First Settlers

Nature Draws First Settlers


The region around White County was sparsely settled as early as 1800. Early settlement began near Rock Island in the southern area of the county. At that time, the area was nothing more than a wilderness. Pioneers who came across the Cumberland Mountains were astonished by its beauty, and at once began building settlements.


White County was created in 1806 from sections of Jackson and Smith counties. There is more than one theory about how the county got its name. The most popular is that it was named after an early settler, John White. His original log cabin home has been restored and moved to the county fairgrounds just inside the city limits on the north side.


A tribe of Cherokee Indians, led by Chief Calfkiller, lived in White County. The Calfkiller River that runs through the center of the town was probably named for him. It is said that the tribe had a friendly disposition and lived peacefully with the few white settlers.


Black Fox, who was principal chief of the Cherokee Indians in 1806, also lived in Sparta. Though he held many positions of honor within the Cherokee Nation, Black Fox is known for signing the treaty that ceded Cherokee land to the U.S. government. His hunting ground was in the southern end of White County on Lost Creek. After the treaty was signed, he and his chiefs were allowed to continue to hunt there until white settlers began to move onto the land.