Shelbyville and Bedford County History Facts


Shelbyville was named for a war hero. The act establishing a county seat for Bedford County called for a town named Shelbyville to be located and laid off by appointed commissioners. According to an old tradition and some written references, however, the small congregation of cabins around the Big Spring was called Selby's Ville very early.The man who gave his name to our now prosperous city was Issac Shelby, a hero of the Revolutionary War, later to serve as governor of Kentucky, and was a leader in developing agriculture in Tennessee and Kentucky.

U.S. 231- One of the oldest roads in Bedford County is the Shelbyville to Murfreesboro Road. Now U.S. 231,a nice four lane highway, the road was once known as Dixie Highway.

Shelbyville has been accustomed to misfortune throughout its history.

A tornado, locally known as the "Big Storm" hit in May of 1830 demolishing the town and killing five persons; three years later. Asiatic cholera decimated the population; 1902 saw a flood with much damage and suffering; twice the courthouse has burned in times of insurrection or riot.

Mr. H.R. Hubner, Third Ohio volunteers, states, "Shelbyville is the county seat of Bedford County, in Middle Tennessee. It is not only noted for its beauty, but for the loyalty of its inhabitants. Shelbyville stands alone in the rebel states true to the Union. To the Federal soldier, on his march through the rebellious States, Shelbyville is like an oasis to a traveler in a great desert. the kind hospitality of the citizens of Shelbyville will never be forgotten by the Union soldier whose good fortune it has been to enter the place."

In the summer of 1920, an imprompt, but important political conference took place in Shelbyville late one evening in the corner of a hotel lobby. Tennessee leaders of Women Suffrage and a representative of Carrie Chapman Catt had intercepted Gov. A.H. Roberts and some legislative advisors as they were returning from Lynchburg, and had persuaded the governor to let them talk with him there. Consideration of the Susan B. Anthony amendment (the 19th) to the United States Constitution was to come before the state legislature and up to that time, Governor Roberts had not committed himself for or against it. During this meeting in the hotel, his support was won and he initiated and agreement to endorse ratification. Tennessee became the 36th state to ratify the amendment and women gained the right to vote.

The educational building of the First Christian Church, the former Sandusky home on Madison Street, opened in 1924 as Shelbyville's first hospital. It had 25 beds.

The prestigious event, The Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, began as a three-day horse show in 1939.

In 1890, Shelbyville became the center for the manufacture of cedar products due to the abundance of Tennessee Red Cedar and by 1916 the manufacture of cedar slats for pencils. Following World War I, machinery was purchased and brought here from Germany for the manufacture of the complete pencil, the first manufacturer of complete pencils in the South.

Governor Prentice Cooper, Tennessee's governor from 1939 to 1945, was from Shelbyville. Gov. Sunquist, Tennessee's present governor, resided in Shelbyville from the early 1960's until the summer of 1970.

One of Tennessee's oldest college preparatory schools, Webb School,in Bell Buckle was founded in 1870. It is located in Bedford County. Well-known graduates of the Webb School include the late Tennessee Gov. Prentice Cooper, actor Wayne Roberts of MASH fame, and an editor of Time Magazine, Charles Alexander. Other communities in Bedford County are Unionville and Wartrace.