Cookeville History

Many of the first settlers in what would become Putnam County came from Virginia and North Carolina via the Walton Road in the late 1700s and the early 1800s. Most of these settlers were of English and Scotch-Irish descent. Development of the area was slow, as Putnam County was not established until 1842. The county was formed from portions of White, Overton, Jackson, Smith, and DeKalb Counties. Due to questions regarding the legality of the original establishment, the county was re-established by the General Assembly in 1854 as the eightieth county in the state. The county was named in the honor of Israel Putnam, a general in the Revolutionary Army. Also in 1854 the land for the establishment of a county seat was purchased from Charles Crook. Cookeville was named for Major Richard F. Cooke, a Tennessee Senator who was active in the formation of the county. In February of 1856, the Tennessee General Assembly passed a bill to incorporate the town of Cookeville.  The 1856 incorporation of Cookeville remained in effect for approximately 25 years and until after the passage of the Temperance Act known as the "Four Mile Law" which prohibited the sale of whiskey within four miles of a schoolhouse in unincorporated areas. At that time the citizens of Cookeville in an effort to rid the town of saloons, repealed the incorporation act. The later passage of an Act known as "Adams Law" gave the voters of incorporated towns the right to prevent the sale of whiskey, at which time Cookeville sought reincorporation by Act of the General Assembly passed in April 1903, and has remained incorporated since.  (From Putnam County, Tennessee 1850 to 1970 by Mary Jean Delozier)

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Major Historical Events

According to the Cookeville 2030 Plan (PDF), major historical events affecting development in the City of Cookeville include:

  • 1890: The Nashville and Knoxville Railroad was completed.
  • 1903: A basic charter for the City of Cookeville was adopted under a private act of the State of Tennessee.
  • 1905: The Cookeville Light and Water Department was organized and electric power was first provided to the city.
  • 1909: Dixie College was established. It became Tennessee Polytechnic Institute in 1915 and Tennessee Technological University in 1965.
  • 1930: Highway 70N, the first modern highway in Putnam County, was completed.
  • 1946: The city’s first water filtration facility was constructed on the Falling Water River.
  • 1950: Cookeville General Hospital was opened.
  • 1952: The city’s first sewage disposal plant was constructed.
  • 1966: Interstate 40 was completed.
  • Late 1980s: State Highway 111 was completed.


View an album of historic Cookevile.

City of Cookeville Video