Fayette County in Tennessee has a population of about 39,000 people who are proud to call it home. Named after the American Revolution French hero, Marquis de la Fayette, the area is part of the Mississippi Delta. The area engulfs Memphis, TN-MS-AR Metropolitan Statistical Area. The county seat is Somerville.
Fayette County is oozing with history, both good and bad. In the nineteenth century, it was overflowing with cotton plantations which were dependent on slaves to labor them. Through the days of the ever-prosperous antebellum cotton trading to the Civil War days, the area has definitely seen its ups and downs.
Cotton and corn were plentiful in the early days of the county. But, when the Civil War broke out and eventually freed them, there were few to farm them. Some of the freed slaves stayed on, though. They lived in tent cities and became paid laborers. Although crops did continue to produce, the area would never be as wealthy as it once was in the historical days of the plantations.
The county was established on September 29, 1824. The settlement itself dates back to 1820. It was named in honor of the French statesman and general, Marquis de Lafayette who was an American Revolution hero.
The invention of the cotton gin, the introduction of soy bean farming on the fertile land and agricultural diversification has kept Fayette County on the map where farming is concerned. The economy, however, has taken quite a turn.
On the western side, the economy is widely based in agriculture. A handful of large farmers control the wealth there for the most part. Most are the remnants of the pre-Civil War farm families.
Horse farms and horse racing took up much of the slack agricultural farming left. The area is rich in rolling grassy hills which is perfect for horse grazing.
Fayette County is overflowing with farms. The average size is around 300 acres. Although it remains largely rural, signs of change are evident.
In recent years, there has been an influx in the building of upscale homes in Fayette County. With their next-door neighbor Shelby County’s job market, the county offers affordable, yet nice, housing for far less than its counterpart.
Church has always played an important role in the county’s heritage. In 1829, the First Presbyterian Church in Somerville was establish. In 1932, Immanuel Parish in LaGrange followed and is the oldest West Tennessee Episcopal church.
The great outdoors is appreciated in the county. Wolf River meanders through the southern county parts. It is a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts and is hailed as being a national treasure. Cypress-studded swampland and vast forests are protected for conservation. The Wolf River Wildlife Management Area, the William B. Clark conservation area, Herb Parsons Lake and the Ghost River State Natural Area are huge tourist attractions.
Hunting is big in the area too. World champion rifle shooter, Herb Parsons, is the namesake of the Herb Parsons Lake. The bird dog National Field Trials is held annually on the land of the historic Ames Plantation in the southeast section of the county.
Tourism is popular in Fayette County. There are many things to appreciate in the area from sightseeing and touring the old homes sprinkled across the land, checking out the working horse farms to enjoying the outdoors. Visiting Civil War sites is a big attraction too.
The Fayette County Fair usually takes place at the end of July and beginning of August. Like so much of the county, it too has a history. Once called “Old Field Days”, the fair was first help on the Edward Higbee and O.W. Rittenhouse farms. The events were typically sponsored by progressive farmers. The farmers were organized by the county extension then became officially named as the Fayette County Agricultural Improvement Agency in 1955.
A sizeable piece of land was purchased for the event. The fair evolved by adding a carnival and amusement rides and games. Local 4-H Clubs, exhibitors, vendors, thrill shows and musical acts make the annual legendary attraction one that the locals love and visitors travel from near and far to attend.
Some of the most notable people who have hailed from the county include Elizabeth Bolen, who was the world’s oldest living person in the year 2006 and W. Herbert Brewster, a very influential African American Baptist preacher, poet, singer, composer, community leader and dramatist. William L. Wainwright, the distinguished North Carolina politician and the territorial governor of Hawaii, Ingram Stainback, were also locals.
Fayette County is comprised of 705 square miles, 1.5 square miles of which is water. It is the third largest county in the state. The cities and towns that make up the county are: Braden, Gallaway, La Grange, Moscow, Oakland, Piperton, Rossville, Somerville and Williston.
Traditionally, the county was Democrat. The Democrat John Shelton Wilder from Longtown holds a record-breaking tenure as being in office as the Speaker of the House and lieutenant governor since 1966. In recent years, however, the area has shifted and now leans to favor the Republican Party.
The current county mayor is Rhea (Skip) Taylor. He has a legislative body referred to as the “Board of County Commissioners” which consists of nineteen people. The election for the board members and the mayor takes place every four years.
The county has a population of 38,413 at the last census. Of the current population, 19,047 are males and 19,366 are female. The median age is 41. There are around 14,500 homes. The typical commute to work is around 30 minutes with many working in the Shelby County area.
Fayette County is on the upswing and is steadily growing, at a rate of 53.23% since 2000. A number of factors account for that fact. The cost of living is lower than average by 9.20%. The employment outlook is positive too.
The beautiful, bountiful area of Fayette County is rich in history, agriculture and new developments within the economy. It is a welcoming land of opportunity for the locals who reside there and those who would like to.