The third smallest in area among the ninety-five Tennessee counties, Hamblen County is located between the Holston and the Nolichucky Rivers in a fertile, well-watered valley sheltered from the north winds by Clinch Mountain and from southern storms by the Smoky Mountains.
Hamblen County was formed in 1870 from parts of Jefferson, Grainger, and Hawkins Counties. After much controversy, the county was named for Hezekiah Hamblen, a lawyer in Hawkins County. Morristown, which was incorporated in 1855, was named county seat, but it would be four years before a county courthouse was constructed.
Cherokees, Chickasaws, Creeks, and Shawnees roamed the East Tennessee hills and valleys in the days before settlement began in what would become Hamblen County. In 1783 Robert McFarland and Alexander Outlaw migrated from Virginia to claim land grants on the “Bend of Chucky.” Gideon Morris and his brothers, Daniel and Absalom, were the next settlers, and they took land grants within the present city limits of Morristown, providing the community with its name.
Nearby Cherokee Lake, created by the Tennessee Valley Authority’s Cherokee Dam, provides additional opportunities for outdoor activities.
Russellville, another early settlement, is rich in colorful history and, at one time, was larger than Morristown. The famous Boone Trace and Buffalo Trail of the Indians, running from Kentucky through Tennessee to North Carolina, passed through Russellville.
The first industry in the county was Shields’ Paper Mill, located at Marshalls Ferry on the Holston River. The mill operated from 1825 to 1861 and produced a fine paper from rags, lint, and wheat straw. Two books were printed there. Other early businesses included the Morristown Manufacturing Company and J. F. Goodson Coffee Company (maker of JFG Coffee), which now operates from Knoxville.
A number of Hamblen County residents have made their mark on Tennessee history. Davy Crockett, the son of John Crockett, lived in Hamblen County until shortly after his marriage to Polly Finley. He later served as a member of the Tennessee State Legislature and as a representative in the U.S. Congress. His colorful personality and heroic death at the Alamo in 1836 made him a legend.
Agriculture continues to be an important factor in the county’s economy. The fertile farms produce beef, dairy products, and vegetables. Tobacco annually boosts the economy with revenues in excess of five million dollars.
Hamblen’s recent economic development has been phenomenal. Two large industrial parks (East and West) house a variety of businesses. According to 1999 figures, the six largest industrial employers in the county belong either to the automotive parts industry (two companies, 2000 employees) or the furniture products industry (four companies, over 2900 employees).
Hamblen County’s citizens enjoy a wide variety of social and cultural advantages. The county’s school system is widely recognized for its excellence.