Along The Byway
The Tennessee General Assembly chartered Smith County on October 26, 1799.
Smith County Area Chamber of Commerce
939 Upper Ferry Rd.
Carthage, TN 37030
Starting at the westernmost Byway terminus in Carthage—where Walton himself lived and is now buried—the route makes a loop. Visitors choosing to travel south on Main Street in Carthage will cross the National Register Listed Cordell Hull Bridge on Old State Highway 25—leading them into South Carthage. Immediately after crossing the bridge, the Byway continues to the left onto TN 24/US 70N/Cookeville Hwy through South Carthage, intersecting with the South Carthage Rail Trail at S Main Street/Old State Highway 53 and continuing on US 70N to the Smith/Putnam County line. Alternatively, visitors in Carthage may choose to follow Upper Ferry Road from Main Street in Carthage, as this will take them to the Walton Cemetery and Walton
Smith County Heritage Museum in Carthage
Landing—a historic Walton Road trace where pioneers would take the ferry to cross the Cumberland River. From Upper Ferry Road, the Byway travels across the TN Route 25/Gordonsville Highway bridge offering views of the Cumberland River and the Caney Fork until it meets US 70N/TN 24/Cookeville Highway.
The Tennessee General Assembly chartered Smith County on October 26, 1799, taking land from Sumner County. The county takes its name from General Daniel Smith, a Revolutionary War veteran and land surveyor. Pioneers to Smith County were of Scots-Irish, English, and German heritage. Early settlers here included Revolutionary War veterans Tilman Dixon and William Walton. A contest for locating the county seat occurred in 1804, with the “polecats” supporting a site near Dixon Springs, while the “moccasin gang” supported a site on William Walton’s land. Ultimately, Walton’s favored site was chosen, making Carthage the seat of Smith County. The town became an important river port during the steamboat era.
The topography of Smith County varies from the relatively even surface of the central basin to the ascent of the Highland Rim to the north and east. Settlers found the soil was fertile, and early crops included tobacco, cotton, and bluegrass pasture for livestock. Smith County’s population in 1860 was 16,457, of who more than a quarter were slaves. Disruption from the Civil War and the taking of some Smith County land for the creation of Trousdale County did not deter the growth of Smith County’s population. By 1880, 17,893 people lived in the county.
By the late 1880s, Carthage had approximately 400 citizens. This number had declined from as high as 700 in 1830, as other towns were established along the river. The river was the primary means of transporting Smith County produce prior to the war.
Smith County Heritage Museum in Carthage
Smith County continued to rely on an agricultural economy into the twentieth century. Businesses included distilleries, mills, tanneries, and saltpeter mines, as well as crops. In the 1960s, the building of Cordell Hull Dam and the subsequent inundation of some Smith County river towns changed the landscape and resulted in the development of industrial plants. However, the county has largely retained its rural landscape, and its population has increased very little since the turn of the twentieth century. In 2010, the county population was 19,166, a number that includes 2,306 residents of Carthage.
Battery Knob Earthworks
This Civil War fort was erected in 1863 by the Union army to defend the Cumberland River crossing at Carthage. It is presently on private land and is not accessible to the public.
Carthage United Methodist Church
The Carthage United Methodist Church is a Victorian Gothic church building on Main Street and was built in 1889. It continues to have an active and vibrant congregation.
The Cullum Mansion is a two-story Greek Revival style dwelling built in 1848. It is sited on a prominent hill east of downtown and retains much of its original character.
The original section of this brick dwelling dates to the early 1800s but it was remodeled into the Italianate style in 1878. Located north of downtown, the house has been well preserved.
Cordell Hull Bridge
The Cordell Hull Bridge is a steel vehicular bridge over the Cumberland River. Erected in 1936, it was listed on the National Register for its engineering significance.
Smith County Courthouse
The Smith County Courthouse is a Second Empire style courthouse building constructed in 1879. No longer used as the courthouse, the building is undergoing rehabilitation as a museum.
Visitor Sites & Attractions
Butterfly Hollow Bed and Breakfast Retreat
Smith County Heritage Museum
South Carthage Rail Trail
Walton Cemetery/Grave Site