Hardeman County is located in the southwestern corner of Tennessee, bordering Mississippi and bisected by the Hatchie River. With a 668 square mile area, the county is the fifth largest in Tennessee. The 2000 census placed the population at 28,105. With fertile soil and gently rolling hills, Hardeman County is renown throughout the southeast as the “hardwood capital of Tennessee.” The county seat is the City of Bolivar; other municipalities include Grand Junction, Hickory Valley, Hornsby, Middleton, Saulsbury, Silerton, Toone and Whiteville.
The treaty with the Chickasaws that opened West Tennessee for settlement was signed on October 19, 1818, by Isaac Shelby and Andrew Jackson. Settlers began to arrive in 1819; among the first were Ezekiel Polk, grandfather of President James Polk and author of a now-famous epitaph, and War of 1812 veteran Colonel Thomas Hardeman who became the first county clerk and for whom the county was named. Rapid settlement occurred thereafter, with new arrivals coming from North and South Carolina, Virginia, northern Alabama, and Middle Tennessee.
In 1823, the first hamlet in Hardeman County was established along the banks of the river whose name the village bore, Hatchie Town. Given its location near the river, the town suffered from chronic pestilence and flooding and was ultimately relocated a mile to the south. An Act of the Tennessee State Legislature on October 18, 1825 designated Hatchie the county seat, but shortly afterward, its name was changed to Bolivar in honor of the famed South American patriot and liberator, Simon Bolivar.
Hardeman County has been no stranger to significant historical events. As a result of President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal policy, the Cherokee Nation was forced to give up its lands east of the Mississippi River and resettle in the Oklahoma Territory. Bolivar and Hardeman County paid witness to the resulting “Trail of Tears” on November 16, 1838 when a detachment of the tribe, under the direction of John Bell, crossed the Hatchie River near the old stage road. The party continued westward and crossed into Arkansas on November 24. Facing disease and privation from the long forced march, more than one quarter of the Cherokee Nation perished during this ordeal.
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