On March 1, 1879, Chester County was carved from sections of McNairy, Hardeman, Madison, and Henderson counties by an enabling act of the Tennessee Legislature, followed by a referendum of the electorate of the affected portions of the established counties. On September 6, 1879, an overwhelming majority of voters created Chester County. The original proposed name for the county was Wisdom, but Chester County was chosen, after Col. R.I. Chester, of Jackson, Tennessee, a State Legislator. The new county’s public officials were elected on May 29, 1882. Because of the many large plantations in the region, Chester County’s economy was based on cotton farming.
The city of Henderson, with its name derived from a small depot built by the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, was chosen as the county seat. As a railroad town, Henderson was a bustling place, shipping cotton via railroad to the North. With train crews and passengers moving in and out of the local depot the business community established itself around this area and the tracks along Front Street. It was a lively place of about six businesses and twenty residents.
But from the beginning, there was more to Henderson than just the Mobile and Ohio Railroad and Front Street. Homes were built on adjacent streets, and businesses, churches and schools opened to serve the needs of the citizens. The Freed Hardeman University opened to further educate our youth.
On March 11, 1901, Henderson was incorporated by an act of the Tennessee Legislature. At that time, Henderson had a population of 1,000 citizens. After incorporation, came the paving of streets and the installation of water and sewerage systems. From these beginnings, Chester County has continued to prosper and grow with the addition of the beautiful Chickasaw State Park and The Bear Trace at Chickasaw, one of the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses. Now, we have new Fire Stations, a new Public Library, a new National Guard Armory, a new City Hall, and renovations are complete on our Historic Chester County Court House.
Throughout the years, Chester County residents have taken great pride in working together to develop the building of homes, great school systems, businesses and churches. Lodges, service clubs, and other civic organizations have been formed to serve the needs of our community. Because of Chester County’s many assets, new industries have located here to provide employment opportunities for our residents.
In recent years, intensive work to U.S. Highway 45, has allowed easy access to Interstate 40 - only 15 miles away, and has given the residents of Chester County the opportunity to work in the surrounding Jackson and Memphis areas. We are proud to say that newcomers have joined with the long time residents to create a larger Chester County, with all the elements of a complete community, while maintaining the appeal of small town living.