Decatur County

You can find the remains of the Brownsport Furnace far from the beaten path in Decatur County.

The Brownsport Furnace

Iron manufacturing was a big part of Decatur County’s economy in the 1800s. Although the iron industry here is long gone, you can still see a beautiful remnant of it in the southeastern part of the county.

Here, at Decatur County’s Brownsport Furnace, bars of pig iron were produced and shipped to foundries all over the country, where it was made into tools, machinery and other products. Although hundreds of people (many of them African-American slaves) would have worked here at one time, iron furnaces such as these are almost all abandoned today.

The Brownsport Furnace is now a remote public park, donated to the county by the Tennessee River Pulp and Paper Company in 1977.

The sulphur spring at Bath Springs

Not far from the Brownsport Furnace you will find something else very unusual: a sulphur spring. Around 1840, a man named William Hancock built a small resort here where people would come drink water from the spring, which was thought to be good for a person’s health. The resort is long gone, but you can still find the lovely spring in the community of Bath Springs. If you visit the place, you will notice the unusual smell.

Matthew Rhea’s 1832 map shows Perry County with its county seat at Perryville

Here’s another tidbit about Decatur County:

As you can see from this 1832 map (on the right), Perry County once included land on both sides of the Tennessee River. It’s county seat was Perryville, a community on the west side of the river.

Rand McNally’s 1888 map shows both Perry and Decatur Counties

In 1845, the part of Perry County west of the river was turned into a separate county called Decatur County. Since Perry County no longer included Perryville, it moved its county seat to a new town called Linden. Decatur County put its county seat at a new community called Decaturville.

A sign in what is left of Perryville

Perryville, which had been the county seat of the combined counties, ended up as the county seat of neither! Once a thriving commercial stop on the Tennessee River, Perryville was permanently flooded when the Tennessee Valley Authority created Kentucky Lake.

Here is a photo of the Decatur County Courthouse. When we stopped by here in March 2020, we were proud to see a framed Tennessee History for Kids poster hanging on the wall in the hallway!