Robertson County courthouse in Springfield
Location within the U.S. state of Tennessee
Tennessee's location within the U.S.
|Founded||April 9, 1796|
|Named for||James Robertson|
|o Total||476 sq mi (1,230 km2)|
|o Land||476 sq mi (1,230 km2)|
|o Water||0.2 sq mi (0.5 km2) 0.04%%|
| o Estimate |
|o Density||145/sq mi (56/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-6 (Central)|
|o Summer (DST)||UTC-5 (CDT)|
Robertson County is a county located on the central northern border of Tennessee in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population was 66,283. Its county seat is Springfield. The county was named for James Robertson, an explorer, founder of Nashville, and a state senator, who was often called the "Father of Middle Tennessee".
Robertson County is a component of the Nashville-Davidson–Murfreesboro–Franklin, TN Metropolitan Statistical Area. In 2002 Howard Bradley became the mayor of Robertson County. Bradley was re-elected and served as Mayor until 2018, when he was succeeded by Billy Vogle, the current incumbent.
This was part of the Miro District (also spelled Mero), named after the Spanish Governor Esteban Rodríguez Miró of what was then Louisiana on the west side of the Mississippi River. Miró had served with Spanish troops that assisted the Americans during their war for independence. James Robertson, the explorer for whom this county was named, was trying to create an alliance with Miró that would allow free movement on the Mississippi River (which Spain controlled) to settlers on the Cumberland frontier. Before statehood, this territory was known as Tennessee County.
It was organized as Robertson County in 1796, at the same time as Montgomery County, which had also been part of the Miro district. The county seat, Springfield, Tennessee, was laid out in 1798. Although initially most settlers did not hold slaves, by the 1820s planters began to cultivate tobacco, a commodity crop that was labor intensive and depended on enslaved African Americans. The planters bought slaves to work their plantations, as well as to care for the livestock they bred - thoroughbred horses and cattle.
By the time of the Civil War, African Americans comprised about one-quarter of the area's population, typical for Middle Tennessee, where tobacco and hemp were commodity crops. During the Civil War, Tennessee was occupied by the Union from 1862, which led to a breakdown in social organization in Middle Tennessee.
During the Reconstruction era after the war, Confederate veterans in Pulaski, Tennessee started the Ku Klux Klan, a secret, insurgent paramilitary group. Chapters developed throughout the state and the South. They attacked freedmen and their sympathizers, working to suppress teachers of black students, the mobility of blacks and, after enfranchisement of African-American men, Republican voting by both freedmen and whites. The KKK was largely suppressed in the early 1870s by Federal law and enforcement, but other insurgent groups arose in many areas of the South. These included the White League in Louisiana, and the Red Shirts in Mississippi and the Carolinas.
This county and much of the region continued to have an agricultural economy during the late 19th century and into the 20th century, with tobacco the chief crop. Although white conservative Democrats had political control over Robertson County, violence against freedmen continued after Reconstruction in order to enforce white supremacy across society.
According to Goodspeed's History of Tennessee (1886), whites arrested nine black men and lynched seven of them in retaliation for the murder on August 30, 1880 of L.S. La Prade, a white man living alone near Sadlersville (on the western edge of Robertson County). Jack Bell and Arch Jamison were arrested quickly and taken to the Robertson County jail in Springfield. Without trial, the two African Americans were taken by a white mob on September 11, 1880 and hanged in a nearby grove. The sheriff soon arrested seven more African-American men for La Prade's murder. They were scheduled for trial at the circuit court in February 1881. Two men, William Murphy and Andrew Duffy, turned state's evidence and were released.
During the trial, on February 14, 1881, a mob of 25-30 white men threatened to take the five remaining defendants from jail but were dissuaded. Four days later, however, while the prisoners were being taken from the courtroom (and no verdict had yet been reached), a white mob overcame the guards, took the men and hanged them from the east side of the courthouse balcony. Jim Elder, Jim Higgins, Bob Thweat, Lum Small, and Sock Mallory were all murdered without benefit of trial. There were four additional lynchings of blacks in the county, mostly around the start of the 20th century. Robertson County had the fourth-highest number of lynchings in the state.
By 1910 the county's population was 25,466, including 6,492 black citizens, who continued to make up one-quarter of the total. Most of the residents were still involved in farm work, and tobacco was the primary commodity crop, but agricultural mechanization was reducing the need for laborers. White conservative Democrats had tried to restrict black voting; other southern states had totally excluded blacks from the political process. Many African Americans left rural Robertson County and other parts of Tennessee in the Great Migration to northern and midwestern cities for employment and social freedom. Combined with later in-migration of whites to the county, by the early 21st century, African Americans comprised less than 10 percent of the county population. They live chiefly in its larger towns.
As of the census of 2000, there were 54,433 people, 19,906 households, and 15,447 families residing in the county. The population density was 114 people per square mile (44/km2). There were 20,995 housing units at an average density of 44 per square mile (17/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 89.13% White, 8.62% Black or African American, 0.28% Native American, 0.31% Asian, 0.02% Pacific Islander, 0.83% from other races, and 0.80% from two or more races. 2.66% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
In 2005 the racial makeup of the county was 85.4% non-Hispanic whites, 8.3% African Americans, and 5.3% Latinos.
There were 19,906 households, out of which 37.40% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 61.90% were married couples living together, 11.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 22.40% were non-families. 18.60% of all households were made up of individuals, and 7.50% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.71 and the average family size was 3.06.
In the county, the population was spread out, with 26.80% under the age of 18, 8.50% from 18 to 24, 31.40% from 25 to 44, 22.50% from 45 to 64, and 10.80% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 35 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.80 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 95.70 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $43,174, and the median income for a family was $49,412. Males had a median income of $34,895 versus $24,086 for females. The per capita income for the county was $19,054. About 6.40% of families and 9.00% of the population were below the poverty line, including 10.90% of those under age 18 and 13.10% of those age 65 or over.
Interstate 65 runs along the eastern border of the county for about 20 miles (32 km), and Interstate 24 runs along the southwestern border of the county for about 10 miles (16 km). U.S. Routes 41 and 431 run through the county, intersecting and briefly forming a concurrency in Springfield. Major state routes include 25, 49, 52, 76, and 109. Secondary state routes in Robertson County include 161, 256, and 257.