Warren County

Warren County, in an 1888 Rand McNally & Co. map


Warren County used to be known as the “round” county.

Between 1836 and 1844, Cannon, Coffee, DeKalb, Van Buren and Grundy Counties were all created using parts of Warren County. Since Tennessee law stated that a new county could not be created with land closer than 12 miles to an existing courthouse, the creation of these new counties resulted in a situation where Warren County was nearly a perfect circle with a 12-mile radius.

Since that time, there have been some changes in county boundaries, so Warren County no longer has the circle shape that it once had. However, you can still estimate Warren County’s area through the formula used to determine the area of a circle (π r2).

Stalagmites at Cumberland Caverns

Warren County is also the site of Cumberland Caverns, one of the most extensive cave systems in the Volunteer State and a place with a somewhat frightening history.

It was originally discovered in 1810 by Aaron Higginbotham, a surveyor who unwisely decided to explore the cave by himself only to spend three terrifying days waiting to be rescued after his torch went out. The cave was mined for saltpeter (a key ingredient of gunpowder) during the War of 1812 and the Civil War.

Cumberland Caverns was opened to the public as a tourist attraction in 1955 and has been a favorite destination for spelunkers ever since.

Twin Falls

Also in Warren County you will find a breathtaking waterfall with a bizarre story behind it.

The waterfall is known as Twin Falls. It comes gushing out of a cliff in Warren County and tumbles into the waters of Caney Fork River, which serves as the boundary between Warren and White counties.

The unusual thing about Twin Falls is that it was man-made. The falls didn’t used to exist, but water began pouring out of the side of the mountain shortly after the Tennessee Electric Power Co. completed Great Falls Dam in 1916.

The Great Falls Dam

The dam, you see, caused the water level of the Collins River to rise several feet. When it did, water from the Collins River began finding its way through the mountain that separates it from the Caney Fork River.

A tree nursery in Warren County

Warren County also has so many places to buy trees (known as nurseries) that it is known as “Nursery Capital of the World.” Many of the stores that sell trees in Tennessee actually get them from wholesalers in this part of Tennessee. So if you see someone planting a tree near your house, chances are the tree might be a native of Warren County.

Carl Rowan with President Lyndon Johnson
PHOTO: Library of Congress

Finally, Warren County was the childhood home of one of the most famous African-American journalists in American history, Carl Rowan.



Here is the Warren County Courthouse in McMinnville.