Lawrence County’s original natives where the Chickasaw Indians. The first recorded encounter with the Chickasaw by Europeans was in 1540, when Henando De Soto encountered them in the eponymous town, “Chicasa.” According to a recent theory, “Chicasa” is present-day Lawrenceburg, Tennessee–the place where Spanish explorer,Hernando De Soto and his men wintered in 1540-1541.
Today, historical records indicate that having crossed the Tennessee River at Muscle Shoals, Hernando De Soto’s army followed an Indian trail up Shoal Creek into Tennessee, through Loretto, and on to Lawrenceburg; forty miles from his army’s crossing place at Muscle Shoals. De Soto rode the distance in one day, on December 17, 1540, under a “bright moon.” It took most of his other horsemen two days to ride the distance. By the time all his army had arrived in present-day Lawrenceburg, it was December 25, 1540. It is recorded that, “they were all there in Chicasa that Christmas Day.”
In 1816, after the signing of treaties with the Chickasaw Indians, the state legislature passed the Private Act of 1817 and “Chicasa” was named Lawrenceburg in honor of American Navel Officer, James Lawrence, a hero of the War of 1812. Lawrence is probably best known today for his dying command, “Don’t give up the ship!,” which is still a popular battle cry.
Lawrenceburg would later be called “the home” of David Crockett. Davy Crockett was perhaps best known in Tennessee as a noted politician, frontiersman, soldier, and for his unique style of backwoods oratory. In Texas, he will always be remembered as a heroic participant in the Battle of the Alamo. Davy Crockett moved from East Tennessee to Lawrenceburg in 1817. Davy established a powder mill in the present-day David Crockett State Park located in Lawrenceburg. Crockett was elected as a commissioner of Lawrenceburg, and served on the board that placed Lawrenceburg four miles west of the center of Lawrence County. Crockett however, was opposed to the city being located in its current location out of fear of flooding. He and his family lived in Lawrenceburg from 1817-1822, before moving to West Tennessee after a flood destroyed his mill in Lawrenceburg.
Lawrenceburg is the home of the famous composer and music teacher, who is known as the “Father of Southern Gospel Music,” James D. Vaughan. In 1900, Vaughan started the James D. Vaughan Music Publishing Company in Lawrenceburg. In 1910, he was the first to establish a professional road traveling quartet. He also founded the Vaughan School of Music in 1911, from which numerous professional gospel performers would study. James D. Vaughan would serve as the Mayor of Lawrenceburg from 1923-1927. In 1997, Vaughan was inducted and memorialized into the “Southern Gospel Music Hall of Fame.” To celebrate the life of James D. Vaughan, Lawrenceburg Main Street sponsors an annual James D. Vaughan Southern Music Gospel Festival, at the Historic Crockett Theater in downtown Lawrenceburg, TN, each July.
Lawrenceburg is also the home of of United States Senator, Fred Dalton Thompson. Thompson represented Tennessee in the Senate from 1994 to 2003. Thompson is not only known for his many Hollywood movie roles and the long running television series “Law and Order,” he is also known as an attorney, lobbyist, radio host, columnist, and author. In 2007, Thompson ran for the Republican nomination as President of the United States in the 2008 election. In 2010, he wrote a book, “Teaching the Pig to Dance: A Memoir of Growing Up and Second Chances.” The book outlines how Thompson became the person he is today by growing up in the town of Lawrenceburg, Tennessee. He recalls in his book about his days in high school, “Teaching Latin to someone like me was like trying to teach a pig to dance. It’s a waste of the teacher’s time and it irritates the pig.”
Lawrenceburg also claims fame to Michael Jeter, an American actor and a native son of Lawrenceburg. His extreme high energy led him to be cast in the Broadway play, Grand Hotel, for which he won a Tony Award in 1990. He would go on to play in Hollywood film roles such as, The Green Mile, Patch Adams, Jurassic Park III, The Polar Express, and the made for television movie, Open Range, starring Robert Duvall and Kevin Costner. Micheal was awarded the Emmy award in 1992 for his role in the television sitcom, Evening Shade, for which he played the character, Herman Stiles, a math teacher and assistant football coach. In dedication to the life and talent of Michael Jeter, two movies were dedicated to his memory; Open Range and The Polar Express.