Chester County

The Chester County Courthouse


During the Civil War, West Tennessee was predominantly Confederate. One notable exception to this was a geographic area containing a prominent family called Hurst.

During the war Colonel Fielding Hurst was the commander of a unit of Union cavalry, often known as the “Hurst Nation,” that was much hated by West Tennessee Confederates.

After the war the people who lived in this section of the state decided they wanted to form their own county. They tried to do so in 1873 under the name Wisdom County, but the General Assembly rejected that attempt. Six years later, however, the county mustered together enough votes at the legislature to form Chester County.

In 1879 it became the 95th of Tennessee’s 95 counties to be formed, with a stop along the Mobile and Ohio Railroad called Henderson becoming the county seat.

And, speaking of independent thought and Chester County:

A suffrage protest in Chicago in 1920. Sue White is third from the left.
PHOTO: Library of Congress

There was a time when women weren’t allowed to vote, and all of this changed with the passage of the Nineteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920. This didn’t happen without a fight.

One of the most important national crusaders for the right of women to vote was Sue Shelton White, a native of Henderson. “Miss Sue,” as she was often called, was the Tennessee chairman of an organization called the Women’s Party, which was the more radical of the national women’s organizations. In February 1919, after Congress rejected the Nineteeth amendment, White took part in a protest in front of the White House and was arrested for it. She and several of her colleagues spent several days in prison. After they were released, they went on a tour of many large American cities that helped raise support for the right of women to vote.

Congress finally passed the amendment on June 4, 1919. Tennessee became the 36th and decisive state to ratify the amendment a year later, and Sue White helped lobby that through as well.