Van Buren County
Van Buren County was formed in 1840
from Warren and White counties
(Acts of Tennessee 1839-40, Chapter 59)
The county seat is Spencer.
Selected Published County Histories
- A Girl of the Gulf (Hancock, 2021)
- The Black School at Cummingsville (Boyd, n. d.)
- Early Education in Van Buren County (Boyd, 1989)
- History of Van Buren County, Tennessee: "The Early Canebreakers", 1840-1940 (Medley, 1987) [name index]*
- Van Buren County, Tennessee, Pictorial History (1998)*
Additional county and community histories can be found at the Bibliography of Tennessee Local History Sources: Van Buren County. The items in the bibliography may not all be available at the Tennessee State Library and Archives.
Published Local Records
- 1880 Census, Van Buren County, Tennessee (Sistler, 1999) [alphabetical by surname]*
- Compendium of Local Biography: Van Buren County, TN. (199?) [name index]
- Death Records, Van Buren County [1914-1919] (Hillis, 200?) [surname index]
- Our People: The Tombstone Inscriptions of Van Buren County, Tennessee, with Genealogical Notes (Rhinehart, 1983) [name index]*
- Our People: The Tombstone Inscriptions of Van Buren County, Tennessee, with Genealogical Notes: Tombstones Copied 1973 to 1976 (Rhinehart, 1997) [name index]*
- Our People: The Tombstone Inscriptions of Van Buren County, Tennessee, with Genealogical Notes: Tombstones Copied 1973 to 1976 (Rhinehart, 2008) [name index]
- Probate Records (Wills, Settlements and Guardianships) of Van Buren County, Tennessee [1840-1860] (Bayless, 1991) [name index]
- Seventh Census of the United States, 1850: Van Buren County, Tennessee, Free Population Schedules (Carpenter, 1971)*
- Tennessee, Records of Van Buren County: County Court Records of 1840 Recorded in Marriage Records, Vol. A, 1840-1861 (Moore, 1936) [name index]
- Tennessee, Records of Van Buren County, Tombstone Inscriptions (Moore, 1936) [name index]
- United States Census, Van Buren County, Tennessee, 1850 (Rhinehart, 1982) [surname index]*
- United States Census, Van Buren County, Tennessee, 1860 (Rhinehart, 1982) [surname index]*
- United States Census, Van Buren County, Tennessee, 1870 (Rhinehart, 1982) [surname index]*
- United States Census, Van Buren County, Tennessee, 1880 (Rhinehart, 1982) [surname index]*
- United States Census, Van Buren County, Tennessee, 1900 (Rhinehart, 1983) [surname index]*
- United States Census, Van Buren County, Tennessee, 1910 (Rhinehart, 1984) [surname index]
- United States Census, Van Buren County, Tennessee, 1920 (Rhinehart, 1993) [surname index]
- United States Census, Van Buren County, Tennessee, 1930 (Rhinehart, 2004) [surname index]
- Van Buren County Marriage Records: Book I Through Book V, May 21, 1840 to September 2, 1935 (Rhinehart, 1983) [name index]
- Van Buren County Marriages, September 14, 1935 to July 26, 1961 (Rhinehart, 2003) [name index]
- Van Buren County Obituaries, 1978-2001 (Rhinehart, 2002) [name index]
- Van Buren County Obituaries, 2000-2012 (Rhinehart, 2013) [name index]
- Van Buren County, Tennessee Tax Books for 1886-1891 (Rhinehart, 2017) [alphabetical by year & district]
- Van Buren County, Tennessee World War I Civilian Registration Cards, 1917-1918 (Banks, 2018)
Local Records on Microfilm
An inventory of microfilmed Van Buren County records is available on our website. Individual reels of microfilm may also be purchased.
Earliest records include:
- marriages from 1840
- wills from 1840
- inventories of estates from 1840
- deed index from 1840
- chancery court minutes from 1868
- county court minutes from 1840
- circuit court minutes from 1840
- tax books from 1886
The following reels are available on interlibrary loan from the Library and Archives:
- Deed Index 1840 - 1898 (#25, 1 reel)*
- Marriage Records 1840 - 1915 (#12, 1 reel)*
- Wills & Inventories 1840 - 1899 (#24, 1 reel)*
- WPA Records, VanBuren County (Record Group #107, Roll 83, 1 reel). Roll includes County Court Records (1840), Marriage Records (1840-1861), and Tombstone Inscriptions (undated).*
Newspapers on Microfilm
Newspapers were published in Spencer. Scattered early issues are available from 1912. 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
- Burritt Colege Board of Directors Minute Book, 1848-1915 (Microfilm Manuscript #1811, 1 reel)*
- Burritt College Records. Van Buren County, 1846-1915 (Microfilm Manuscript #1122, 1 reel)*
- Burritt College (Spencer, Tenn.) Records, 1883-1938 (Microfilm Manuscript #1609, 5 reels)*
- New Prospect Missionary Baptist Church Records, 1894-1996 (Manuscript Microfilm #1555, 1 reel)*
- Philomathesian and Calliopear Literary Societies Records. Van Buren County, 1887-1934 (Manuscript Microfilm #294, 2 reels)*
Search for Manuscripts Material in our Catalog
- Census on microfilm for Van Buren County: 1850-1880, 1900-1930
- State-wide census index: 1850-1880
- State-wide census index on microfilm (Soundex): 1880, 1900-1930
- Van Buren County census records in book form: 1850*, 1860*, 1870*, 1880*, 1900*
Additional Research Aids for Van Buren County
- County Index to Tennessee Confederate Pension Applications
- Early Tennessee Tax Lists at the Tennessee State Library and Archives
- Funeral Home Records at the Tennessee State Library and Archives
- Index to Tennessee Death Records 1908-1912
- Index to Tennessee Death Records 1914-1933
- School Census Records
- Tennessee World War I Veterans
* Indicates this title may be borrowed on Interlibrary Loan from the Library and Archives.
Van Buren County Formation Act
ACTS OF TENNESSEE 1839-40, CHAPTER 59:
"An Act to establish the county of Van Buren."
SECTION 1. BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF TENNESSEE, That a new county be established, to be known and distinguished by the name of Van Buren, in honor of Martin Van Buren, President of the United States, the boundaries of which shall be as follows: beginning at the mouth of Rocky River, near Rock Island, and running thence up Rocky River a straight line south twenty-five degrees west, ten miles, to the head of Dyer's Hollow; thence south about twelve degrees east, twelve miles and a half, to a point in Savage's Old Turnpike Road, one half mile east of Hill's old stand, on the Cumberland Mountain; thence south about seventy-five degrees east, with said road, eight miles, to the Marion County line; thence north twenty-five degrees east with the line of Marion County, six miles; thence north sixty-eight degrees east, with the line of Marion County, ten miles, to the line of Bledsoe County; thence north twenty degrees east, with the line of Bledsoe County, twenty-five miles; thence south sixty-seven degrees west down the Caney Fork River, touching the same at various points, seventeen miles, to the first point, twenty-seven and a half miles to the beginning.
SECTION 2. BE IT ENACTED, That for the due administration of justice in said county of Van Buren, the several different courts to be holden in said county shall be holden at the house of William Worthington, in the county of Van Buren, until the seat of justice for said county shall be located, and a suitable house erected for that purpose; the county court, in the intermediate time, shall have full power to adjourn to such other place in said county as they may deem best suited for the holding of the same and for the public convenience, and to adjourn to the seat of justice whenever in their judgment the necessary arrangements are made; and all writs and other process returnable to either place, shall and may be returned to the place where said court may have been removed by the county court aforesaid; and the said courts to be holden in and for said county of Van Buren shall be under the same rules, regulations and restrictions, and shall have, hold and exercise and possess the same powers and jurisdictions as are possessed by said courts in other counties in this state.
SECTION 3. BE IT ENACTED, That all officers, civil and military, in said county, shall continue to hold their offices, and exercise all the powers and functions thereof, until others be elected under the provisions of the constitution, and laws made in pursuance thereof: and it shall be duty of the county court of Van Buren at their first session to appoint some suitable person to open and hold elections in each civil district in said county, on the first Thursday in April next, for the purpose of electing county officers and all other officers which by the constitution the people are entitled to elect, which election shall in all respects be conducted agreeable to existing laws regulating elections in other counties in this state, and the county officers so elected shall have the same jurisdiction, powers and emoluments that other county officers are entitled under existing laws; and the said county of Van Buren shall be placed upon an equal footing, possess equal powers and privileges in all respects as other counties in this state: Provided, that nothing in this act contained shall be so construed as to prevent the counties of White and Warren from having, holding and exercising jurisdiction over the territory composing the said county of Van Buren, and the citizens thereof, in as full and ample a manner as they now have, until the election of county officers for said county: Provided, also, that nothing in this act shall be so construed as to prevent the counties of White and Warren from entering up judgment, or the sheriffs of said counties from selling under such judgment, any lands within said county of Van Buren for taxes, costs or charges for the payment of the taxes for any preceding year, or to prevent the sheriffs of either of said counties from collecting from citizens of said county of Van Buren any taxes due for any preceding year.
SECTION 4. BE IT ENACTED, That the citizens of the county of Van Buren in all elections for Governor, for members of Congress, for electors for President and Vice President, members of the General Assembly, shall vote with the counties from which they have been stricken off until the next apportionment agreeably to the constitution.
SECTION 5. BE IT ENACTED, That Joseph Cummings, Isham Teter, William Denny, Burrel Cummings, John Paine, Uriah York, Isaac Hillis, William Worthington, Abraham Drake, Willis G. Jones, William Gressum and William L. Paine, of said county of Van Buren, be, and they are hereby appointed commissioners, a majority of whom are hereby authorized to act, who shall on or before the first day of April next, proceed to fix upon two suitable and eligible sites for the seat of justice of said county and for the county town, and the citizens of said county shall at the said election held the first Thursday in April aforesaid, vote for the places which shall be put in nomination by the officer holding said election, or such place or places as any other citizen may put in nomination, and the place receiving the majority of the votes polled shall be the seat of justice for said county; and the said commissioners shall procure by purchase or otherwise at least fifty acres of land, for which they shall cause a deed to be made to themselves and their successors in office, by general warranty, and the said town when laid off and established, shall be known by the name of Spencer, in honor of the brave captain of that name who was killed at Spencer's Hill; and the said commissioners shall report their proceedings to the county court of said county, and it is hereby made the duty of the clerk to record the same: Provided, that if more than two places shall be put in nomination, and no one place shall obtain a majority of all the votes polled, it shall be the duty of said commissioners to hold a new election, putting the two places in nomination which shall have received the highest number of votes in the first election, and in said election no other place but the two places so nominated shall be voted for, and the place having the highest number of votes in the second election shall be fixed as the seat of justice for said county: Provided further, that in both said elections and times and places nominated shall be publicly advertised fifteen days before the same is held.
SECTION 6. BE IT ENACTED, That it shall be the duty of the county court of said county to appoint five commissioners, who shall be deemed the successors of the commissioners appointed by this act, and it shall be their duty to lay off a town with as many streets and of such width as they may deem necessary, reserving at least three acres for a public square, a lot for building a jail, and lots for male and female academies, and for the erection of churches and meeting houses for public worship.
SECTION 7. BE IT ENACTED, That the commissioners of the town of Spencer shall sell [the lots] in said town on a credit of at least twelve months, first giving due notice thereof in one or more newspapers printed in this state, and shall take bonds, with sufficient security, for the purchase money, payable to themselves and successors in office, and shall make titles in fee simple to the respective purchasers of said lots.
SECTION 8. BE IT ENACTED, That the proceeds of the sales of said lots shall be a fund in the hands of said commissioners for defraying the expenses incurred in purchasing the said tract of land and of erecting the public buildings.
SECTION 9. BE IT ENACTED, That said commissioners shall superintend the building a court house and jail, and shall let out the building of the same upon such terms and of such dimensions as the county court of said county shall order to be built, and shall take bond and good security from the person to whom the same is let, payable to themselves and successors, for double the sum for which said buildings may be undertaken to be built, conditioned for the faithful performance of the contract.
SECTION 10. BE IT ENACTED, That said commissioners, before they enter upon the duties of their office, shall take an oath before the county court of said county that they will well and truly perform the duties assigned to them to the best of their ability, and shall moreover enter into bond and security, payable to the chairman of the county court and his successors, in the sum of ten thousand dollars, conditioned for the true and faithful performance of their duties enjoined on them by this act, which bond shall be deposited in the clerk's office of said county.
SECTION 11. BE IT ENACTED, That said commissioner shall keep a fair and regular statement of all monies by them received and expended, which statement when required shall from time to time be laid before the county court of said county, and when all the public buildings are completed, pay over what may remain, if any, to the county trustee for said county; and the said county court is hereby directed to allow a reasonable allowance for the services of both sets of commissioners hereby created out of the county treasury of said county.
SECTION 12. BE IT ENACTED, That said county of Van Buren shall be attached to the M'Minnville chancery court district, and all appeals and appeals in nature of writs of error or writs of error shall be taken to the supreme court at Nashville, and the first court of said county shall be holden on the first Monday in February next, under the same rules and regulations and restrictions as the county courts of other counties are held.
SECTION 13. BE IT ENACTED, That the county of Van Buren shall form one regiment, and said regiment shall be the 140th regiment, and shall be attached to the 10th brigade, that the field officers of said county shall meet at the house William Worthington in said county, on the first Monday in March next, and divide said regiment into battalions and companies, and provide for electing all officers in said regiment in the manner pointed out by law.
SECTION 14. Should the boundary lines of Van Buren county, as designated in the first section of this act, approach nearer to the county seat of either of the old counties from which the territory constituting the county of Van Buren is taken than is prescribed by the constitution, it shall be the duty of the county court of Van Buren to appoint some surveyor, who shall re-run and re-mark such line or lines so as not to violate the constitutional rights of such old county, and said surveyor shall make report to the county court of said county of Van Buren, which report so made shall be recorded by the clerk of said county, and such line or lines so run shall be the established line or lines of said county.
Passed on January 3, 1840
Van Buren 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.
Van Buren County in General
- Biographical directory, TN General Assembly, 1796-1969 (Van Buren County, Preliminary # 30). Nashville, TSLA, 1972. 92 pp.
- Boyd, Larry C. Blessings of the eternal mountains: the schools of Van Buren County, TN. TTU thesis, 1987. 249 pp.
- Brown, Billy C. Environmental & educational implications of resort park development for Bledsoe & Van Buren counties of southeast TN. UT thesis, 1979. 178 pp.
- Estimate of known recoverable reserves & preparation characteristics of coking coal in Van Buren County, TN. Washington, D.C., US Dept. Interior, 1956. 26 pp.
- Evans, E. Raymond. Synthesis of available data concerning Indians in Van Buren County, TN. Doyle, Medley Research Group, 1985. 31 pp.
- Ferguson, Carl C. Mineral resources summary of the Bald Knob quadrangle, TN. Nashville, TN Div. Geol., 1970. 6 pp.
- 5 county association: Cannon, Dekalb, Van Buren, Warren, White: promoting progress through cooperation. McMinnville, the association, 1974. 19 pp.
- Fletcher, Clark S. A geochemical study of the effects coal mining has had on the Piney Creek watershed, Van Buren County, TN. UT thesis, 1977. 92 pp.
- Gaillard, Frye. "Progress comes to Fall Creek Falls." Sat. Rev. (August 5, 1972), pp. 15+.
- Medley, Landon D. The history of Van Buren County, TN: "the early canebreakers", 1840-1940.Salem, WV, D. Mills, 1987. 409 pp.
- Medley, Landon D. World War I & World War II veterans of the USA armed forces from Van Buren County, TN. N.p., the author, 1980. 88 pp.
- Soil survey of White & Van Buren counties, TN. Washington, D.C., US GPO, 1981. 86 pp.
- TN Dept. Transportation [county maps] issued periodically.
- TN Valley Authority. Div. Forestry, Fisheries & Wildlife Dev. Forest inventory statistics: Bledsoe-Sequatchie-Van Buren County unit, middle TN. Norris, TVA, 1974. 21 pp.
- US Geol. Survey [topographic maps] issued periodically. Quadrangles: Doyle, Bald Knob, Lonewood, Welchland, Spencer, Sampson, Curtistown, Smartt Mtn., Brockdell.
- Van Buren County, 1980-1987: an economic analysis. Nashville, TN Dept. Emp. Sec., 1988. 12 pp.
- Boyd, Larry C. Burritt College, 1848-1938: from Blessings of the eternal mountains: the schools of Van Buren County, TN. Cookeville, n.p., 1987. 249 pp. (reprint from the author's thesis, Blessings from the mountains: the schools of Van Buren County, TN)
- Gillentine-Ramsey, Effie. Burritt, our alma mater: an attractive little book of facts & fiction, bringing up memories that cluster around Spencer's Hills, with letters from abroad by the late president, W.N. Billingsley. Nashville, McQuiddy Print. Co., 1914. 135 pp.
- Lewis, Charles L. Burritt College centennial address. Spencer, Burritt College, 1948. 16 pp.
- West, Francis M. Pioneer of the Cumberlands: a history of Burritt College, 1848-1938. TTU thesis, 1969. 174 pp. (reprinted 1986)