Visitors Guide to

Tipton County, Tennessee
along the Great River Road

The history of Tipton County begins with the Paleo Americans who lived as communities of hunter-gatherers in the area that covers the modern day southern United States. Approximately 800 CE to 1600 CE, the Mississippi River Delta was populated by tribes of the Mississippian culture, a mound-building Native American people. The Tipton Phase, the last prehistoric people to inhabit the area before the arrival of Europeans, is named after Tipton County. People from this late Woodland period inhabited the region at the time of the arrival of the Hernando de Soto Expedition in 1540. By the beginning of the 19th century the land was claimed by the Chickasaw tribe.

In 1796 Tennessee became a state with its western boundary seat as the Mississippi River. Due to the New Madrid earthquakes in 1811 and 1812, part of what is now Tipton County was cut off from the state of Tennessee when the earthquakes changed the course of the river. The community of Reverie and some other parts of Tennessee sit on the western, or Arkansas side, of the river. Europeans began arriving as settlers in the early 1800s and a land deal negotiated by future U.S. President Andrew Jackson was signed in 1818 where the Chickasaw ceded all their claims to all of Tennessee west of the Tennessee River and the southwestern corner of Kentucky.

Tipton County was established on October 29, 1823 from parts of Shelby County, which borders Tipton County in the south. The county was named for Jacob Tipton (1765–1791) whose father supervised the organization of Shelby County. Tipton had been killed by Native Americans in 1791 in a conflict over the Northwest Territory. Covington was established as Tipton’s seat of government on December 11, 1824. The village was located about four miles south of the Big Hatchie River upon a commanding hill with a large spring flowing from its base near the geographical center of the county. The new town was named Covington in honor of General Leonard Wales Covington who was mortally wounded in the Battle of Crysler's Farm in Ontario, Canada in 1813 during the War of 1812. The first courthouse dedicated July 4, 1825 and located on the northeast corner of the square. Work on a brick courthouse was completed in June 1832.

The steamboat helped establish a flourishing economy in early Tipton County. In 1830 Randolph was the most important shipping point in Tennessee and an early rival of Memphis over commercial supremacy in the region. Two Civil War forts, Fort Randolph and Fort Wright, were built near the settlement because of its strategic location on top of the second Chickasaw Bluff of the Mississippi River. The first rail service in Tipton County was established in 1855, when the Memphis and Ohio Railroad completed the route from Memphis to Nashville, running through what is now Mason.

Prior to the Civil War the bustling commercial centers of the County in the antebellum period. Covington was largely a sleepy village that only came alive during the times the courts were in session at the Court House. Tipton County was pro-Union up to the firing on Fort Sumter by Federal troops in April 1861. Overnight the county espoused the ideas of the Secession movement. Immediately thereafter in May of 1861, the young men of county formed "the Tipton Rifles". This was the first military unit to be formed in the Tipton County and to be sent off to fight for the Confederacy. Later in February 1862, former County Sheriff, Henry J. Maley, raised Company C of the 1st Tennessee Heavy Artillery in Covington. Both of these units saw action in some of the worst battles of the war. Life during the War was largely quiet although the populace suffered from the general deprivations as did the rest of the South but fortunately did not suffer greatly from the loss of property. Following the fall of this area to the Union in 1862, Tipton County was only occupied by Federal forces for short periods of time. There was a tremendous boom to the region's economy, especially for Covington when the first section of the Memphis and Paducah Railroad between Memphis and Covington was completed.

Visitors to Covington can stop by the Tipton County Museum, Veterans Memorial & Nature Center. The facility is one of the first in the country to bring together military history, environmental education, and historical preservation into one place. The Museum is located in the largest urban park in Tipton County that includes a twenty-acre wildlife sanctuary, a half-mile nature trail through a woodland forest, and a wetland study area. The Museum houses changing history exhibits featuring artifacts from Tipton County’s rich heritage and the nature center exhibits are designed to teach elements of ecology, botany, zoology, and geology.

Explore these Great River Road Communities
in Tipton County in Western Tennessee
Covington Munford Atoka

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