Bedford County Historical Information
Founded in Early 1800's
Bedford County is located in the great State of Tennessee, geographically in its southern middle section. Our population, taken from the 2010 Census, is 45,058 and our county-seat is the City of Shelbyville (cir. 1810) which was named for Major General Isaac Shelby of Revolutionary War fame and also the State of Kentucky’s first Governor. The county was officially created in 1807 when the citizens of Rutherford County living south of the Duck and Stones River’s successfully petitioned the governor to split Rutherford County into two counties. The new county was named after Revolutionary War officer Thomas Bedford Jr., who was a large landowner in the area.
The Civil War
Once the state’s largest and most populous county, Bedford County has progressively reduced in size since 1809 giving up portions of its borders to later form Coffee County (1836), Moore County (1871), Lincoln County (1809), and Marshall County (1836). For those of you who are civil war history buffs, our county residents mostly took a pro-Confederate stance during our country’s divisive and tumultuous civil war but the citizens in the city of Shelbyville were mostly loyal to the Union. Additionally, Confederate States General Nathan Bedford Forrest was born (1821) in Chapel Hill, Tennessee which was once part of Bedford County until 1836 when the Legislature created Marshall County, Tennessee from portions of the Western border of Bedford County. His family’s original 1825 log home still stands, has been restored and can be visited, and a stone monument can be seen in downtown Chapel Hill.
The first courthouse in Bedford County was established in 1810. It was built on the northwest corner of the town’s public square. It was a small wooden structure and probably stood where the current Shelbyville City Hall or the United Methodist Church stands now. We do not know if that first structure was destroyed or replaced but on January 25, 1811, a notice was carried in the Democratic Clarion and Tennessee Gazette, Nashville, Tennessee for bids on building a brick courthouse to be 42x38 feet. In this building the first story was to be 16 feet high and the second story was to be 11 feet high. This second building was the first permanent courthouse built in the middle of the square. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by the storm of 1830. Another was built of brick in 1831to replace the second structure. This third building stood where the first one stood and where the present one stands. This court house structure stood until 1863 until when it was burned down by Union soldiers who were occupying the building during the Civil War.
The fourth courthouse, which was also a brick building, was under construction from 1869 to 1873. It was considered a magnificent building. The total cost for this structure was $1,500.00. This courthouse was burned in December of 1934 by mob violence. The present day and fifth Bedford County Courthouse, a majestic Greek Revival structure, was built the following year at the cost of $175,000. It was built on the same stone foundation that was constructed for the previous building.
Our Bedford County landscape is comprised of 475 square miles of beautiful rolling pastured lands mixed with high elevation hills and flat river bottoms. The Duck River meanders through the county from East to West and eventually empties into the majestic Tennessee River in Humphreys County. At 284 miles long, the scenic Duck is the longest river located entirely within the borders of the State of Tennessee and is home to more than 50 species of freshwater mussels and 151 species of fish, making it one of the most biologically diverse rivers in North America.
Home to the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, the City of Shelbyville, Bedford County and many surrounding communities are world famous for playing host to an annual celebration of the incredible gait of this captivating horse. Gorgeous horse farms and thousands of pastured acres throughout our county are speckled with the vibrant and frolicking lineage of some of the greatest champion Tennessee Walking horses ever bred. Bedford County and Tennessee in general is known as a beef producing region. Cattle farmers in Bedford County contribute significantly to the State’s annual production of beef destined for the consumer market. Our pure limestone aquifer’s and springs provide an important ingredient for much of this country’s Tennessee Sippin Whiskey. George Dickel Distillery is located at the edge of Bedford County along the Coffee County border and the famed Jack Daniel Distillery is located just across our Southeastern border in Metropolitan Moore County, once a part of Bedford County. Prichard’s Distillery is also nearby in Kelso (Adjoining Lincoln County).