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Tennessee Counties

There are ninety-five counties in the State of Tennessee. The oldest county is Washington County, founded in 1777. The most recently formed county is Chester County (1879)

Shelby County, Tennessee

Shelby County Education, Geography, and History

Shelby County, Tennessee Courthouse

Shelby County is a county located in the state of Tennessee. Based on the 2010 census, the population was 927,644. It is the state's largest county both in terms of population and geographic area. Its county seat is Memphis, the most populous city in Tennessee. The county was named for Governor Isaac Shelby (1750–1826) of Kentucky.

Shelby County is part of the Memphis, TN-MS-AR Metropolitan Statistical Area

Etymology - Origin of Shelby County Name

Named in honor of Isaac Shelby (1750-1826), Revolutionary War troop commander at Kings Mountain, first governor of Kentucky, negotiator for the purchase of the western district from the Chickasaws.


County QuickFacts: CensusBureau Quick Facts

History of Shelby County

Created 1819 from Indian lands; named in honor of Isaac Shelby (1750-1826), Revolutionary War troop commander at Kings Mountain, first governor of Kentucky, negotiator for the purchase of the western district from the Chickasaws.

Shelby County was formed in 1819 from Indian lands (Private Acts of Tennessee 1819, Chapter 146).

Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture
The Tennessee General Assembly established Shelby County on November 24, 1819, just a little over a year after the "Jackson Purchase" and Chickasaw treaty freed West Tennessee from Indian claims. The county is named after one of the successful treaty commissioners, Isaac Shelby, a Revolutionary War veteran and former governor of Kentucky. Although sparsely populated at the time, Shelby County began its existence as Tennessee's largest (784 square miles) in area and is now also the largest county in population (over 860,000 people).

From the beginning, Shelby County enjoyed a geographical advantage as a travel and trade center. The Chickasaws had already established trails from the fourth Chickasaw Bluff (future Memphis) to future northwest Alabama and northeast Mississippi (now US Highways 72 and 78 respectively) in order to gain access to early Mississippi River trade. Originally these trails followed ridge lines between river basins in order to facilitate all-weather travel. Later they would become the basic routes for early railroads, which would make Shelby County and its principal city, Memphis, the economic center of the region. Find more from the Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture: SHELBY COUNTY

Geography: Land and Water

As reported by the Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 784 square miles (2,030 km2), of which, 755 square miles (1,954 km2) of it is land and 29 square miles (75 km2) of it (3.71%) is water.

Neighboring Counties

Bordering counties are as follows:

  • Tipton County (north)
  • Fayette County (east)
  • Marshall County, Mississippi (southeast)
  • DeSoto County, Mississippi (south)
  • Crittenden County, Arkansas (west)


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