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Joseph McMinn 1758-1824

Updated: Jun 30, 2022

County's Namesake - Joseph McMinn

Born to Quaker parents June 22, 1758 in Pennsylvania, Joseph McMinn at age sixteen took refuge from the Continental Army with the Cherokee Indians. He became their emissary and this was the beginning of a lifetime of public service.

“His honesty and integrity were undisputed.”

Married, farmer and business man near Rogersville, Governor Blount chose him to represent Hawkins County in the Legislature and commissioned him Lieutenant in the militia. Joseph McMinn helped draft the first Constitution of the state, insistent that a "Bill of Rights" be included. He carried the proposed Constitution to President George Washington.

McMinn as Governor

He served in eight General Assemblies, as speaker three times. He chaired the committee to "prepare a motto and seal" for the State of Tennessee which is still used today. Elected Governor of Tennessee in 1815, he was so popular with the people he was re-elected in 1817 and 1819. Under his governorship, West Tennessee was settled, the first state penitentiary was established, education was promoted and the Hiwassee Purchase was made. The land would become Hamilton, Bradley, McMinn and Monroe Counties, all organized in 1819. It was only fitting that one county should be named McMinn.

McMinn as Cherokee Agent

Retiring as governor in 1821, he became Agent to the Cherokees and was a close mentor and friend of sub Agent to the Cherokees and later governor, Sam Houston. He lived in Calhoun and was a member of the Presbyterian Church. he died suddenly, at his desk, on October 17, 1824. He was buried in the cemetery of the Presbyterian Church at Calhoun. Four historic markers in McMinn County pertain to Joseph McMinn's important role in McMinn County. With all of his achievements, perhaps his greatest honor was expressed in a statement make of him: "His honesty and integrity were undisputed".


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