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historical photo of covington Our History

The quiet dignity and scenic beauty of our county and country life has captivated residents and travelers for many decades. Opportunities abound. Tipton is a growing and prosperous county. Step into her rich past and you will understand why. When you visit Tipton you will discover exciting chapters in Tennessee's history.

Tipton County was established on Oct. 29, 1823 from territory within the limits of Shelby County. The county was named in honor of Captain Jacob Tipton who was killed while leading his men against the Indians near Fort Wayne on Nov. 4, 1791. Tour the century-old Courthouse and unique Confederate Monument. Visitors today will find a delightful combination of shopping, dining and recreational activities in the gracious, hospitable and historic setting of Covington.

Covington was established as Tipton's seat of government on Dec. 11, 1824. On Dec. 9, 1826, the state legislature authorized the incorporation of Covington. The town was named in honor of General Leonard Wales Covington, a native of Maryland who was mortally wounded in the Battle of Chrystler's Field on Nov. 11, 1813. Throughout the county's history, Covington has been the leading city for commerce, higher education and training, manufacturing, jobs and professional services.

While in Covington drive down the Main and Maple Streets of the South Main Historic District and view the old homes and brick walks. The tree-shaded streets are especially delightful during autumn when the leaves show off their brilliantly bright colors. Take in an afternoon at the library or take your children to Cobb-Parr Park to enjoy the unique kids' designed playground, swimming pool, ball fields, tennis and other amenities.

As you travel our roads and highways you are retracing the trails and pathways of the ancient hunting grounds of the Chickasaw Indians. Recapture echoes of Randolph on the second Chickasaw Bluff, the first metropolis on the Mississippi River in Western Tennessee. Founded in 1823, Randolph was the king of steamboat river commerce and a cotton shipping point. The remains of Civil War field fortifications and a gunpowder magazine at Fort Wright remind us that several thousand Confederate volunteers from West Tennessee and Arkansas were encamped and readied themselves for battle during 1861-62. Telegraphic communication from Randolph to Memphis was established during the war and Union General William T. Sherman had his soldiers to burn Randolph in 1862.

The Clopton Methodist Church campground provided an encampment for 500 Confederate volunteers. The Battle of Lemmon Woods took place near Covington, between a few thousand Rebel and Yankee cavalrymen, on March 9, 1863.

Tipton County has a proud military tradition. Volunteers, militia, and organized companies have served in most of our nation's wars. The "Covington Sentinels" was the county's first militia company formed in 1830 with muskets, powder, and ball furnished by the State. County volunteers served in the Texas War of Independence, 1836, and the Mexican War, 1847-48. One thousand Tiptonians served in the Confederate army during the Civil War. Their legacy of battlefield valor and courage has continued through the World Wars, Korea, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm and the liberation of Iraq.

Veteran's memorials pay homage to the valor and devotion of our men and women who served and on too many occasions, paid the supreme sacrifice for their courage and patriotism in war. The beautiful custom of decorating the graves of veterans began at the R. H. Munford Cemetery, Covington, before 1869. Memorial ceremonies are still observed in the cemetery with flags and flowers placed upon the graves of soldiers.

From 1876-1941, Confederate Soldier's Reunions were held at Brighton, Covington, and Glenn Springs. The great American cavalry general, Nathan Bedford Forrest, made his last public address to his Confederate comrades of the 7th Tennessee Cavalry at Covington in 1876. Today, the Tipton County Veteran's Council sponsors two annual events: Memorial Day at a different church in the county yearly, and the Veteran's Day parade and luncheon at Covington on Nov. 11.

The Covington Museum, Tipton Veteran's Memorial and Nature Center was opened to the public in 1998. The museum has two permanent displays, the blood-stained First National Confederate Flags of Company C, 9th Tennessee Infantry, which was utilized as the regimental flag in the Battles of Shiloh and Perryville. The other is the Congressional Medal of Honor and tunic of World War I hero Joseph Bernard Atkinson of Atoka. Patrons enjoy the natural exhibits, half-mile walking trail and 18 acres of nature preserve. Fitness and exercise amenities are available at the Covington Sportsplex about a block west of the museum.

Our citizens love our politics and barbecues. Presidents' James K. Polk and Bill Clinton; Congressmen David Crockett and John Tanner; Senators Stephen A. Douglas and Strom Thurmond, Tennessee House Speaker James O. Naifeh, and other candidates have given speeches here. Covington continues to host the world's oldest Bar-B-Que Cooking Contest where thousands enjoy the taste and aroma of hickory smoked delicacies and greeting politicians.

Tipton was the leading cotton producing and ginning county in the state for many years. In 1929, nearly 80,000 county acres were planted in cotton. Agriculture is still vital but industrial development has generated thousands of new jobs and diversified our economy.

Railroads have played an important role in our history. The Memphis and Ohio Railroad's route to Nashville came through the county at Mason in 1855. The Memphis and Paducah (Illinois Central) Railroad reached Covington in July 1873. These lines have promoted commerce, trade and travel.

The Jefferson Davis U. S. Highway was constructed through the county in the 1920s. Named for the Confederate President, the road is also called Highway 51 and is a major transportation artery.

The Tipton County Industrial and Mechanical Association was organized in Covington in 1871. Since then, the Chamber of Commerce and the Industrial Development Board have worked with local governments to locate manufacturing and industrial facilities here, providing several thousand jobs for Tiptonians.

Since 1947, Covington has operated a Municipal Airport with a paved 5,000-foot runway and terminal building for the benefit and convenience of commerce, industry, recreation and travel.

Residents have learned at excellent schools. Early academies opened at the Mountain and Portersville. Congressman Charles B. Simonton and Confederate Major General Cadmus M. Wilcox attended the Portersville Academy and Commodore Isaac N. Brown of the Confederate Navy attended the Mountain School. The Byars, Fisher, Frazier, and Female Seminary schools opened at Covington. Good high schools were built in Covington at Byars Hall and Frazier, and at Brighton and Munford. High schools now are located in Covington, Brighton and Munford.

Elementary schools dot the landscape at Covington, Brighton, Munford, Drummonds and a new one to open this fall on Highway 14. There are also three middle schools. There is a magnet school located in Covington, the Covington Integrated Arts Academy.

Students have been fortunate to have good facilities and teachers of merit and ability. Dyersburg State Community College-Covington Campus and the Tennessee Technology Center offer courses in higher education.

At least 73 churches provide for our spiritual needs. Trinity Chapel, between Mason and Charleston, was built by slaves in 1847 and is our oldest house of worship. Trinity Episcopal Church was built at Mason in 1870. Smyrna Baptist at Burlison is one of the oldest organized churches in West Tennessee.

The Mississippi and Big Hatchie Rivers and Glenn Springs Lake have provided a sportsman's paradise for boaters, hunters and fishermen.

Tipton County is a great place to live and raise a family, work and do business. From the banks of the majestic Mississippi to the backwaters of the Big Hatchie; from high atop Millstone Mountain to the bottom lands of Cotton Lake; and from Conona to Charleston and Piljerk to Portersville and all in between, tremendous Tipton beckons you to come and enjoy the best the Volunteer State has to offer!