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Weakley County

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Weakley County is located on the Plateau Slope of West Tennessee. The north, middle, and south forks of the Obion River and its tributaries drain the land westward to the Mississippi River. It is bounded on the north by the state of Kentucky, on the east by Henry County, on the south by Carroll and Gibson counties, and on the west by Obion County. Weakley County was established October 23, 1823, and named for Robert Weakley II, Speaker of the Tennessee Senate.

Weakley County’s first agricultural crop was corn, and by 1880 it was the state’s largest corn-producing county. An abundance of corn led to increased production of cattle and hogs. Pioneer farmers engaged in cotton production as soon as the land was cleared, but county farmers steadily reduced the cotton acreage in the late nineteenth century. Since 1960 soybeans have taken the place of cotton in agricultural production and now rank as the county’s leading crop. The first tobacco crop was planted in 1832. In 1980 Weakley County farmers planted 138 acres of type-22 western dark-fired tobacco. Sweet potatoes had become a major crop by 1850, with 45,180 bushels produced. Almost a century later, in 1944, Weakley County ranked tenth in national production. 

Weakley County has five incorporated towns: Dresden, Martin, Greenfield, Sharon, and Gleason. Dresden, the county seat, was incorporated in 1827  and was the home of the forty-sixth governor of Tennessee, the Honorable Ned R. McWherter.

Martin was incorporated in 1874, and has long sustained a reputation for its educational facilities. In addition to public schools, the town was the home to two denominational academies, McFerrin and Hall-Moody, the latter evolving into the University of Tennessee at Martin by 1967..

Incorporated in 1880 was Greenfield with Sharon being incorporated in 1901.

Gleason, incorporated in 1871, was known as “Tater Town” because of the large shipments of sweet potatoes that once originated there, the town post office has a New Deal period mural depicting the sweet potato industry. The town is now the ball clay mining center of the world. Five major companies ship clay used for china, brick, and tile.

Notable citizens, in addition to former governor McWherter, include U.S. Congressman and State Senator Emerson Etheridge (1819-1902) and Finis J. Garrett (1875-1956), editor, educator, congressman, and chief justice of U.S. Court of Customs and Patent Appeals. Another native of Weakley County is Mike Snider, a country humorist, Grand Ole Opry member, and star of the television series Hee Haw, who often invokes scenes and stories from Gleason in his routines.