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History of Eaton, TN


The settlement was established about 1824 by J.W. Buckner and was first known as Buckner's Bluff. 

Eaton, formerly known as Buckner's Bluff, was established in 1827, and named in honor of John H. Eaton, Secretary of War under Jackson. It is located eleven miles west of Trenton, on the right bank of the Middle Fork of Forked Deer River. Before the days of railroads it was an important shipping point for Dyer, Obion, Gibson and Carroll Counties, as keel and flat-boats, and occasionally small steam-boats, were navigated on the Forked Deer. A post office was established in 1830, with Dr. W. W. Lea, one of the first merchants, as postmaster. Other merchants who were in business there for several years were Jas. A. Harwood & Co., Shaw & Edwards and Shaw & Bradshaw.

In 1837 the Gibson County Court ordered that David Barrott, DAvid Bowers and Simpson Shaw be appointed Inspectors of Tobacco in the county and that the Inspection Office be located at Eaton.

The town has been incorporated twice....once in the 1830's and then again in 1875 or 1880. 

Drury Ingram and Watt Dodson owned a string of flatboats and ran goods to and from Eaton.  The boats, 80 x18 were operated by poles and contained a cargo of assorted produce.

Alec I. Buckner (1826-1885), who is often confused with J.W.Buckner, a furniture maker and undertaker was located on the top edge of the bluff overlooking the river.  His machinery, a turn lathe, was on the first floor and was operated by horse power.  There were two rooms on the second floor, one for hand work on the furniture, which was sold to local people only and the other for the manufacture of coffins.  The coffins were made of seasoned wood and decorated by Buckner's wife when one was ordered at the death of someone.  An open hack pulled by a mare carried the coffin to the house and then to the burial ground.  Wilson Graveyard, Spring Hill and Olive Branch, and what is now known as Mayfield Cemetery were used by the community at this time and all are still in use at the present time.

There was a tan yard at the bottom of the bluff in the early 1860's.  Hides were tanned for the people of the town before the Civil War.  Every house had at least one carcass a year for home use.  Such things as sheep skin rugs were made from the hides.

A factory which did the woodwork for wagons and plows was located in the edge of town on the Eaton and Yorkville Road.  This factory was owned and operated by Bob Petty and son.  A blacksmith shop was beside the factory.  Hardware was made here to be bolted on the wagons and plows.  The shop was owned by Drury Ingram, but Abe Gutherie, Smith McDearman and two Negro helpers made the hardware.

Eaton was one of the largest shipping points in the county after the Little North Fork of the Forked Deer River at Trenton proved a failure for boats in the second year of the settlement of the county.

After the Civil War, Confederate Captain John R. Dance opened a store of general merchandise in Eaton, taking pay for merchandise in cotton at the end of the season, which he shipped by boat to New Orleans and Memphis.   Dock Howell sold groceries and patent medicines in Eaton at this time also.

Dr. Samuel D. Givens owned a shop building in Eaton which he rented to various business merchants.  The rear of this building was often used as a courtroom.

Eaton had many saloons in the early days.   Jim Clay Turner operated one which was quite prominent.  It had a spectacular front covered with glowing signs.  This front, built in panels, could be removed on special occasions to accommodate large crowds and was a favorite place for the road shows so popular in early river towns.

Sources:  Goodspeed History of Tennessee; Gibson County Past and Present by Frederick Culp and Mrs. Robert E. Ross


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