Crockett County

Marion Watkins, who went to school with Joe Boxley in the 1920s, takes part in the June 2017 ceremony at the Crockett County Courthouse.

It is a very sad thing. But Tennessee–like other states in the country–had its share of lynchings. Between 1880 and 1940, about 230 people who were suspected (but not convicted) of crimes were lynched and killed by crowds of people in Tennessee. The vast majority of them were African Americans.

Descendants of Joe Boxley (front row) during the June 2017 ceremony.

One of the last lynchings to have occurred in Tennessee happened on May 29, 1929, to a young man in Crockett County named Joe Boxley.

However, in June 2017, a remembrance ceremony associated with the lynching of Joe Boxley took place in the same Crockett County courtroom where he would have been tried (had he not been lynched). People from all over the community–including many descendants of Joe Boxley and descendants of others who lived in Crockett County in 1929–dedicated soil from where Joe Boxley was murdered.

The soil was placed in the new lynching museum created by the Equal Justice Initiative in Montgomery, Alabama.

The Crockett County Courthouse in the late 1800s

Since Crockett County is named for David Crockett, and since its county seat is named for the place in Texas where Crockett was killed, you might make the assumption that David Crockett lived here. Actually, no.

David Crockett belongs to all of Tennessee. He lived in all three Grand Divisions and in no less than five counties – Greene, Jefferson, Lincoln, Franklin, and Lawrence. However, Crockett left Tennessee rather angry, having concluded that the state wasn’t big enough for both he and the admirers of Andrew Jackson.

Crockett County was formed in 1871 – 35 years after David Crockett’s death in Texas.

The cemetery at Cox’s Chapel Church of Christ

Crockett County is one of the slowest growing counties in Tennessee. In fact, Crockett County today has almost the exact same number of residents as it had in 1880 (14,109).

After the departure of the Chickasaw Indians, one of the first settlers to move into what is now Crockett County was Moses Cox (who was born in 1802 and died in 1880). Today you have to look pretty hard for the cemetery in which Moses Cox is buried, while the church beside that cemetery no longer has a congregation.

The Crockett County Courthouse underwent an extensive “renovation” in 1934. Its clock tower was taken down, a wing added to the back, the roof replaced and the bricks painted.

Here is what the Crockett County Courthouse looks like today. If you look closely at this photo on the right, you will see that it is the same courthouse as before, only without the clock tower.