Towns & Communities
DecaturvilleThe county seat, located in the south central portion of Decatur County, was deeded to Samuel McLead, Samuel Brasher, Balsam Jones, and David B. Funderburk on May 7, 1847. Twenty-five acres were purchased from John McMillan, and ten acres were purchased from Burrell Rushing.
Lots were sold just after the town plot was laid out. Purchasers were Pettigrew and Coats, John Garrett, L. C. Friendly, Daniel McLead, P. H. Fisher, E. E. Tate, Lawson Kelley, E. E. Jones, John McMillan, W. H. Bennett, J. W. Delaney, G. N. Gains, and H. C. Frayers.
The first court met in Decaturville in 1848 in a cabin on the west side of the square. This was used only a short time until the erection of a two-story frame courthouse, which burned July 3, 1869, with all the records except those in the register's office and the clerk and master's office. It was claimed that the fire was the work of an arsonist for the purpose of destroying the records.
On July 12, 1869, a committee cwas appointed to submit plans and specifications for a new courthouse. The committee went to work at once, and the contract was let in October for a two-story brick structure at a cost of $9,000. The first floor contained offices for the county officials, and the second floor was designated for court proceedings.
Once again the Decatur County courthouse was destroyed by fire in 1927. Again it was thought by the general public to be the work of an arsonist for the same purpose of destroying the records. All records were destroyed with the exception of the ones in the court clerk's, register's, and clerk and master's offices. After this fire, county offices were moved to the Eli Vise store, a two-story building located on the southeast corner of court square, which was destroyed by fire in 1968, and court was held in the Decaturville School building.
A crash building program went into effect to build a new courthouse and in less than 12 months, a fireproof, brick and concrete structure was completed. On the building committee were J. A. Chalk, chairman, V. A. Lancaster, R. E. Spence, W. S. Dennison, and J. W. Blount who served as secretary and treasurer. Elston Tate was architect and contractor, and Fount Tate served as foreman. The courthouse underwent a face-lifting in 1975 when Hardin Smith was elected to serve as county judge. A complete renovation with additional offices created from space unused in the basement offered not only an eye-catching effect but much needed space. The cost amounted to $200,000 which included painting many of the rooms.
After the division of Perry County, the new county of Decatur was allowed to use the jail and court square in Perryville for public purposes until a new site could be selected and a new building erected. However, it was not long before a jail was built in Decaturville. Located one block east of the court square, it was constructed of logs and bricks and served the county until 1885, when it was destroyed by fire.
A replica of the old jail was constructed. A committee in 1868 reported this jail badly in need of repair, but no definite action was taken until 1883 when J. W. Wiley, J. C. Hardin, and W. B. Fisher were appointed to supervise the erection of a new jail. Their report was filed April 7, 1884, and a new jail was ordered. According to records, the new jail was described thus, "The cells are of the most improved pattern and are deemed entirely safe." The whole cost amounted to around $9,000 and included an attached sheriff's residence.
When this jail gave way and the steel work rusted, it was replace by a new one-story concrete block structure in 1961. The bonds were sold under the administration of Judge James Long, who died before the building was erected, and his wife, Judge Juanita Long, completed the transaction. A $60,000 bond issue was floated with $19,000 earmarked for the Decatur County Nursing Home, $11,000 for the sheriff's house, and $30,000 for the jail.
The first post office to serve this area was the Beech River Post Office established March 1, 1847. Serving as first postmaster was Amos M. Yarbro. On September 20, 1847, David McLead was appointed to serve as postmaster, and the name of the post office was changed to Decaturville.
Besides being the headquarters of county government, Decaturville also became an early business center. Gilbert McMillan, listed as the first settler in Decaturville, had a business dating back to 1836 which was known as McMillan's Shop. Another early settler was Daniel McLead, who built a log cabin on the northeast corner of court square where Decatur County Bank is now located. He carried a line of general merchandise. Staples included barrels of flour, sugar, unground coffee, New Orleans sorghum, and whiskey. When the Smith Hotel, which was built around the log cabin, was torn away for the new bank building in 1966, the cabin was discovered intact, and the logs have been preserved.
Samuel Yarbro and Jonathan Luton were the first dry goods merchants. Later, Young and Johnson opened a business on the southeast corner of the square. Others locating in the county seat town were J. J. Sharp Company; Young, Stern and Smith; J. M. Fryar; Kendrick and Roberts; and, Blythe and Beuodrant.
The Chrisenberry Hotel, located one block north of court square, at the present location of Edgar Hobbs residence, was one of the first of its kind in Decaturville. It was a story and a half frame structure and catered mostly to boarders, which included students who attended school at Decaturville Academy. It was operated by Gooch Chrisenberry's father.
About five years later, John Bray built a hotel, located on the northeast corner of court square, where Decatur County Bank is now located, and operated it until 1880. It was first known as "The Bray House". In 1880, Mr. and Mrs. Curry P. Dennison took over the hotel, and it became known as "The Dennison House". Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Smith became operators of the Dennison House about 1900, and the name was changed to the "Smith Hotel". The two-story frame, verandaed building was torn down in 1966 to make room for the new Decatur County Bank building.
The Decatur County Bank, chartered in 1899 and capitalized at $5,000, was the first bank in Decaturville. The original incorporators were Rube Smith, who served as the first cashier, Judge James A. England, who later served as president, and Judge John E. McCall, Jr., E. J. Timberlake and H. E. Graper, all of Lexington. Judge McCall, who was a circuit judge at the time, was later named a federal judge. Timberlake was a prominent landowner of Henderson County, and Graper was cashier of the Citizens Bank of Lexington.
The first president was P. W. Miller, who served as clerk and master of Decatur County for many years. J. F. Dees served as president of the bank from 1929 until 1972. He was succeeded by Paul Simmons, who served until his death in 1973, and in turn was succeeded by Grady Dixon.
The Decaturville and Scotts Hill Funeral Homes had their origin in the Peoples Burial Association, organized in Decaturville in 1921 by W. T. Hopper, who rode horseback throughout Decatur and surrounding counties soliciting members for J. T. Smith and Company who operated the funeral homes. Not only is the Peoples Burial Association the oldest burial association in the state, but it was the first association of its kind east of the Mississippi River.
Business places listed in Decaturville in 1976 were Central Service Station, Decaturville Truck and Trailer, Decatur Tractor & Implement Co., Mid-Way Truck Stop, Decaturville Feed Mill, Decaturville Lumber Co., 83 Service Station, Times Theatre, U. S. S. Agriculture Chemical Co., Decaturville Foodland, Larry's Exxon Station, Decatur Farmer Co-op, Decatur County Machinery Co., Smith's Grocery, F & P Food Market, White and Smith, Style Shoppe, Mid-Way Cafe, Down Town Bar and Grill, B & K Dry Goods Co., Vise Garage, Dorothy's Shoppe, Crawley's Auto Parts, Vic's Dollar Store, Variety Shoppe, Thrift Shop, Jack's Factory Outlet, King's Furniture, Lunsford Pharmacy, Peggy's Dress Shop, Times Cafe, Crawley's Furniture Co., White's Cafe, Decaturville Funeral Home, The Harmony House, Betty's Beauty Shop, Patty's Beauty Shop, Nellie's Beauty Shop, Kelley's Beauty Shop, Alma's Beauty Shop, Yarbro's Beauty Shop, Joe's TV Repair, Butler's TV Service, Scotts Watch Repair, Decaturville Pool Room, Flower Basket, Flowers By Joyce, Wallace Welding and Sign Painting, City Wash, Martin's Machine Shop, and Davis Plumbing and Heating.
From "Tennessee County History Series: Decatur County" by Lillye Younger 1979. ISBN 0-87870-077-3