Sullivan County, Tennessee

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Sullivan County, Tennessee
Sullivan County Courthouse in Blountville
Map of Tennessee highlighting Sullivan County
Location in the U.S. state of Tennessee
Map of the United States highlighting Tennessee
Tennessee's location in the U.S.
Founded 1779
Named for General John Sullivan[1]
Seat Blountville
Largest city Kingsport
 • Total 430 sq mi (1,114 km2)
 • Land 413 sq mi (1,070 km2)
 • Water 16 sq mi (41 km2), 3.8%
 • (2010) 156,823
 • Density 379/sq mi (146/km²)
Congressional district 1st
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4

Sullivan County is a county located in the U.S. state of Tennessee. As of the 2010 census, the population was 156,823.[2] Its county seat is Blountville.[3]

Sullivan County is part of the KingsportBristolBristol, TN-VA Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is a component of the Johnson City–Kingsport–Bristol, TN-VA Combined Statistical Area, commonly known as the "Tri-Cities" region.

Sullivan is Tennessee's second-oldest county,[4] having been established in 1779 when the area was still part of North Carolina. It was part of the extra-legal State of Franklin from 1784 to 1788.[5]


Sullivan County was created in 1779 from a portion of Washington County, and named for John Sullivan, a general in the Revolutionary War.[6] Long Island of the Holston in Kingsport had been an important landmark for the Cherokee. The island was the site of Fort Robinson, constructed in 1761 following the fall of Fort Loudoun further to the south, making the Sullivan area one of the earliest settled areas of Tennessee.[1]

Sullivan County was one of the few East Tennessee counties to support secession on the eve of the Civil War. In Tennessee's June 1861 referendum, the county voted 1,586 to 627 in favor of secession.[7]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 430 square miles (1,100 km2), of which 413 square miles (1,070 km2) is land and 16 square miles (41 km2) (3.8%) is water.[8] The western portion of the county lies within the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians, which are characterized by long, narrow ridges roughly oriented northeast-to-southwest. The northeastern end of Bays Mountain, part of the Ridge-and-Valley range, rises southwest of Kingsport. The eastern portion of the county lies within the Blue Ridge Mountains.[9] Holston Mountain, which at 4,284 feet (1,306 m) is the highest point in Sullivan, straddles the county's eastern boundary with Johnson County.

In Kingsport, the South Fork Holston River and the North Fork Holston River join to form the Holston River, one of the tributaries of the Tennessee River. The Watauga River, a tributary of the South Fork Holston, forms part of Sullivan's boundary with Washington County to the south. The North Fork Holston forms part of Sullivan's boundary with Hawkins County to the west. Fort Patrick Henry Dam and Boone Dam both create large artificial lakes along the South Fork Holston southeast of Kingsport.

Blountville, Sullivan's county seat, is Tennessee's only unincorporated county seat.

Morrell Cave

Morrell Cave (also known as Worleys Cave) is a Tennessee State Natural Area. The cave has a surveyed length of 4.4 miles (7.1 km), making it the second longest cave in East Tennessee and the 177th longest cave in the United States.[10][11] Morrell Cave is located on the south side of the Holston River, 2.5 miles (4.0 km) east of Bluff City. During the Civil War, the cave was a major source of saltpeter, the main ingredient of gunpowder. Significant evidence of this mining activity remains in the cave, including evidence of large amounts of saltpeter-bearing dirt that were removed, pick marks in the dirt, and an elaborate system of trails used by the miners. Cave historian Marion O. Smith has determined that there were two companies of the Confederate Nitre and Mining Bureau, District No. 7, that were active in Sullivan County.[12]

Adjacent counties and independent city

National protected areas

State protected areas

Other protected areas


Historical population
Census Pop.
1800 10,218
1810 6,847 −33.0%
1820 7,015 2.5%
1830 10,073 43.6%
1840 10,736 6.6%
1850 11,742 9.4%
1860 13,552 15.4%
1870 13,136 −3.1%
1880 18,321 39.5%
1890 20,879 14.0%
1900 24,935 19.4%
1910 28,120 12.8%
1920 36,259 28.9%
1930 51,087 40.9%
1940 69,085 35.2%
1950 95,063 37.6%
1960 114,139 20.1%
1970 127,329 11.6%
1980 143,968 13.1%
1990 143,596 −0.3%
2000 153,048 6.6%
2010 156,823 2.5%
Est. 2014 157,047 [13] 0.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[14]
1790-1960[15] 1900-1990[16]
1990-2000[17] 2010-2014[2]
Age pyramid Sullivan County[18]

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 156,281 people residing in the county. 95.5% were White, 0.6% Black or African American, 0.4% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 2.2% of some other race and 1.0% of two or more races. 4.8% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race).

As of the census[19] of 2000, there were 153,048 people, 63,556 households, and 44,806 families residing in the county. The population density was 371 people per square mile (143/km²). There were 69,052 housing units at an average density of 167 per square mile (65/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 96.55% White, 1.89% Black or African American, 0.22% Native American, 0.43% Asian, 0.01% Pacific Islander, 0.21% from other races, and 0.69% from two or more races. 0.71% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 63,556 households out of which 28.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 57.10% were married couples living together, 10.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.50% were non-families.according to the United States Census Bureau. Of 63,556 households, 1,915 are unmarried partner households: 1,702 heterosexual, 97 same-sex male, 116 same-sex female. 26.40% 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 2.36 and the average family size was 2.84.

In the county, the population was spread out with 21.80% under the age of 18, 7.30% from 18 to 24, 28.40% from 25 to 44, 26.50% from 45 to 64, and 15.90% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 40 years. For every 100 females there were 93.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.20 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $33,529, and the median income for a family was $41,025. Males had a median income of $31,204 versus $21,653 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,202. About 9.70% of families and 12.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 17.10% of those under age 18 and 11.90% of those age 65 or over.


Richard Venable is the county mayor. The county commission has 24 members.[20] Before 2010, commissioners were elected on a nonpartisan basis, but Sullivan County's commission election became a partisan election in 2010 after the county Republican Party decided to conduct a primary election for commission seats.[21]



Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Notable people

See also

Further reading

  • Sullivan County, Tennessee Veterans History. Nashville: Turner Publishing Company (2001). ISBN 1-56311-774-6


  1. 1.0 1.1 Blythe Semmer, "Sullivan County," Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Retrieved: 7 April 2013.
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  4. Sullivan County official website. Retrieved: 6 November 2013.
  5. J.D. Lewis, "North Carolina Counties from 1664 to Present," 2004. Retrieved: 7 April 2013.
  6. Tennessee's Counties, Tennessee Blue Book, 2006.
  7. Oliver Perry Temple, East Tennessee and the Civil War (R. Clarke Company, 1899), p. 199.
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  9. Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, et al., "Ambient Air Monitoring Plan," Environmental Protection Agency website, 1 July 2010. Accessed: 18 March 2015.
  10. Bob Gulden, USA Long Cave List, April 16, 2007
  11. Larry E. Matthews, Caves of Knoxville and the Great Smoky Mountains (National Speleological Society, June 2008), pp. 253-276. ISBN 978-1-879961-30-2
  12. Laurie Adams, "History of Morrell Cave, Part I (Flittermouse Grotto of the National Speleological Society, August 1984).
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  18. Based on 2000 census data
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  20. Sullivan County Commissioner Information, official county website. Retrieved: 7 April 2013.
  21. John Osbourne, Partisan elections on tap for Sullivan County Commission, Kingsport Times News, November 20, 2009

External links

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