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The community's unusual name has attracted attention from writers. There is no agreement on its origin. One version of the name's origin holds that when residents applied for a post office, the place for a name on the application was left blank, and the U.S. Post Office Department returned the application with "Nameless" stamped on the form. In the 1982 book Blue Highways: A Journey Into America, William Least Heat-Moon reported a variant explanation in which the residents themselves decided that the community should be "nameless" after one of them said "This here’s a nameless place if I ever seen one, so leave it be." Another variation of the story was provided in a 1933 article in the Jackson County Sentinel newspaper, which said that a local official had initially sought to name the post office "Morgan" for county attorney general George Morgan, but the Post Office Department had rejected that name, possibly because the name "Morgan" was still associated in people's minds with the Confederacy, including Confederate Army General John Hunt Morgan. According to this version, after his first choice was rejected the official wrote to federal authorities that if his original request could not be used, he preferred for the post office to be nameless. The Nameless post office was established in 1866 and operated until 1909.
At its peak, Nameless had a population of about 250. In addition to its post office, it was the site of a school and some stores. The two-room elementary school operated until the 1960s. It housed "primer" through grade 4 in one room and grades 5 through 8 in a second room. The former J.T. Watts General Merchandise Store is now operated as a museum.
In popular culture
- "Nameless, Tennessee". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey.
- Testa, Karen (January 30, 1997). "Author goes extra mile for unusual place names". The Daily Gazette. pp. D1. Retrieved 29 April 2015.
- Mary Jo Denton, Making a Name for Nameless, Cookeville Herald Citizen, May 20, 2006; archived on Denny-Loftis Genealogy website (accessed November 23, 2008)
- from Blue Highways, William Least Heat-Moon, Holt Elements of Literature Fifth Course
- Historical Sketch of Jackson County, by Lewis K. Smith, Jackson County Sentinel, August 9, 1933, page 1 (transcribed and posted on the Jackson, Clay, Overton county mailing list (JACKSON-CLAY-OVERTON-CO-TN-L@rootsweb.com), 11/9/2000 by Vivian V. Eagel)
- Jackson County, Tennessee, Post Offices and Roads, Jackson County TNGenWeb page, accessed November 24, 2008
- Mary Jo Denton, Students urged to return to Nameless, Cookeville Herald-Citizen, Saturday, August 30, 2008
- Mary Jo Denton, No Place Like Nameless, Cookeville Herald Citizen, May 18, 2008; archived on Denny-Loftis Genealogy website (accessed November 23, 2008)
- Michael E. Birdwell and W. Calvin Dickinson, Rural Life and Culture in the Upper Cumberland, University Press of Kentucky, 2004, 2004, ISBN 0-8131-2309-7, ISBN 978-0-8131-2309-7, page 158