Henry County History
Henry County Facts:
The Tennessee General Assembly created Henry County on November 7,
1821, and named in honor of Patrick Henry (1736-1799), Virginia
statesman, patriot and Revolutionary leader, member of the Virginia
colonial and state legislatures and the Continental Congress, governor
of Virginia. Henry County became the gateway for the settlement of West
Tennessee and beyond. The Henry County Court House was erected in 1823
in Paris, West Tennessee's oldest incorporated municipality. The county
counted 31,115 residents in the 2000 census. The County seat is Paris.
Henry County is bordered by
Calloway County, Kentucky (north),
Stewart County (northeast),
Benton County (southeast),
Carroll County (south),
Weakley County (west) and
Graves County, Kentucky (northwest). Cities and Towns include
During the Civil War, military units, including the Fifth Tennessee
Infantry Regiment, organized on the courthouse lawn. Henry County sent
more than 2,500 volunteers to the Confederacy and earned the title
"Volunteer County of the Volunteer State." In March 1862 General Ulysses
S. Grant ordered four companies and a battery of artillery into Paris.
The Union forces attacked an encampment of 400 Confederate soldiers but
retreated toward Paris Landing after a short engagement. In October 1864
General Nathan Bedford Forrest began his Johnsonville campaign at Paris
Landing, where he captured four Union gunboats, fourteen transports,
twenty barges, twenty-six pieces of artillery, $6,700,000 worth of
property, and 150 prisoners.
Beginning with Isham Green Harris, Henry County provided Tennessee with
three governors. Born in Franklin County in 1818, Harris moved to Paris
as a young boy. He served in both state houses before his election as
governor in 1859. As Tennessee's only Confederate governor, Harris
served as brigadier general aide-de-camp to Generals Albert S. Johnston,
Braxton Bragg, and Joseph E. Johnston. In March 1864 Harris was involved
in a brief skirmish with Union troops near Mansfield in Henry County
which left two Confederate soldiers wounded. After the war, he served
twenty years in the U.S. Senate and was president pro tempore of the
Senate at his death in 1897.
James Davis Porter, born in Paris in 1828, was elected to the state
legislature in 1859. He helped organize the Army of Tennessee and was
General Benjamin F. Cheatham's chief of staff. Porter was elected
governor for two terms beginning in 1874. He later served as assistant
secretary of state, minister to Chile, president of the Nashville,
Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway, president of the University of
Nashville, and chancellor of Peabody College. Porter died at his home in
Paris in 1912.
Thomas Clarke Rye, born in Camden in 1863, moved to Paris in 1902. He
was governor during World War I, serving from 1915 to 1919. Rye became a
chancery court judge in 1919 and served twenty years. He died at his
home in Paris in 1953.
Other political figures from Henry County include General J. D. C.
Atkins, a Confederate congressman and five-time member of the U.S.
Congress, chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, and later
commissioner of Indian Affairs. John Wesley Crockett, the eldest son of
the legendary Davy Crockett, took his father's old congressional seat in
1837. Justice Howell E. Jackson was a U.S. senator before he became a
justice on the U.S. Supreme Court in 1893.
Henry Countians who have had an impact on education include Dudley M.
Clements, who began the nation's first vocational agricultural program
following the passage of the Smith-Hughes Act. E. W. Grove-Henry County
High School, Tennessee's first privately endowed public high school
honored Edwin Wiley Grove, who headed the Paris Medicine Company and
Grove Laboratories, which produced "Grove's Tasteless Chill Tonic."
Henry County has produced a number of university presidents, including
Dr. C. C. "Sonny" Humphreys, Memphis State University; Dr. Thomas D.
Jarrett, Atlanta University; Dr. Mordecai Johnson, Howard University;
and Dr. Joe Morgan, Austin Peay State University.
Entertainers from Henry County include Rattlesnake Annie, country music
singer; Bobby Jones, award-winning gospel performer; Buster Jones, host
of Soul Unlimited; Cherry Jones, Tony Award-winning actress; Merle
Kilgore, country music writer and manager; Keith Lancaster, founder of
the Acapella Music Group; Ula Love, Hollywood starlet and member of the
Ziegfield Follies; Harry Neal, member of the duo-piano team of Nelson
and Neal; Ricky Revel, country music singer; Jackie de Shannon, pop
music singer; and Hank Williams Jr., Country Music Association
Entertainer of the Year.
Other prominent Henry Countians include Vernon Jarrett, newspaper
columnist and social commentator; Virginia Weldon Kelly, syndicated
columnist; Ethel McFadden, the first Miss Tennessee; Christine Reynolds,
the state's first female cabinet member; "Miss Pearl" Routon, artist and
one of those responsible for naming the iris as Tennessee's official
cultivated flower; and Dr. Henrietta Veltman, who delivered over four
thousand babies during her fifty years of practice.
Vernon McGarity received the Congressional Medal of Honor for his
actions in the Battle of the Bulge during World War II. Camp Tyson,
built near Routon in 1941 and named for Brigadier General Lawrence D.
Tyson, was the U.S. Army's only barrage balloon training center during
World War II.
Henry County's first tourist attraction, Sulphur Well, was created by
accident in 1821, when an artesian well of sulphur water was struck in
an attempt to locate a large salt bed on a former Chickasaw reservation.
Eventually a summer resort was erected at the site to accommodate the
large numbers of people who came to drink the water, which was believed
to have health benefits. Many sought refuge at Sulphur Well during the
1837 yellow fever epidemic.
In 1944 Sulphur Well was covered by the Tennessee Valley Authority's
Kentucky Lake, the largest man-made lake in the United States and the
second largest in the world. After the creation of Paris Landing State
Park in 1945, the lake soon became a popular recreation destination.
Paris acquired the name "Capital City of Kentucky Lake," and tourism
took an important role in the area's economy. The World's Biggest Fish
Fry at Paris emerged as one of Tennessee's premier festivals and draws
tens of thousands of visitors, and politicians, into Paris and Henry
County during the last full week of April.
The Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture © Tennessee Historical