Answers to Frequently-Asked Questions About Sevier County Research

  • Question:  How do you pronounce "Sevier"?
    Answer:  Just as you would "severe."  The county takes its name from General John Sevier, first Governor of the State of Tennessee.  The surname Sevier was originally the French name "Xavier."  John Sevier never lived in the county.

  • Question:  When was the fire at the Sevier County Courthouse?
    Answer:  The best-known fire was in 1856.  Only one record book, a surveyor's entry book, survived.

  • Question:  What records are available for Sevier County prior to the 1856 fire?
    Answer:  Most records held at the state and federal level prior to that date are still available.  The Hamilton District Court records, presently held by the Knox County Archives, contain a wealth of information on Sevier Countians prior to 1810.  Events recorded in neighboring counties may also be a resource.  Church and personal histories and regional newspapers are important resources that are often overlooked.  Many families migrated to other parts of the United States and took records with them.  Additionally, it is important to consider court records after the 1856 fire; many of them contain evidentiary documents that were created prior to that date.

  • Question:  What census records exist prior to 1830 for Sevier County?
    Answer:  No state censuses for Tennessee exist prior to 1891 (heads-of-household only).  No federal censuses exist prior to 1830.  Don't forget to check the agricultural and manufacturing schedules for 1830 and 1840 for individuals who weren't heads-of-household but who were engaged in industry or farming!

  • Question:  What are "militia companies"?
    Answer:  Prior to 1836, Tennessee counties were not divided into political subdivisions (civil districts).  Communities were organized into militia companies, with one individual commissioned as Captain.  He was responsible for military readiness of the men in his community.

  • Question:  What was the area known as "South of the French Broad and Holston"?
    Answer:  This was the identification of an area of Tennessee located below the 1791 treaty line between the Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio and the Cherokee Nation.  Even though prior treaties disallowed white settlement of the area, white pioneers "squatted" there.  When the land opened for legal settlement, these pioneers received preferential treatment in purchasing land grants.  For a map and fuller explanation of this region, visit The District South of the French Broad and Holston page.

  • Question:  Which is correct -- "Dumplin" or "Dumpling" Creek, Valley, and Community?
    Answer:  Grammarians and historians try to correct the spelling to "Dumpling," but the local name is correctly spelled and pronounced "Dumplin" -- without the ending "g."

  • Question:  Who were the White Caps?
    Answer:  The White Caps was a secret society that focused on ethnic and social differences among people.  It was similar to the Ku Klux Klan.  The organization was based in Sevier County and had its heyday there following the Civil War until about 1910.  This was a dark period in Sevier County's history.

More Questions & Answers Coming Soon!

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