The History of Van Buren County Government
Van Buren County was established on January 3, 1840 by Act of the Tennessee General Assembly and signed into law by Governor James K. Polk on January 24, 1840. Van Buren County was formed from parts of Warren, White and Bledsoe Counties. The first County Court organizational meeting was held at the home of William Worthington on April 6, 1840. The Tennessee General Assembly directed the following justices to establish the county: Willis G. Jones, Abraham Drake, Tillmon Brown, William Worthington, and John Gillentine. John Gillentine was elected by the court as the first Chairman of the commissioned justices.
Andrew K. Parker, Samuel Parker, Isham B. Haston, Tillmon Brown, John Gillentine and William Worthington all bonded into a five-thousand dollar bond to Governor James K. Polk and the State of Tennessee for service as commissioned justices to establish Van Buren County. The bond established the first Government of Van Buren County in the great State of Tennessee. Office holders and district boundaries were then established by the justices.
Andrew K. Parker was elected by his commissioned peers as the Clerk of the County Court to keep all records of County Court Meetings. William Johnson provided a certificate of election as the first Sheriff of Van Buren County. Joseph Cummings produced a certificate of election as the first Trustee of Van Buren County. David F. Wood produced a certificate of election as the first Register of Van Buren County. The county was then broken into eight districts as per land marks.
Each district was appointed a Revenue Commissioner. The first district commissioner was Charles Reeves. The second district commissioner was Elijah Hill. The third district commissioner was John Gillentine. The fourth district commissioner was Tillman Brown. The fifth district commissioner was Willis G. Jones. The sixth district commissioner was Abram Drake. The seventh district commissioner was William Grissom. The eighth district commissioner was Isarah Thomas.
The County Court then set a tax rate of six and one-fourth cents per one-hundred dollars on each white poll for jury purposes, five cents for county purposes and five cents for jury purposes. Sheriff William Johnson was the first tax collector. Elections at that time were on the third Saturday of March and elected officials were sworn in on April first. During this time there was no elected County Judge, Mayor or County Executive. The Commission would elect a chairman for one year intervals. This practice would continue until 1856 when at that time the position of County Judge was created. The practice of Chairman would return in 1858 and continue until 1915.
In 1915 the Tennessee General Assembly allowed each County to elect a County Judge. By this time elections were held on the first Thursday of August and elected officials would take office on September first. This practice was established in 1872 by the Tennessee General Assembly. We continued to have a County Judge until the 1980’s when the position was changed again by the General Assembly and became the County Executive. The census determines the number of commissioners and is divided equally to represent county constituents.