Van Buren County was established, 3 January 1840, by an act of the Tennessee
General Assembly. The County was formed from parts of Bledsoe, Warren
and White counties and was named for President Martin Van Buren, 1782-1862,
eighth president of the United States, 1837-1841.
The first inhabitants of the region now known as Van Buren County were
the "Paleo People" who roamed the Cumberland Plateau in search of herds
of the largest animals long extinct. Next came the "Archaic People,"
then the "Woodland People". There were no permanent Indian settlements
in this area in historical times although the land was claimed by the Cherokee.
Around 1760 the long hunters began passing through the area on their way
to middle Tennessee near the Cumberland river, among these was Thomas Sharp
Spencer for whom the county seat was named.
As more and more people poured into the area the most desirable land in
the valleys and along the rivers was soon claimed. Much of the land
on the mountain sides and top was the last to be granted. Coal and
wood products continue to be the leading resources of the county.
According to the Handy Book for Genealogists, 8th edition, Everton
Publishers, Van Buren County was formed in 1840 from Bledsoe, Warren and
The Tennessee Blue Book, 1991-1994, Nashville, TN, page 353, tells
us that Van Buren County was established in 1840 and named in honor of
Martin Van Buren, U.S. Senator from New York, 1821-28, Governor of New
York, 1829, Secretary of State to President Jackson, 1829-31, vice president
of the United States, 1833-37, eighth president of the United States, 1837-41.
Land Laws of Tennessee, Henry D. Whitney, 1893 found on microfilm
L-49, pages 775 and 776, in the Tennessee State Library and Archives, for
the year 1840 in Chapter 59 gives us the following origin of Van Buren
"An Act to establish the county of Van Buren. Passed, Jan 3. Section 1.
Be it enacted. Etc., That a new county be established, to be known and
distinguished by the name of Van Buren, in honor of Martin Van Buren, President
of the United States, the boundaries of which shall be as follows: Beginning
at the mouth of Rocky River, near Rock Island, and running thence up Rocky
River a straight line south twenty-five degrees west ten miles, to the
head of Dyer's Hollow; thence south about twelve degrees east, twelve miles
and a half, to a point in Savage's old turnpike road, one-half mile east
of Hill's old stand, on the Cumberland Mountain; thence south about seventy-five
degrees east, with said road, eight miles, to the Marion County line; thence
north twenty-five degrees with the line of Marion County, six miles; thence
north sixty-eight degrees east, with the line of Marion County, ten miles,
to the line of Bledsoe County; thence north twenty degrees east, with the
line of Bledsoe County, twenty-five miles; thence south sixty-seven degrees
west down the Caney Fork River, touching the same at various points, seventeen
miles, to the first point, twenty-seven and a half miles to the beginning.
Sec. 14. Should the boundary lines of Van Buren County, as designated in
the first section of this act, approach nearer to the county seat of either
of the old counties from which the territory constituting the county of
Van Buren is taken than is prescribed by the constitution, it shall be
the duty of the County Court of Van Buren to appoint some surveyor, who
shall re-run and re-mark such line or lines so as not to violate the constitutional
rights of such old county, and said surveyor shall make a report to the
County Court of said county of Van Buren, which report so made shall be
recorded by the clerk of said county, and such line or lines so run shall
be the established line or lines of said county."
Van Buren County was authorized Jan. 3, 1840, by the 23rd Assembly, Session
1, which was convened Oct. 7 1839.
Van Buren County is in an area of Middle Tennessee that was Cherokee land
until their cession, called DEARBORN'S TREATY, 7 January 1806:
|"... the Cherokee Nation of Indians... relinquish
all right, title, interest, or claim... to all that tract of country
which lies to the northward of the river Tennessee, and westward of a line
to be run from the upper part of the Chickasaw Old Fields, at the upper
point of an island called Chickasaw Island, on said river, to the most
easterly head of the waters of that branch of Tennessee River called Duck
The United States Census records provide another aspect of the history
of an area. The census records give the big picture of an area every ten
years not only for future planning of federal funding according to socio-economic
conditions, but how an area has progressed or retrogressed. For genealogists,
the value of the census is invaluable. The mention in this year, 1998,
of doing a statistical or sampling census for the year, 2000, has raised
a loud hue and cry by any and all serious, responsible, thinking people.
Thus back to genealogists for census purposes, the area that became Van
Buren County would be covered mainly by two different county censuses,
White and Warren and somewhat by Bledsoe. The 1810 census for White, Warren
and Bledsoe counties are missing, as are all 1810 Tennessee censuses, except
the Rutherford County census. The 1820, 1830, and 1840 White, Warren and
Bledsoe counties' censuses are extant.
Map Guide to the U.S. Federal Censuses, 1790-1920, Wm Thorndale
and Wm Dollarhide, shows no Van Buren census until 1850. There is
an 1841 Van Buren County tax list that might serve as a substitute.