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Hamilton County, Tennessee

Ooltewah, former county seat of James County (no longer extant) is a census‑deisgnated place (CDP) in Hamilton County, east of Chattanooga.


The Tennessee General Assembly organized James County [1] from fractions of neighboring Hamilton and Bradley counties on January 30, 1871. The new county was named in honor of Rev. Jesse J. James, the father of Representative Elbert James who introduced the act which created the county. A dispute quickly developed over the location of the county seat? Ooltewah, a railroad town, was chosen on April 27, 1871 over Harrison, a port on the Tennessee River.

In 1890, the general assembly attempted to abolish the county, but local officials opposed the action and appealed to the state supreme court. The high court declared the act unconstitutional. By 1919, because tax revenues were so low, the county had become bankrupt. Schools, roads, and public services were inadequate. The state legislature voted in April 1919 to abolish James County, and in a referendum held on December 11, 1919, citizens of the county voted 941 to 79 for annexation to Hamilton County.

James County has the distinction of being the only Tennessee county, which, after being erected and organized in accordance with the requirements of the state constitution, was abolished. Two other attempts by the general assembly to eliminate other counties, namely Lewis and Putnam, were unsuccessful.

  1. Robert E. Dalton, Director of Field Services, Tennessee Historical Commission, James County Courthouse, Ooltewah, Hamilton County, TN, nomination document, 1976, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.