Moore County, Tennessee Organization

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The county of Moore was organized in accordance with an act of the General Assembly of the state of Tennessee, entitled “An act to establish a new county out of portions of the territory of Lincoln, Franklin, Coffee and Bedford Counties, to be called the county of Moore, in honor of the late General William Moore, of Tullahoma, Tennessee, one of the early settlers of Lincoln County, Tennessee, a soldier of the war of 1812, and for many years a member of the General Assembly of the state of Tennessee,” passed December 14, 1871.

The act provided that the county should be bounded by a line described therein. And for the purpose of organizing the county, the following commissioners were appointed by said act, to wit: Berry Prosser, Lewis Morgan, J. B. Thompson, John D. Tolley, H. H. Smith, William Copeland, J. E. Spencer and S. J. Green, of the county of Lincoln; C. T. Shiver, A. J. Simpson, Goodwin Miller and Harvey Farris, of the county of Franklin; James O. Aydelotte, Mike Campbell, Thomas Colley and S. J. MeLemore, of the county of Coffee; William Smith, W. P. Bobo and John Sullivan, of the county of Bedford; who, before entering upon their duties, should take an oath to faithfully and impartially discharge the same as such commissioners. And to ascertain the will of the people of the fractions of the old counties out of which the new county was to be composed, said commissioners were to cause elections to be held at as early a day as practicable in each of the fractions of the old counties to be included in the new one. And if the requisite constitutional majority was found to be in favor of the new county, the said commissioners were to complete the organization in accordance with the provisions of the act.

The act provided that said commissioners should have power to make any change in the lines of said county, if found necessary, so as to conform with the requirements of the constitution of the state, i.e., that none of the old counties out of which the new one was to be formed should be reduced below 500 square miles; and that they should cause an actual survey of the county to be made, and an actual enumeration of the qualified voters in the limits of said county to be taken, to ascertain if said new county contained 275 square miles, and 700 qualified voters. Accordingly, on January 6, 1872, said commissioners met at Lynchburg and organized by electing A. J. Simpson chairman and John D. Tolley secretary, and at once employed J. B. Thomison and R. F. Darnoby to survey the boundary line of the new county, to begin at 12 o’clock on Monday January 8, 1872, at or near Rev. J. W. Holman‘s place, on the Mulberry & Lynchburg Turnpike. The commissioners then adjourned until the 23d day of January, when a plat of the survey of said county was presented to them by said surveyors. The plat was accepted, and the surveyors ordered to make a full and complete written report of the survey, which they afterward did.

Three hundred and forty one square miles were found to be included in this survey. Subsequently the commissioners learned that Coffee County contained less than 500 square miles, and consequently no portion of it could be attached to the new county. By this survey the county line was run eleven miles from the county seats of Bedford, Lincoln and Franklin Counties by surface measurement. This was not satisfactory to Lincoln and Franklin Counties, consequently each brought suit against Moore County to reclaim their lost territory. The matter was fully litigated in the Lincoln County Chancery Court, and finally decided that the line of Moore County should be established eleven miles, on a straight air line, from the county seats of the old counties from which it was composed. This made a new survey necessary between this county and both Lincoln and Franklin Counties. Bedford County brought no suit to enforce this “straight line rule,” but allowed the line to stand as originally surveyed. This materially reduced the county in size, so that it now contains only about 270 square miles, or about seventy one square miles less than the original survey included.

On Saturday, April 13, 1872, elections were held in each of the fractions of the old counties to be included in the new, to ascertain the will of the people on the formation of a new county, and the votes cast were as follows: In fraction of Lincoln County for new county, 799; for old county, 51; In fraction of Bedford County for new county, 59; for old county, none; In fraction of Franklin County for new county, 284; for old county, 6. The requisite number of two-thirds having voted in favor of the new county, the county of Moore became established, and it only remained to perfect its organization. The commissioners then appointed William Tolley, M. Spencer, Berry Leftwick, G. W. Byrom and F. T. Davis to divide the county into civil districts. The subdivision was made and the districts formed and named as follows: Lynchburg, Ridgeville, Marble Hill, Reed’s Store, Tucker Creek, Wagoner’s, and Prosser’s Store, Charity, County Line, Hurricane Church and William B. Smith’s mill. The districts were numbered in the order named, from one to eleven.

The commissioners then ordered an election to be held on Saturday, May 11, 1872, for the purpose of electing county officers. Accordingly elections were held in each of the several districts, and the following officers duly elected:

  • John A. Norman, sheriff
  • James W. Byrom, county court clerk
  • W. R. Waggoner, circuit court clerk
  • John A. Silvertooth, trustee
  • E. F. Brown, register
  • W. J. Taylor, tax collector
  • Magistrates
    • J. D. Tolley
    • J. W. Martin,
    • B. F. Womach
    • A. J. Simpson
    • G. W. Byrom
    • C. H. Bean
    • A. C. Cobble
    • J. E. Spencer
    • R. L. Gillespie
    • Wm. Copeland
    • John Swinney
    • John L. Ashby
    • T. G. Miller
    • D. J. Noblet
    • A. M. Prosser
    • J. A. Prosser
    • L. Leftwich
    • Samuel Bobo
    • T. J. Baxter, J.
    • L. Holt
    • J. M. Byrom
    • J. W. Eggleston
    •  J. J. Burt

These magistrates elect assembled on the third day of June 1872, at the house of Tolley & Eaton in Lynchburg, and organized and held the first county court ever held in the county, they organized the court by electing A. J. Simpson, chairman, and John D. Tolley & D. J. Nobblett, associates. At this term the court ordered an election to be held in the several districts of the county on the first Saturday of July 1872, to determine where the people desired to have the county seat located. The elections were accordingly held, and out of 499 votes cast, 465 were in favor of Lynchburg as the county seat.

The court then appointed a committee of one from each district to select suitable grounds for a jail and jailer’s house, and a public square for a court house site. This committee selected a plat of ground 300 feet square on Mechanic Street for a public square, and a tract of one acre belonging to E. Y. Salmon, and lying across the creek, between the town and Parks’ tan yard. The Public Square was located by the court, as reported, and title acquired thereto by donation from the owners. The tract for the jail was purchased of Dr. Salmon, for $100. Before building the jail, the court decided that this lot was not suitable and convenient, and thereupon sold it at public outcry for $10, and at the August term 1875, the court bought the present jail lot of Col. J. M. Hughes for $200. A committee, consisting of M. L. McDowell, A. C. Cobble, J. E. Spencer, B. F. Womack and J. L. Holt, was then appointed to let the contract for the building of a jail and jailer’s house. The contract was awarded June 7, 1875, to Bobo & Stegall for $2,550, the building to be completed by the first Monday in October of the same year. At the January term 1876, of the county court, the committee reported that the jail and jailer’s house had been completed according to the contract, it was accepted and the committee discharged. The jail has two cells, 8×8 feet, made of heavy oak timber, and large nails driven in almost every square inch. It is a very safe jail. The house is in the shape of an L, the front consisting of two nice rooms for jailer’s residence. It is situated on the lot bought of Colonel Hughes, nearly opposite the Methodist Episcopal Church, and is a very neat and comfortable building.


History of Tennessee from the Earliest Time to the Present: Together with an Historical and a Biographical Sketch of from Twenty-Five to Thirty Counties of East Tennessee. Chicago: Goodspeed Publishing Co., 1887.

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2 thoughts on “Moore County, Tennessee Organization”

  1. John Alexander Norman, first sheriff of Moore Co., was my great grandfather. I am trying to confirm a picture of him that I may have. My mother, Louise Mansfield Green, sent you pictures in the 1980s of him. I am interested in all the info. you may have on him. Thank you!

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