Hamilton County, Tennessee

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Hamilton County, Tennessee
Hamilton County Courthouse in Chattanooga
Seal of Hamilton County, Tennessee
Map of Tennessee highlighting Hamilton County
Location within the U.S. state of Tennessee
Map of the United States highlighting Tennessee
Tennessee's location within the U.S.
FoundedOctober 25, 1819
Named forAlexander Hamilton[1]
Largest cityChattanooga
 • Total576 sq mi (1,492 km2)
 • Land542 sq mi (1,404 km2)
 • Water33 sq mi (85 km2), 5.8%
Population (est.)
 • (2017)361,613
 • Density620/sq mi (240/km2)
Congressional district3rd
Time zoneEastern: UTC−5/−4

Hamilton County is a county located in the U.S. state of Tennessee. As of the 2010 census, the population was 336,463,[2] making it the fourth-most populous county in Tennessee. Its county seat is Chattanooga.[3] The county was named for Alexander Hamilton, the first Secretary of the Treasury. Hamilton County is one of 95 counties within the state of Tennessee.[4] Hamilton County is the fourth most populated county in Tennessee and, has continued to grow in recent years. Hamilton County is part of the Chattanooga, TN-GA Metropolitan Statistical Area. The county was created on October 25, 1819.[5] Hamilton county extended to the state line after absorbing parts of three different counties including Bledsoe, Marion, and Rhea. The county's creation was the result of a treaty signed with the Cherokee Indians in 1817.


Hamilton County was formed on October 25, 1819 from portions of Rhea County and Cherokee Nation land. It was named after Alexander Hamilton,[6] an officer in the American Revolutionary War, member of the Continental Congress, the first US Secretary of Treasury, and one of the founding fathers of the United States.

The area was originally occupied by Cherokee Nation under the leadership of John Ross. What is now known as Chattanooga was formerly Ross's Landing, a busy trade post recognized as the center of the Cherokee Nation. Over a series of Treaties between 1919 and 1835, The Cherokee had been mostly moved out of the area. If any Cherokee wished to stay in the area, the head of the family would have to become a citizen of the United States. Once a citizen, they would be entitled to 640 Acres of land. At the time of death, heirs would be entitled to the land. of the 107 reservations reported to Congress in 1819, only 39 were listed as Fee Simple. The other 68 reservations were allowed to stay as long as the family stayed on the land. Once the family moved, the land could be sold. This made it easier to remove the Cherokee from the area. The treaty of Echota in 1835 providing the US government legal basis for the forced removal of the Cherokee, opening the land for settlement.[7][8]

At time of the 1820 census, the County counted 821 residents, including 16 blacks, 39 slaves, and about 100 Cherokee living on 6 reservations. the original legislature says that John Gamble, William Lauderdale, and John Patterson, the 3 men who were responsible for founding the County, would conduct all county business The original County seat location was in the home of Hasten Poe, a popular tavern located near the 3 men. in 1822 the County Court was moved to the farm of Ashael Rawlings, the newly appointed County Clerk, in Dallas, TN. The town of Dallas died after the County seat had been moved later. the seat was moved to Harrison, TN and then later moved to Chattanooga in 1835.[7][8]

Hamilton County was the site of an important saltpeter mine during the Civil War. Saltpeter is the main ingredient of gunpowder and was obtained by leaching the earth from caves. Lookout Mountain Cave was a major source of saltpeter during the Civil War. The mine was operated by Robert Cravens, who owned the property where the cave is located. In May 1861, Cravens contracted with the Tennessee Military and Financial Board to deliver 20,000 pounds of saltpeter. On the 24th of the same month, he reported that he had ten hoppers already set up in his cave. Cravens was also mining Nickajack Cave in nearby Marion County. In 1862 he quit mining at Lookout Mountain Cave and rented the cave to the Confederate Nitre and Mining Bureau, which mined the cave from June 1862 through July 1863. Mining ceased when Chattanooga was occupied by Federal forces in 1863.[9]

In 1919 James County, Tennessee went bankrupt and became a part of Hamilton County in April 1919.[10] James County had been established by the Tennessee General Assembly in January 1871 and was named after Reverend Jesse J. James.[10] As of the 2017 census, Hamilton county is the fourth most populated county in the state with a population of 361,613. The growth rate is 1% per year over the last five years. Hamilton county has census records dating back to the 1830's. The average income of Hamilton County Tennessee is $26,560[11].


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 576 square miles (1,490 km2), of which 542 square miles (1,400 km2) is land and 33 square miles (85 km2) (5.8%) is water.[12] Hamilton County is one of the few counties in the United States to border 10 other counties.[13]

Natural areas of interest[edit]

Raccoon Mountain Caverns is a show cave located 8 miles northwest of downtown Chattanooga. It was originally explored in 1929 by Leo Lambert who developed trails and installed lights and opened the cave to the public on June 28, 1931. The cave was opened under the name Tennessee Caverns. The operators of the cave claim that its explored length is over 5.5 miles.

The Crystal Caverns Cave Spider, Nesticus furtivus, is only known from this one cave. Cave guides will occasionally spot one of these rare spiders and point it out to the tourists.[14]

Ruby Falls Cave is a show cave located on the side of Lookout Mountain south of downtown Chattanooga. It was discovered by accident on December 28, 1928 when it was intersected by an elevator shaft that was being drilled to develop Lookout Mountain Cave as a commercial cave. Ruby Falls Cave was intersected at a depth of 260 from the surface and Lookout Mountain Cave was reached later at a depth of 420 feet below the surface. The entire project was the work of cave developer Leo Lambert. He named the new cave's waterfall after his wife Ruby. The lower cave, Lookout Mountain Cave, opened to the public on December 30, 1929. Ruby Falls opened to the public on June 16, 1930. Ruby Falls Cave, with its spectacular waterfall proved the more popular of the two caves and it is the only cave open to the public at the present time.[15]

Areas such as Lookout Mountain including the famous Point Park, and Sunset Rock. Point Park is a national military park that is a tribute to the battle of Lookout mountain that took place during the American Civil War.Lookout Mountain was the area in which the last battle of the Cherokee Indians took place. It also as battlegrounds during the American Civil War and served as a base for General Andrew Jacksons troops during the American Civil War. There are many other important areas to note on Lookout Mountain.


National protected area[edit]

State protected areas[edit]

Major highways[edit]


Hamilton County has a County Mayor and nine districts, each of which elect a Commissioner to serve on the county's legislative County Commission.

Hamilton County Mayor:

Hamilton County has a County Mayor and nine districts, each of which elect a Commissioner to serve on the county's legislative County Commission.

The Hamilton County mayor is Jim Coppinger. As the chief, it is his responsibility to control the budget and financial reports. Working with various division heads, the mayor works to manage the general county government by ensuring that all policies are enforced.

Mayor Coppinger entered the fire department in 1977 and served for 28 years, serving as the Fire Chief for the last 8 years. after retiring from the Fire Department, Coppinger was elected to the Hamilton County Board of Commissioners. He served on the Board of Commissioners from 2006 through 2011, and chairman of the Board of Commissioners for the 2008-2009 year. He was appointed to Hamilton County Mayor in 2011 and elected as mayor in 2012. He serves on several community service organizations such as The Joint Economic and Community Development Board, The River City Company Board of Directors, The Chattanooga-Hamilton County Regional Planning Commission, The Workforce Investment Board, and more.

Mayor Coppinger has developed several initiatives to improve health and wellness in the county including the Hamilton Shines Mission to reduce littering; The Help 20 program to ensure that all children are able to read by 3rd grade; and The Step 1 program to reduce obesity in the county.

The Chief of Staff assists the mayor in carrying out initiatives and helps to manage all areas of general county governance. The current Chief of Staff is Michael Compton.[16]

Hamilton County Board of Commissioners:

Hamilton County has nine elected county commissioners to make up the legislative body of the county. The members are elected from, and represent, the nine districts within the county and serve four year terms. The members of the commission elect a Chairman and a Chairman Pro Tempore of the Board of Commissioners and serve for one year.

The Current County Commissioners are:

  • District 1: Randy Fairbanks
  • District 2: D.C. (Chip) Baker
  • District 3: Greg Martin
  • District 4: Warren Mackey
  • District 5: Katherlyn Geter
  • District 6: David Sharpe
  • District 7: Sabrena Smedley
  • District 8: Tim Boyd
  • District 9: Chester Bankston[17]

Hamilton County's Court System:

District Attorney: The Current District Attorney for the 11th Judicial District of Tennessee is Neal Pinkston. The district attorney's goal is to prosecute those who chose violate the law.

Chancery Court: Hears cases involving matters of a civil nature including: domestic relations, worker's compensation, review of administrative action of governmental agencies, guardianship, breach of contract, fraud, etc... The county Clerk and Master serves the role of handling fees and paperwork associated with the court, but sometimes serves as a chancellor.

Circuit Court: The circuit court hears both criminal and civil cases, such as adoption and divorce matters, contract disputes, name changes, as well as hearing appeals from lower courts. The Circuit Court Clerk handles the paperwork and fees associated with this court.

Criminal Court: Handle both Felony and Misdemeanor cases. cases are brought to the criminal court after and indictment by the Grand Jury, or after an appeal is granted from a lower court. Trials in this court are usually juried, however, a judge may hear a case without a jury.

General Sessions Court: issues non-juried judgments for misdemeanor criminal cases. Here, Felony cases are decided whether or not to bound over to a Grand Jury.

Juvenile Court: Handles all Cases where a minor is involved.[18]

Hamilton County has an elected Sheriff. Recent past sheriffs: [19]

  • Jerry Pitts 1976-78
  • H.Q. Evatt 1978-1994
  • John Cupp 1994-2006
  • Billy Long 2006-08 (guilty of extortion, money laundering, drug and gun charges)
  • Jim Hammond 2008-current


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 2017361,613[20]7.5%
U.S. Decennial Census[21]
1790–1960[22] 1900–1990[23]
1990–2000[24] 2010–2014[2]
Age pyramid Hamilton County[25]

As of the census[26] of 2000, there were 307,896 people, 124,444 households, and 83,750 families residing in the county. The population density was 568 people per square mile (219/km²). There were 134,692 housing units at an average density of 248 per square mile (96/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 76.32% White, 20.14% Black or African American, 0.29% Native American, 1.27% Asian, 0.06% Pacific Islander, 0.77% from other races, and 1.14% from two or more races. 1.78% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 124,444 households out of which 28.90% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.20% were married couples living together, 13.50% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.70% were non-families. 27.90% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.41 and the average family size was 2.95.

In the county, the population was spread out with 23.20% under the age of 18, 9.60% from 18 to 24, 29.00% from 25 to 44, 24.30% from 45 to 64, and 13.80% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 91.70 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 88.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $38,930, and the median income for a family was $48,037. Males had a median income of $35,413 versus $24,505 for females. The per capita income for the county was $21,593. About 9.20% of families and 12.10% of the population were below the poverty line, including 16.80% of those under age 18 and 11.20% of those age 65 or over.


Presidential election results
Presidential election results[27]
Year Republican Democratic Third Parties
2016 55.3% 78,733 38.8% 55,316 5.9% 8,359
2012 56.4% 79,933 41.5% 58,836 2.1% 2,972
2008 55.2% 81,702 43.4% 64,246 1.4% 2,086
2004 57.4% 78,547 41.9% 57,302 0.8% 1,087
2000 55.3% 66,605 43.0% 51,708 1.7% 2,066
1996 49.8% 55,205 43.3% 48,008 6.9% 7,618
1992 46.5% 53,476 40.6% 46,770 12.9% 14,839
1988 62.1% 68,111 37.4% 40,990 0.6% 608
1984 62.4% 69,626 37.1% 41,449 0.5% 547
1980 56.4% 57,575 41.1% 41,913 2.6% 2,604
1976 50.8% 47,969 48.0% 45,348 1.2% 1,104
1972 70.6% 58,469 25.0% 20,657 4.4% 3,668
1968 34.5% 29,302 27.6% 23,441 37.8% 32,080
1964 51.1% 40,200 49.0% 38,546
1960 55.7% 39,703 42.8% 30,482 1.5% 1,092
1956 53.1% 34,429 43.6% 28,287 3.3% 2,114
1952 55.1% 29,681 44.3% 23,832 0.6% 317
1948 34.6% 10,434 56.2% 16,968 9.2% 2,787
1944 36.8% 10,379 62.2% 17,527 1.0% 267
1940 36.3% 9,771 63.5% 17,083 0.3% 68
1936 29.3% 6,917 70.2% 16,568 0.4% 104
1932 37.4% 7,090 60.6% 11,469 2.0% 378
1928 64.5% 13,244 35.0% 7,190 0.5% 103
1924 50.2% 8,421 44.8% 7,511 5.1% 848
1920 51.3% 10,793 47.1% 9,910 1.6% 334
1916 43.7% 4,697 54.2% 5,828 2.2% 234
1912 17.3% 1,493 51.0% 4,394 31.7% 2,735

Politically, Hamilton County is conservative. Along with the rest of East Tennessee, it has been supportive of the Republican party since the Civil War, even as the rest of the Solid South voted staunchly Democratic.[28] However, unlike most counties in East Tennessee, Hamilton County is a strong two party county, with the Democratic candidate usually receiving at least 40% of the popular vote in presidential elections, and the city of Chattanooga tending to lean slightly Democratic. In 2004, Republican George Bush defeated Democrat John Kerry 57% to 41%.[29] The last Democrat to win the county was Harry S. Truman in 1948, although George Wallace did win a plurality in 1968.[30]

In 2008, Republican John McCain defeated Democrat Barack Obama by a slightly smaller margin of 55% to 43%.[31] In 2012, Republican Mitt Romney defeated incumbent Obama by a margin of 56% to 42%.[32] Four years later in 2016, in businessman Donald Trump's sweep of Appalachia, Hamilton County furnished the GOP with a mildly increased margin of 55% to 39% for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.[33]


Colleges and universities[edit]

Public schools[edit]

Public schools in Hamilton County are operated by Hamilton County Schools.




Census-designated places[edit]

Unincorporated communities[edit]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Armstrong, Zella. The History of Hamilton County and Chattanooga, Tennessee. Savannah: Overmountain Press (1993). ISBN 0-932807-99-2


  1. ^ John Wilson, "Hamilton County," Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. Retrieved: October 16, 2013.
  2. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 11, 2011. Retrieved December 2, 2013.
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  4. ^ "County Outline Map". www.tn.gov. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  5. ^ "Hamilton County Community Information". www.hamiltontn.gov. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  6. ^ Gannett, Henry (1905). The Origin of Certain Place Names in the United States. Govt. Print. Off. p. 147.
  7. ^ a b "Hamilton County Community Information". www.hamiltontn.gov. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  8. ^ a b Randal Rust. "Treaties". Tennessee Encyclopedia. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  9. ^ Larry E. Matthews, Caves of Chattanooga, 2007, ISBN 978-1-879961-27-2
  10. ^ a b [1]
  11. ^ "U.S. Census Bureau QuickFacts: Hamilton County, Tennessee". www.census.gov. Retrieved April 18, 2019.
  12. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  13. ^ Hamilton County, Tennessee, City-Data.com. Retrieved: October 31, 2013.
  14. ^ Larry E. Matthews, Caves of Chattanooga, published by the National Speleological Society, 2007, ISBN 978-1-879961-27-2, Chapter 4 – Raccoon Mountain Caverns, pages 65–84.
  15. ^ Larry E. Matthews, Caves of Chattanooga, Chapter 1 – Lookout Mountain Cave, pages 13–30 and Chapter 3 – Ruby Falls Cave, pages 49–64.
  16. ^ "Hamilton County Mayor - Jim Coppinger". www.hamiltontn.gov. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  17. ^ "Hamilton County Commissioners". www.hamiltontn.gov. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  18. ^ "Hamilton County, TN Courts System". www.hamiltontn.gov. Retrieved April 17, 2019.
  19. ^ "HCSO - Past Sheriffs". www.hcsheriff.gov. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
  20. ^ "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved June 9, 2017.
  21. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  22. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  23. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  24. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved April 5, 2015.
  25. ^ Based on 2000 census data
  26. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 14, 2011.
  27. ^ Leip, David. "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". uselectionatlas.org. Retrieved March 10, 2018.
  28. ^ Astor, Aaron (June 7, 2011). "The Switzerland of America". New York Times. Retrieved September 4, 2015.
  29. ^ Hamilton County – 2004, David Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Retrieved: October 31, 2013.
  30. ^ The Political Graveyard; Hamilton County, Tennessee
  31. ^ Hamilton County – 2008, David Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Retrieved: October 31, 2013.
  32. ^ "Hamilton County – 2012". Dave Leip's Atlas of Presidential Elections. Retrieved March 20, 2014.
  33. ^ "2016 Presidential General Election Results - Hamilton County, TN". David Leip. Retrieved March 10, 2018.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 35°11′N 85°10′W / 35.18°N 85.17°W / 35.18; -85.17