HOUSTON COUNTY


The Danville Freight Elevator
PHOTO: Steve Burns
County Seat: Erin

Houston County is one of the smallest counties on the state. But it does have at least two landmarks that make the place unique: the state's largest permanently flooded building and a huge meteor crater.

At the very western edge of the county--in fact, out in Kentucky Lake-- sits the Danville Freight Elevator. This five-story steel and concrete structure was built in 1904 by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. At that time the bridge across the Tennessee River in Danville was a key connection between Memphis and Louisville, Kentucky.


The Danville Freight Elevator before it was permanently flooded
PHOTO: Houston County Archives
The freight elevator was an active place. Here, products such as cotton, wood staves, mussel shells, corn and peanuts were loaded and unloaded onto and off of boats and trains.

However, in the late 1930s, the Tennessee Valley Authority built Kentucky Dam and permanently flooded Danville along with many other communities in the area. Rather than tear down the freight elevator, TVA left it standing. Today, people fish around it and even fish from it.


A topographical map shows the Wells Creek crater.

Also of note: There is rather notable valley in Houston County, eight miles wide. It is called the Wells Creek Basin. The crater was caused when a meteor struck the earth over a hundred million years ago.

According to the historic marker there, “scientists believe it penetrated about 2000 feet before exploding. Shock waves raced in all directions, and a fiery mushroom cloud of fine rock dust and debris rose high in the air.” Today geologists still come to study it.


Meteor Crater in Arizona (NOT the Wells Creek Crater in Houston County)
Today it is very difficult to notice this crater unless you are a geologist.

One way to visualize what it might have looked like a long time ago is to look at this famous meteor crater, which is in Arizona.

A sculpture of a leprechaun in Erin
"Erin" is a poetic name for Ireland. According to local history, the county seat of Houston County was named by Irish immigrants who thought the countryside here reminded them a bit of their homeland.

With only about 8,000 residents, most of this countryside is still (thankfully) undeveloped, and if you drive through Houston County you can still see what these Irish immigrants were thinking.


When Tennessee History for Kids visited Houston County, we took a photo of the Houston County Courthouse.