Rural Heritage Trust















From the pages of An Illustrated History of the People and Towns of Northeast Shelby County
and Southeast Tipton County, published by Historic Archives of Rosemark and Environs

    In 1818, the United States Congress ratified a treaty with the Chickasaw Nation ceding West Tennessee to the United States, with Shelby County being founded in 1819. Holders of land grants from North Carolina were then able to move into the northwest area of the county, north of the Loosahatchie River in an area also known as “Big Creek”, and later Kerrville.


    Dr. Andrew Hart Kerr moved from Middle Tennessee into the Big Creek area in 1853 to about 5,000 acres of land he had purchased. After surviving the Civil War, in 1872 Dr. Kerr was approached for the right-of-way by the developers of the Newport News and Mississippi Valley/Paducah and Memphis railroad. He was able to convince the railroad to build its depot near his home property. Dr. Kerr began disposing his land by 1877, the year in which a “real estate festival” of barbecue and entertainment was held with trains bringing prospective buyers for 25-acre and 50-acrefarms.

    Dr. Kerr died in 1883. His daughter Carrie, who married Sidney Douglas, owned a 1,000-acrefarm in the area. Other names of the Kerrville in this era include Barber, Carter, Cash, Dawson, Edwards, Joyner, McDonald, Merrell, Middleton, Oates, Parr, Rhodes, Shelton, Simonton, Stewart, Strayhorn, Tucker, and Walker.


    The first run of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad from Memphis to Covington was on July 4, 1873. The Kerrville Depot, built in 1872-1873, was the only brick depot between Memphis and Chicago. It became the “hub” of all activity and information in the Kerrville area, with daily passengers and freight coming through the depot. By 1920, a monthly ticket to Memphis from Kerrville was priced at $4.25. The Kerrville Depot served the community through the first half of the 20th century, but new roads and the success of the automobile led to its demise.


    Schools appeared as early as the late 1870s. A wooden structure known as the Kerrville School is mentioned as early as 1920, but was destroyed by a tornado in 1913. New brick school was built and by the 1920s had 130 students and five teachers, and was the center of the community. In the 1930s, students began attending schools in Millington and the brick schoolhouse was demolished.


    Kerrville once had a hotel and fairgrounds. The Kerrville Hotel, located on a ten acre plot along the railroad line, was a two story frame building consisting with eleven rooms, a kitchen, pantry, servants rooms, smokehouse, stable and other outbuildings. The hotel was near the Kerrville Fairgrounds located west of the school and east of the Memphis-Big Creek Plank Road (now U.S. Hwy 51). Following the Civil War, the Shelby-Tipton County Fair had a reputation as the pride of all county fairs in West Tennessee. Fire destroyed the buildings in 1888; they were rebuilt and fire struck again in 1894. The fairgrounds were also known for its horse racing. On September 1, 1894, a deputy was sent to Kerrville to serve warrants to six black men as suspects of the fairgrounds fire. The return train was missed so the deputy hired a wagon to transport the prisoners to Memphis along the plank road. Near the Lucy area, the wagon was stopped and all suspects were shot on site. A trial of the deputy and others was held with a verdict of “not guilty” rendered due to insufficient evidence that the deputy had led the suspects into a trap. The lynching is known as “a deadly dark night in the Big Creek bottoms”.


    Some of the historic Kerrville churches were Kerrville Presbyterian Church, Kerrville United Methodist Church, and the Kerrville Faith Assembly of God Church. The Kerrville Presbyterian Church was organized in 1857, as the Delta Presbyterian Church. In1917, the church building was destroyed by a tornado and a new building was dedicated in 1925, which is located at 9216 Kerrville-Rosemark Road. The Tennessee Historical Commission was placed on the site in 2005. The Kerrville United Methodist Church began in a small building erected in 1853 with the name “Bethuel” from various meeting locations in the area beginning in 1844. The Bethuel Methodist Episcopal Church burned in 1913 and the congregation shared the premises of the Kerrville Presbyterian Church on alternating Sundays until 1948 when a new location was dedicated on property purchased from Shelby County Schools.


    Cemeteries date back to with Kerrville Presbyterian Cemetery, Bethuel Cemetery, “Colored Bethuel Cemetery” and the Bethlehem Missionary Baptist Church and Cemetery.

    The Bank of Kerrville was incorporated in 1919 and was closed in 1927. The Kerrville Post Office was established in 1874 about nine miles east of the Hatchie River and 3.5 miles east of Big Creek. It became a rural route of the Millington Post Office in 1953. The historic Bank/Post Office building burned on July 9, 1965.


    There were two gins in Kerrville by 1876, one that ground corn and had a cotton gin attached. The other that ground corn and wheat and had a cotton gin attached. By 1927 only one gin was in operation by the DeSoto Oil Company of Memphis and it was torn down in 1985.


    The mercantile establishments, also known as “general stores” prospered from the Civil War to the 1920s with as many as eight or more names of owners being known, such as Aycock, Beaver, Bryant, Kelley, Laxton, Matthews & Nelson, Preston, Roberts, Shippey, Tucker, Wright and Yancey. In 1910, the Matthews & Nelson Storehouse was built a store across from the gin. It was sold to T.A. Densford in 1952 and is the only remaining store left from the “Kerrville Downtown Business District”.

    On October 19, 1818, the United States Congress ratified the treaty with the Chickasaw Nation ceding West Tennessee to the United States. What followed was the creation of Shelby County in1819 and, to its north, the creation of Tipton County in 1823. Settlers followed quickly. Along the border of Shelby and Tipton counties small communities developed around churches, schools, and country stores. This is the story of the people who have lived there. Over the last 180 years most of the schools and some of the towns of Northeast Shelby County and South Central Tipton County have disappeared. The churches and cemeteries remain and the land is still farmed.



    This illustrated history attempts to capture the stories of those people and places where they lived. Through a series of articles and interviews, maps, photographs, diaries, and letters, you can experience the people who lived on the farms and worked in the towns of Salem, Portersville, Idaville, Kerrville, Armourtown, Bethel, Tipton, Mudville, Macedonia, Gratitude, Barretville, and Rosemark.

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