Jackson County

The former site of the Fort Blount ferry
PHOTO: Brian Stansberry

A diarama of Fort Blount at the Jackson County Historical
Society Museum in Gaineboro


Not very many people pass through Jackson County anymore. However, there was once a time when you had to pass through Jackson County to get from East to Middle Tennessee.

The first direct road from East to Middle Tennessee crossed the Cumberland River at a small fortress called Fort Blount, located in present-day Jackson County. Travelers who came through Fort Blount stayed at an inn run by a man named Sampson Williams.

For a few years, Williams’ inn was the only place to spend the night indoors between Fort Southwest Point (Kingston) and Bledsoe’s Fort (near Gallatin) The community around Williams’ inn was called Williamsburg.

Knoxville Gazette, Dec. 4, 1795

Among the people who traveled through Fort Blount and who stayed at Williams’ inn were Andrew Jackson (on his move to Nashville in 1788) and Louis-Phillipe, the future king of France.

As you can see from this small item in the December 4, 1795, Knoxville Gazette (on the left), you could purchase corn, beef, “meal,” and a “ferriage” across the Cumberland River at Fort Blount.

A 1825 map of Jackson County

So what became of Fort Blount, Williamsburg and the inn?

By the late 1790s, there was no longer need for a fort to protect travelers from Native American attack. Fort Blount was abandoned. Travelers started using a different route to go west that went through Carthage.

The grave of Sampson Williams
PHOTO: Brian Stansberry

Williamsburg became county seat when Jackson County was formed in 1805. But a few years later the county seat was moved to a more central location, that being Gainesboro.

Today there is nothing left of Fort Blount or Williamsburg other than a few tombstones and a rural road called “Fort Blount Ferry Road.”

Here is another story about Jackson County:

“Aunt” Polly Williams

Back in the 1920s, “Aunt” Polly Williams was the proprietor of the only hotel in Gainesboro. If you wanted to eat and you didn’t want to cook for yourself, you had to go to her hotel. At the time, Cordell Hull, who later became the Secretary of State under Franklin Roosevelt, held court in Gainesboro from time to time. The judge would stay at Aunt Polly’s hotel whenever he was there.

Here is what happened one day, from the book Steamboatin’ on the Cumberland by Byrd Douglas:

Cordell Hull
PHOTO: TN State Library and Archives

Exasperated with Judge Hull because he did not adjourn court immediately when she rang the dinner bell, (Aunt Polly) came out on the (town) square, rang the bell incessantly and shouted, “Court or no Court, Cordell Hull or no Cordell Hull, you better git over here in a hurry and eat my food while it’s hot or you won’t eat it at all.”

Thereafter at the first tap of the bell all proceedings stopped and court recessed without the slightest formality. The judge for once had met his match.

Also: Tennessee has two meteor craters: one in Houston County and the other in Jackson County.


Jackson County is the site of the Flynn Creek Meteor Crater — a two-mile wide depression in the ground that scientists believe was caused by a meteor that struck the earth 360 million years ago.