After its original formation in 1842 was declared unconstitutional, Putnam County was firmly established February 11, 1854 when Richard Fielding Cooke's bill, with amendments, cleared the Tennessee House. Putnam County was again a reality. It is named in honor of General Israel Putnam, who rose to prominence in the American Revolutionary War and fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775.
Putnam County was first established on February 2, 1842 when the twenty-fourth General Assembly enacted a measure creating Putnam County from portions of Jackson, Overton, Fentress, and White Counties. Isaac Buck, Burton Marchbanks, Henry L. McDaniel, Lawson Clark, Carr Terry, Richard F. Cooke, H. D. Marchbanks, Craven Maddox and Elijah Con, all of Jackson County, were named by the Act to superintend the surveying of the new county.
Surveying was done by Mounce Gore (thanks to Nancy Hargesheimer for the correct spelling of his first name), also of Jackson County, and the Assembly instructed them to locate the county seat, to be called "Monticello," near the center of the county. However contending that the formation of Putnam was illegal because it reduced their areas below constitutional limits, Overton and Jackson counties secured an injunction against its continued operation. Putnam officials failed to reply to the complaint, and in the March, 1845 term of the Chancery Court at Livingston, Chancellor Bromfield L. Ridley declared Putnam unconstitutionally established and therefore dissolved. The 1854 act reestablishing Putnam was passed after Representative Henderson M. Clements of Jackson County assured his colleagues that a new survey showed that there was sufficient area to form the county.
The act specified the the "county town" be named "Cookeville" in honor of Richard F. Cooke, who served in the Tennessee Senate from 1851-1854, representing at various times Jackson, Fentress, Macon, Overton and White Counties. The act authorized Joshua R. Stone and Green Baker from White County, William Davis and Isaiah Warton from Overton County, John Brown and Austin Morgan from Jackson County, William B. Stokes and Bird S. Rhea from DeKalb County and Benjamin A. Vaden and Nathan Ward from Smith County to study the Conner survey and select a spot, not more than two and one-half miles from the center of the county, for the courthouse. The first County Court chose a hilly tract of land then owned by Charles Crook for the site. Prior to selection of the Court House site, Putnam County's first election was held June 3, 1854, at which time twentyeight justices of the peace were elected, two from each of the fourteen civil districts. Robert D. Allison was elected chairman of the County Court; W. Gentry as Trustee (treasurer); William Baker as Register (recorder of deeds); Joseph Pearson as Tax Collector; Pleasant Bohannon as Sheriff; Russel Moore as County Court Clerk; and Curtis Mills as Circuit Court Clerk.
The City of Cookeville, incorporated in 1903, is located 79 miles east of Nashville and 101 miles west of Knoxville at the intersection of I-40 and Highway 111 in the Upper Cumberland Region of Middle Tennessee. The Municipality’s land area is 20.4-square-miles. Cookeville is the county seat of Putnam County and is one of four cities located within the county. The other municipalities are Algood, Baxter and Monterey.
The City of Cookeville operates under the council-manager form of municipal government. The five-member city council, including an elected mayor, vice-mayor and three council members, establishes policy administered by a full-time city manager. The city council members serve four-year terms. The City Manager and City Clerk are appointed by the city council. Cookeville is a regional center for employment, education, retailing, health care and recreational/cultural activities. Approximately 15,000 Upper Cumberland Region residents travel to Cookeville each day to work, attend school, received health care, shop or participated in leisure time activities.
A wide variety of recreational and cultural opportunities are provided for residents of Putnam County and the Upper Cumberland Region by local governments, the state park system, civic clubs and community organizations. Cane Creek Park, a 260-acre park with a 56-acre lake is owned and operated by the City of Cookeville’s Department of Leisure Services. Three state parks offer many camping, picnicking, hiking and other recreational opportunities. There are three Corps of Engineer lakes, with over 1,200 miles of shorelines and are within a 30-minute drive. The Cookeville Performing Arts Center offers a full schedule of touring plays and performances plus presentations by the Cookeville Summer Theatre and the Cookeville Children’s Theatre. The Tech Community Symphony, in operation since 1963, presents several concerts each year. Putnam County’s Parks and Recreation Department, the City of Cookeville’s Leisure Services Department and the YMCA work together to provide a comprehensive recreational program. There are over 100 active civic clubs and community organizations in the county.
Cookeville and Putnam County have a consolidated school system. The Putnam County Board of Education operates fourteen schools with an enrollment of approximately 9,200 students. Six elementary schools, (grades K-4), two middle schools, (grades 5 & 6 and grades 7 & 8), an alternative school, a high school (grades 9 – 12) and an adult high school are located in Cookeville. The high school is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Cookeville High School serves as a comprehensive vocational education center for all Putnam County Schools. Since 1989, Putnam County has received the Governor’s A+ Award for Excellence in Education, and ACT scores of Putnam County students are above the national average. In addition, two state-supported vocational schools serve Putnam County.
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