Written by Joyce Mayberry
Hickman County Historical Society
Hickman County was established in December 1807. The county was named for Edwin Hickman, who was part of a surveying party that came here in 1791. Edwin Hickman was killed by the Indians and buried near the outskirts of what is now Centerville.
Hickman County retains a quaint charm of the past, with beautiful streams and waterfalls. The mighty Duck river flows through it. The old courthouse still stands in the middle of the square. Native musicians beckon you with songs of old.
Vernon, on the Piney River, was the first county seat. Several new counties were carved out of Hickman and by 1823, the new town of Centerville was named as the county seat. Sulphur Springs were abundant, three major health spas were developed from them. They were Bon Aqua Springs, Primm Springs and Beaverdam Springs, the Beaverdam Springs still exists to the present day. The county was primarily agricultural along with iron furnaces which once again became active after the war. Today, they have all been discontinued.
The county was disrupted by the Civil war, as it was predominately Confederate. No major battles were fought in the county, but many skirmishes took place between the Jayhawkers and the Bushwhackers. The war delayed the development of industry. We are a burned county, in that our earliest records were burned in March of 1866, after the war. They did not burn in the courthouse fire, but rather in The Freedmans Bureau and Post Office building. Most of the deeds survived and are the best tools for early research along with the history written by Spence. Court and marriage records are available from 1866 to the present.
Two women from Hickman County achieved national fame. Beth Slater Whitson was acclaimed for her songs; Let Me Call You Sweetheart and Meet Me Tonight in Dreamland. Sarah Ophelia Colley became "Minnie Pearl" and put Grinders Switch and therefore, Centerville on the map.
We have had two prominent historians in Hickman County. The 1st was Jerome Spence who published A History of Hickman County, Tennessee in 1900. He included most of the early pioneers who came here, many are named that were here before the first 1820 census of Hickman Co. The 2nd was Edward Dotson who recorded histories, marriages, and personal stories of many families. The works of both of these men are available for reading or purchase at the Hickman County Historical Society.