Lake County

Lake County

Lake County was formed in 1870 from Obion County

(Acts of Tennessee 1870, Chapter 30)

The county seat is Tiptonville.


Selected Published County Histories
  • History and Families: Lake County, Tennessee, 1870-1992 (Lake County Historical Society, 1993) [surname index]*
  • History of Tennessee From the Earliest Times to the Present: Together with a Historical and a Biographical Sketch of Gibson, Obion, Dyer, Weakley and Lake Counties (Goodspeed, 1978)*
  • Lake County Memories: History in Newsprint and Pictures (Davis, 1998) [surname index]*

Additional county and community histories can be found at the Bibliography of Tennessee Local History Sources: Lake County. The items in the bibliography may not all be available at the Tennessee State Library and Archives.  


Published Local Records
  • 1880 Census Lake County, Tennessee (Sistler, 2002) [alphabetical by surname]
  • Burnetts Chapel Baptist Church of Lake County, Tennessee: Its Formation, History, and Early Members (Hyde, 1997) [name index]
  • Churches of Lake County, Tennessee, Past and Present (Lake County Historical Society, 1986)
  • Dyer Co., Tennessee, Gibson Co., Tennessee, Lake Co., Tennessee, Obion Co., Tennessee, Weakley Co., Tennessee: Enumeration of Male Inhabitants of Twenty-One (Reed, 1990)
  • Lake County Veterans of World War II (Lake County Historical Society, 1998) [alphabetical listings]
  • Private Acts of Lake County, Tennessee (McIntyre, 1993)
  • Tiptonville City Cemetery (Lake County Historical Society, 1988) [alphabetical listing]


Local Records on Microfilm

An inventory of microfilmed Lake County records is available on our website.  Individual reels of microfilm may also be purchased.

Earliest records include:

  • marriages from 1883
  • wills from 1871
  • deed index from 1870
  • chancery court minutes from 1896
  • county court minutes from 1870
  • circuit court minutes from 1892
  • tax books from 1912


Newspapers on Microfilm 

Newspapers were published in Ridgely and Tiptonville.  Scattered early issues are available from 1908, and a complete run begins in 1937. Microfilms are loaned to Tennessee libraries.  Individual reels may also be purchased.  An Inventory of Newspapers on Microfilm at the Library and Archives is available on our website.


Selected Manuscripts Material
  • Henley Collection. Lake County, 1968-1982  (Microfilm Manuscript #721, 1 reel)*

Search for Manuscripts Material in our Catalog 


Census Records
  • Census on microfilm for Lake County:  1880, 1900-1930
  • State-wide census index:  1880
  • State-wide census index on microfilm  (Soundex):  1880,  1900-1930


Additional Research Aids for Lake County


* Indicates this title may be borrowed on interlibrary loan from the Library and Archives.


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Lake County Formation Act



"An An Act to establish the county of Lake."


SECTION 1. BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, That a new county be, and the same is hereby established out of that portion of Obion County which lies west of low water mark of Reel Foot Lake, which shall be called the county of Lake.

SECTION 2. BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That the county of Lake shall be bounded as follows, to-wit: Beginning at a stake at low water mark on the west bank of Reel Foot Lake, at a point where the dividing line between Kentucky and Tennessee crosses said west bank; running thence in a southern direction with the meanderings of said western bank, at low water mark, to the Dyer County line; thence west with the Dyer County line to the state line; thence with said line up the Mississippi River, in a northern direction, to an intersection with the Kentucky line; thence east with the Kentucky and Tennessee line to the beginning.

SECTION 3. BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That for the purpose of effecting the organization of said County of Lake, Robert C. Nall, Wyatt Moring, E. E. Westbrook, L. Donaldson, and W. J. Wynn, are hereby appointed Commissioners, who shall, before entering on the discharge of their duties, take an oath before some justice of the peace faithfully and impartially to discharge all the duties imposed upon them by this act, and all vacancies that may occur among said Commissioners, previous to the organization of the County Court of Lake County, shall be filled by the remaining Commissioner.  A majority of said Commissioners shall constitute a board competent to do all things herein enjoined on them, and it shall be the duty of such board to keep a true and faithful record of all their proceedings as Commissioners, which shall be returned to the County Court of Lake County at its first session, and the same shall be entered upon the records of said court, and said Commissioners shall make as frequent reports thereafter as said court shall require.

SECTION 4. BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That said Commissioners shall have power and it shall be their duty to divide said county into such number of civil districts as the convenience of the inhabitants thereof may require, designating the boundaries of, and the places of holding elections in said districts, and they shall perform all other duties in relation thereto, as by the laws of the state such Commissioners are required to perform, or as may be necessary to carry out the purposes of this act.

SECTION 5. BE IT ENACTED, That said Commissioners shall appoint such suitable persons as they may deem proper, to open and hold the election for county officers for Lake County, and such persons so appointed shall have power to appoint deputies, clerks and judges; and by himself and deputies to administer all necessary oaths, and do and perform all other duties now imposed upon Commissioners of Registration or sheriffs holding similar elections, and such officers so appointed and his deputies, shall open and hold an election for county officers on the first Thursday in August, 1870, which election shall be held in each civil district in said county, and the officers so elected, shall hold their offices until the next regular election for the different officers so elected, takes place throughout the state.

SECTION 6. BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That the citizens of Lake County, in all elections for Governor, members of the General Assembly, Representatives in Congress, and Electors for President and Vice-President, and Judges, shall vote with the citizens of Obion County until the next apportionment, agreeable to the provisions of the 5th Section of the 10th Article of the amended Constitution.

SECTION 7. BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That for the due administration of justice, the different courts to be holden for said county of Lake shall be held in the town of Tiptonville, until the seat of justice shall be located as hereinafter provided, and all writs and other process issuing from any of said courts returnable to that place, shall be legal, and the courts for the county of Lake shall be under the rules, regulations and restrictions, and shall have, hold and exercise the same powers and jurisdiction as similar courts in other counties. Said county shall be attached to the Twelfth Judicial Circuit, and the Circuit Court thereof shall be held by the Judge of said Circuit, on the third Mondays of January, May and September in each and every year, and shall be attached to the Ninth Chancery District, and the Chancery Court shall be holden at such times as may be here-after fixed by law. The County Court of said county of Lake shall have the powers conferred by the general law of the state upon County Courts, and meet at the times prescribed by said law.

SECTION 8. BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That immediately after the organization of the County Court of Lake County, or as soon thereafter as practicable, it shall be the duty of said County Court--every district in said county being represented therein--to designate, fix and establish a suitable location for the county seat of said county, and if deemed necessary by them, they may order an election to be held, to ascertain the sense of the people of Lake County upon the question as to where said county seat shall be located. Said county seat, when so fixed and established by said court, shall never be removed except by a two-third vote of the people of the county.

SECTION 9. BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That all officers, civil and military, now holding office in said county, shall continue to hold their offices and exercise all the powers and functions thereof, until others are elected and qualified according to this act, and nothing in this act contained shall deprive the county of Obion from having, exercising and holding jurisdiction over the county of Lake, and the citizens thereof, in as full and ample manner as they now have, until the election and qualification of county officers for said Lake County takes place according to this act; Provided, That it shall be the duty of the present Tax Collector of Obion County, to pay over to the Trustee of Lake County, when elected and qualified, that portion of the county tax of Obion County, which shall have been collected by such Tax Collector within the boundaries of said Lake County for the year 1870, and said Trustee's receipt shall be a voucher to said Tax Collector on settlement with the Trustee of Obion County.

SECTION 10. BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That all offenses, misdemeanors, crimes and felonies which have been committed in said county of Obion before the passage of this act, and which before the passage of this Act, were presentable and indictable in and by the Circuit Court of said county of Obion, held and to be holden in the town of Troy, shall still be the subject of presentment, indictment, trial, conviction and judgment by and in said Circuit Court at Troy, in the same manner and to the same extent as if this Act had not been passed.

SECTION 11. BE IT FURTHER ENACTED, That this act take effect, the public welfare requiring it, from and after its passage.


Passed on June 9, 1870

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Lake County Bibliography

PLEASE NOTE that the Tennessee State Library and Archives does not hold copies of all of the items listed in this bibliography. Please check the Tennessee State Library and Archives Online Catalog or visit the Ask Us a Question! webpage to contact the Library and Archives and verify we have an item in our collection. We will respond to e-mail requests promptly; response time may vary, depending on the amount of research required to answer your question and the unique nature of your request. If you need immediate assistance you may call the reference desk at (615) 741-2764 or visit us in person.

Subjects :

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Lake County in General
  • Churches of Lake County, TN, past & present. Compiled by the Lake County Hist. Soc. Tiptonville, the society, 1986. 78 pp.
  • Community information, Ridgely, Tiptonville, Samburg, TN. Prepared by Gibson Electric Membership Corp. & West TN Ind. Association. Jackson, the association, n.d.
  • Donaldson, R.C. By gone days. N.p., n.d.
  • Flood insurance study: Lake County, TN, unincorporated areas. Washington, D.C., FEMA, 1980. 11 p.
  • Franco, Alfred. Early inhabitants of this region. N.p., n.d.
  • Goodspeed's history of TN (Lake County, pp. 852-857, 1073-1087). Goodspeed, 1887.
  • History & families of Lake County, TN, 1870-1992. Paducah, KY, Turner Pub. Co., 1993. 160 pp.
  • Hyde, Abigail R. Memories of the 1937 flood in Lake County, TN. Ripley, Harmon Pub., 1989. 78 pp.
  • Lake County, 1980-1987: an economic analysis. Nashville, TN Dept. Emp. Sec., 1988. 12 pp.
  • Lowry, Paul R., et al. Overall economic development program for Lake County, TN, redevelopment area. Memphis, n.p., 1968. 890 pp.
  • Soil survey, Lake County, TN. Washington, D.C., US GPO, 1969. 39 pp.
  • TN Dept. Transportation [county maps] issued periodically.
  • The stories they tell. Tiptonville, Lake County Hist. Soc., 1988. 113 pp.
  • US Geol. Survey [topographic maps] issued periodically. Quadrangles: Hubbard Lake, Bondurant, Tiptonville, Samsburg, Portageville, Ridgely, Caruthersville, Miston.
  • White, Lonnie J. "Federal operations at New Madrid & Island Number Ten." WTHSP 17 (1963), pp. 47-67.

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Reelfoot Lake / New Madrid Earthquake
  • Annual reservoir report... for Reelfoot Lake. Nashville, TN Wildlife Resources Agency. Annual
  • Burt, Jesse. "Reelfoot Lake-- child of violence." Natural Hist. (Feb. 1955), pp. 95-114.
  • Caldwell, Russell H. Reelfoot Lake: history -- duck call makers -- hunting tales (rev. ed.). Union City, Caldwell's Office Outfitters, Inc., 1989. 270 pp.
  • Carter, John P. Life & lore of Reelfoot Lake. George Peabody College dissertation, 1958. 92 pp.
  • Clifton, Juanita as told to Lou Harshaw. Reelfoot & the New Madrid quake. Asheville, NC, Victor Pub. Co., 1980. 84 pp.
  • Denton, Gregory M. Summary of the sedimentation studies of Reelfoot Lake, 1982-1986. Prepared by Gregory M. Denton for the Reelfoot Lake Legislative Task Force. Nashville, TN Dept. Health & Env., 1986. 35 pp.
  • Eagle, R.E. Lee. Reelfoot Lake, fishing & duck shooting; history of Reelfoot Lake. Nashville, McQuiddy, 1915. pp.
  • Fuller, Myron L. The New Madrid Earthquake. Washington, U.S. Geological Survey Bulletin 494, 1912 (reprinted 1992), 119 pp.
  • Gassner/Nathan/Browne. A master plan for Reelfoot Lake State Park. Prepared for the state of TN, Dept. Conservation by Gassner/Nathan/Browne. Memphis, the authors, 1969. 63 pp.
  • Humphreys, Cecil C. "The formation of Reelfoot Lake & consequent land & social problems." WTHSP 14 (1960), pp. 32-73.
  • Humphreys, Cecil C. The history of the Reelfoot Lake region. UT thesis, 1938. pp.
  • Investigations of the New Madrid seismic zone. Denver, CO, US Geol. Survey, 1994. var. pp.
  • Lowe, Walter E. History of Reelfoot Lake. George Peabody College thesis, 1930. pp.
  • McGill, J.T. & W.W. Craig. "The ownership of Reelfoot Lake." J. TN Acad. Sci. 8 (1933), pp. 13-21.
  • McIntyre, S.C. Sedimentation in Reelfoot Lake: final report on cooperative research for TN Dept. Health & Env. Durant, OK, Water Quality & Watershed Research Laboratory, 1986. 58 pp.
  • Mainfort, Robert C. & Michael C. Moore. "Archaeological investigations at 40LK3 & implications for future management decisions at Reelfoot Lake, TN." TN Anthrop. 16 (1991), pp. 178-197.
  • Mueller, Myrl R. Lost in the annals: history & legends of the New Madrid earthquake of 1811-1812. Paragould, AR, the author, 1990. 173 pp.
  • Nelson, Wilbur A. "Reelfoot-- an earthquake lake." Nat. Geog. Mag. (Jan. 1924), pp. 95-114.
  • Peacock, Blanche G. "Reelfoot Lake State Park." THQ 32 (1973), pp. 205-232.
  • Purcell, Martha G. Birth of Reelfoot Lake & the legend of Kalopin. Paducah, KY, Paducah Printing, 1929. 19 pp.
  • Report of Reelfoot Lake Biological Station. v.1, Jan. 1937-. Nashville, TN Acad. Sci.
  • Sediment production study: Reelfoot Lake area, Obion County, TN & Fulton County, KY. Nashville, Mississippi River & Tributaries Resurvey, US Dept. Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service, 1956. 29 pp.
  • Stearns, Richard G. Recent vertical movement of the land surface in the Lake County uplift & Reelfoot Lake basin areas, TN, MO & KY. Springfield, VA, US Nuclear Reg. Comm., 1979. 37 pp.
  • Taylor, Hillsman. "The night riders of west TN." WTHSP 6 (1952), pp. 77-86.
  • US Army. Corps of Engineers. Lower Mississippi River & tributaries in the Reelfoot Lake area of KY & TN. Letter from the secretary of the army, transmitting a letter from the chief of engineers, Dept. of the Army, dated August 30, 1954, together with accompanying papers & an illustration & a review of report on the lower Mississippi River & tributaries in the Reelfoot Lake area of KY & TN, requested by a resolution of the Committee on Public Works, US Senate, adopted December 20, 1950. Washington, D.C., US GPO, 1954. 23 pp.
  • Vanderwood, Paul J. "Night riders of Reelfoot Lake." THQ 28 (1969), pp. 126- 140.
  • Vanderwood, Paul J. Night riders of Reelfoot Lake. MSU Press, 1969. 159 pp.
  • Vanderwood, Paul J. Night riders of west TN. MSU thesis, 1958. 167 pp.
  • Van Dresser, C. "Reelfoot, a dying lake." Nature Mag. (Feb. 1955), pp. 90-93.
  • Walker, Paul E. Illustrated history of Reelfoot Lake. Ridgely, the author, 1929. 30 pp.

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  • Algee, Isabelle R. History of First United Methodist Church of Ridgely. Ridgely, the author, 1986. 28 pp.
  • Callis, Ruby. Ridgely panorama. N.p., 1967. 113 pp.

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  • Flood insurance study: city of Tiptonville, TN, Lake County. Washington, D.C., FEMA, 1980. 9 pp.


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