
Location in the U.S. state of Tennessee
Map of the United States highlighting Tennessee
Tennessee's location in the U.S.
Founded 1823
Named for James Fentress, state legislator[1]
Seat Jamestown
Largest city Jamestown
 • Total 499 sq mi (1,292 km2)
 • Land 499 sq mi (1,292 km2)
 • Water 0.3 sq mi (1 km2), 0.06%
 • (2010) 17,959
 • Density 36/sq mi (14/km²)
Congressional district 6th
Time zone Central: UTC-6/-5

Fentress County is a county located in the U.S. state of Tennessee. As of the 2010 census, the population was 17,959.[2] Its county seat is Jamestown.[3]


"Pumping water by hand in 1942 from the sole water supply in this section of Wilder, Tennessee in Fentress County."

Fentress County was formed in 1823 from portions of Morgan, Overton and White counties. The county was named in honor of James Fentress[4] (1763–1843), who served as speaker of the state house, chairman of Montgomery County Court, and commissioner to select seats for Haywood, Carroll, Gibson and Weakley counties in West Tennessee.[1]

Fentress County was the site of several saltpeter mines. Saltpeter is the main ingredient of gunpowder and was obtained by leaching the earth from several local caves. The largest mine was in York Cave, which is located near the Wolf River Post Office. At one time, twenty-five large leaching vats were in operation in this cave. According to Barr (1961) this cave was mined during the Civil War. Buffalo Cave near Jamestown was also a major mine with twelve leaching vats. Manson Saltpeter Cave in Big Indian Creek Valley was a smaller operation with four leaching vats. It is possible that any or all of these caves were mined during the War of 1812, when saltpeter mining was widespread in both Kentucky and Tennessee.[5]

In response to Governor Harris' asking the state government of secession, the two representatives for Fentress County in 1860; Reese T. Hildreth, and R. H. Bledsoe (of the State Senate and House respectively) voted both in favor of secession in 1861.

Alvin York (1887–1964), a hero at the Meuse-Argonne Offensive during World War I, was born and lived in Fentress County. He also established the Alvin C. York Agricultural Institute in Jamestown in 1924.[6] York's house and farm are now part of Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park in Pall Mall.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 499 square miles (1,290 km2), of which 499 square miles (1,290 km2) is land and 0.3 square miles (0.78 km2) (0.06%) is water.[7]

Fentress County includes part of Dale Hollow Reservoir and is drained by forks of the Obey and Cumberland Rivers.

Adjacent counties

National protected area

State protected areas


Historical population
Census Pop.
1830 2,748
1840 3,550 29.2%
1850 4,454 25.5%
1860 5,054 13.5%
1870 4,717 −6.7%
1880 5,941 25.9%
1890 5,226 −12.0%
1900 6,106 16.8%
1910 7,446 21.9%
1920 10,435 40.1%
1930 11,036 5.8%
1940 14,262 29.2%
1950 14,917 4.6%
1960 13,288 −10.9%
1970 12,593 −5.2%
1980 14,826 17.7%
1990 14,669 −1.1%
2000 16,625 13.3%
2010 17,959 8.0%
Est. 2014 17,855 [8] −0.6%
U.S. Decennial Census[9]
1790-1960[10] 1900-1990[11]
1990-2000[12] 2010-2014[2]
Age pyramid Fentress County[13]

As of the census[14] of 2000, there were 16,625 people, 6,693 households, and 4,818 families residing in the county. The population density was 33 people per square mile (13/km²). There were 7,598 housing units at an average density of 15 per square mile (6/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 99.24% White, 0.11% Black or African American, 0.15% Native American, 0.10% Asian, 0.03% from other races, and 0.37% from two or more races. 0.54% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 6,693 households out of which 31.60% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.30% were married couples living together, 11.30% had a female householder with no husband present, and 28.00% were non-families. 25.50% of all households were made up of individuals and 11.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.46 and the average family size was 2.94.

In the county, the population was spread out with 24.20% under the age of 18, 8.00% from 18 to 24, 28.10% from 25 to 44, 26.10% from 45 to 64, and 13.70% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 96.20 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $23,238, and the median income for a family was $28,856. Males had a median income of $23,606 versus $18,729 for females. The per capita income for the county was $12,999. About 19.50% of families and 23.10% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.80% of those under age 18 and 20.50% of those age 65 or over.


Valley of the Three Forks near Pall Mall, with the Cumberland Plateau dominating the horizon


Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

See also

Further reading

  • Duke, Jason. Tennessee Coal Mining, Railroading & Logging in Cumberland, Fentress, Overton & Putnam. Nashville: Turner Publishing (2004). ISBN 1-56311-932-3
  • Hogue, Albert R. History of Fentress County, Tennessee. Santa Maria: Janaway Publishing (2010). ISBN 1-59641-220-8
  • Hogue, Albert R. History of Fentress County, Tennessee; The Old Home of Mark Twain's Ancestors. Memphis: General Books (2010). ISBN 1-150-82647-9


  1. 1.0 1.1 Lorene Cargile, "Fentress County," Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Retrieved: 27 June 2013.
  2. 2.0 2.1 "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 29, 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 125.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. Thomas C. Barr, Jr., "Caves of Tennessee", Bulletin 64 of the Tennessee Division of Geology, 1961.
  6. Alvin C. York Institute website. Retrieved: 27 June 2013.
  7. "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved April 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  8. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved April 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  10. "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved April 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved April 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved April 4, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  13. Based on 2000 census data
  14. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-05-14.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

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