Chancery Court in Tennessee is a court of equity, meaning the chancellor (judge) can rule outside the law if the strict application of law would be unfair to one or more parties in a lawsuit. Real property decisions are always heard in Chancery Court.
Click here to read an excellent, comprehensive explanation of Tennessee’s early Court systems.
Despite the title of this index as “Chancery” cases, Chancery Courts did not exist in Tennessee before 1835. Earlier cases were heard in Circuit Court (after 1810) or the county’s Quarterly (alternatively known as Pleas and Quarter Sessions) Court, which existed from the date the county was formed.
Hawkins County Archivist, Jack Goins, explains the reason the earlier records were indexed as Chancery Court cases: “Those records were stored in Chancery Court and in envelopes stating ‘Chancery Court,’ although the oldest ones were Pleas and Quarter Sessions. Chancery Court actually began in some counties before it became a state law in 1835. We have records that prove it started before the 1835 law; for example, divorce cases that began in Circuit and end up in Chancery Court, or vice versa.”
One historian notes some earlier cases in this collection are, quite possibly, cases heard in the Washington District Superior Court, held at Jonesborough, which covered multiple counties in upper East Tennessee. Historians long believed these files were locked away in storage in Washington County, but they appear to have somehow landed in Rogersville.
More than 5,000 original Court case files were processed, beginning in May, 2005, to make them available to the public for research. Prior to that date, only the minute books and rule dockets had been available, either in original volumes or on microfilm.
These original documents were stored in dusty containers or shelves, mostly disorganized, in dark and musty spaces. The volunteers who devoted thousands of hours to organize and preserve these documents deserve overwhelming gratitude from historians whose research brings them to Hawkins County.
Search the Database
Please enter at least the surname of the plaintiff or defendant, or both. You may narrow your search by including a case year or a given name. Please note that many records contain only initials, rather than complete given names. Be creative!
Please note: Regardless of the number of matches (hits) that may result from your search, you will only be able to view the first 100 records returned by the system. The purpose of this limitation is an attempt to prevent unscrupulous individuals from foraging through this data.
Please contact the Archives for a quotation on the cost of photocopying documents and mailing them to you. Click here for contact information.Http iframes are not shown in https pages in many major browsers. Please read this post for details.
The documents included in this index were processed by the following Friends of Hawkins County Archive Project Volunteers: Peggy Cook, Carie Barton, Charles Brooks, Betty Curci, Evelyn Jones, Mary Kensinger, Regina Koger, Martha Lane, Elsie Crawford, Don Farquhar, Betty Goins, Judy Jenkins, Albert & Noreeda Parker, Helen Peterson, Donna Maddox, Shirley Price, Fred & Ann Sensabaugh, Ralph Williams, Shirley Watson. Microfilming support from the LDS Family History Library was provided by Elders Tabler, Brewer, Rasmussin, Hill, Black, and Levitt. The Index was prepared by Betty Curci, Jack Goins, and Don Farquhar.