Overton County

Overton County was established in 1806 and named in honor of John Overton.

Historical Narrative

Travelling south on SR 42 (Livingston Highway) one leaves behind the picturesque Dale Hollow Lake region and crosses into Overton County, which sits between two major physiographic features: the Highland Rim to the west and the Cumberland Plateau to the east. Created from Jackson County and Indian lands, the county was established in 1806 and named in honor of John Overton, who was a pioneer attorney, Tennessee Supreme Court Judge and, with Andrew Jackson and James Winchester, a cofounder of Memphis. While the soil did not support widespread farming, the county experienced an economic boom from logging and coal extraction after the Civil War, with the Cumberland River providing for the efficient transport of goods to markets in Carthage and Nashville. In recent decades, recreation has become a driving force in the county’s economy. Tourism accounts for a substantial portion of the county’s total income. 

Overton County features five National Register-listed properties: the Alpine Institute, American Legion Bohannon Post #4, Overton County Courthouse, Roberts Law Office, and Standing Stone State Rustic Park Historic District. Moreover, 247 architectural resources are located within the Scenic Byway’s one-mile buffer. These resources were originally surveyed by Tennessee Tech University in 1986. One Tennessee Historical Commission historical marker is located along the Byway and memorializes the Alpine School, which was located on top of Alpine Mountain. The school was established in 1821 and later re-organized to form the Alpine Institute.

American Legion Bohannon Post #4, located in the town of Livingston, was listed on the National Register in 2012 for its local significance in the social history of Overton County. Constructed in 1948, the building consists of a modified Quonset hut with a brick façade that serves as a veteran’s service office. Acquired by the American Legion in 1949, the building has also been utilized by the community for a host of social functions, such as a meeting hall, dance hall, library, and voting precinct.

For its significance as a local interpretation of Greek Revival style architecture, the Overton County Courthouse was listed on the National Register in 1979. The building is also historically significant for its association with the governmental history of Overton County. Located in the county seat of Livingston, the Overton County Courthouse was built by Joe Copeland in 1868-69 and has served as the center of county politics and government for over 130 years.

Another historic Livingstone building is Roberts Law Office, which was listed on the National Register in 1974 for its architectural significance as a local example of East Lake architecture. Constructed ca. 1885, the building exhibits highly ornamental millwork as evidenced on the front porch, with its turned columns and wood decoration, and gable roof. The office building also features stained and frosted glass windows, built-in bookcases, and a teller cage, which was added in the 1930s. In addition, the building is historically significant as the former law office of Governor Albert H. Roberts who rented the building from ca. 1901 to 1913. In 1919, Roberts became Governor of Tennessee and served until 1922. As governor, Roberts signed Tennessee’s ratification of the 19th Amendment, which granted women the right to vote. He is also remembered for the Good Roads Project, an initiative that can be well appreciated by travelers of the Cumberland Historic Byway. The building originally stood in downtown Livingston, but was later moved to the corner of Roberts Street and University Avenue.

Travelling from Livingston to the northwest on SR 52, the Cumberland Historic Byway passes through Standing Stone State Park. This one-time deforested and denuded landscape was reworked and physically rejuvenated by the federal government during the Great Depression to serve the recreational needs of nearby residents. It took the concerted efforts of a number of governmental entities to complete the project, including the Department of Agriculture, U.S. Forest Service, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and the Works Progress Administration (WPA), as well as many state and local players. Contained within the park is the Standing Stone State Rustic Park Historic District, which was listed on the National Register in 1986 for its significance in the areas of architecture, recreation, social history, and politics. The district is located on the Cumberland Plateau and contains approximately 11,000 acres. Overall, the park contains 53 contributing buildings that were constructed between 1938 and 1942 under the direction of the WPA. The buildings were designed in the rustic park architecture style featuring hewn log construction and stone foundations. Standing Stone State Rustic Park is a representative example of the development of state parks in Tennessee during the period between 1934 and 1942.