The History of Wilson County
Wilson County is located approximately fifteen miles east of Downtown Nashville. The County is surrounded by seven other Tennessee counties and two rivers; the Cumberland and the Stones. It covers a geographic area of 578 square miles and has played a historic role in the development of Tennessee from its earliest times.
Wilson County was established on October 26, 1799, and was named in honor of Major David Wilson, a revolutionary war hero. Although Lebanon was chosen as its county seat, the settlement of the county began in the western half of the county, then to the central region, Lebanon, and lastly to the eastern region near Watertown. Neddy Jacob’s, Lebanon’s first inhabitant, log cabin on the Lebanon Public Square serves as an example of the earliest development of the county.
Wilson County in its early development was primarily an area of small to mid-sized farms dependant on tobacco, cotton, and livestock. Gradually the county became somewhat divided into three diverse areas of West Wilson, Lebanon, and Eastern Wilson County. The War Between the States or the Civil War became a dividing issue. Half of the county supported secession from the United States, and the other side for remaining in the United States. Spared from any major battle, but a region that was constantly involved in both sides alternating control. Occasionally small battles occurred particularly in the Lebanon area, and the western region. Cumberland University would suffer major damage after one of these combats. Cedar Grove Cemetery in Lebanon, and the Mt. Juliet Cemetery would serve as a final resting place for many of the soldiers that served in the conflict.
The Post Civil War Era would introduce a new modern transportation route for the citizens of Wilson County: the completion of the railroads across the county that would open up transportation, and trade routes for the county. The L and N, and the Tennessee Central would make the county a new outlet for the products from the farmers of the area. The timber industry of red cedar would become a major product of the area’s lumberman. A cedar chest became a must for any modern bride in the late 19th and early 20th century. The completion of the interstate connection in the late 20th century would bring further access for the county. Now a new group of people migrated into the county, particularly in the western region: the commuter from Wilson County into Davidson County. By the end of the 20th century, and entry into the 21st century, Lebanon, and Mt. Juliet became linked to Nashville, and its growing economy. A new true “metropolitan area” interconnected the county to the big city to the west. Despite its growth, Watertown, Statesville, and areas to the east retained an opportunity of escape to a place of charm from yesterday. From the early settlers of the region to today’s commuter, the county has risen to the challenge of meeting the demands of diverse growth into the modern community of today.
C. Monty Pope, EdD
Associate Professor of History and Geography