Cities & Towns
Whiteville, situated in the northwest portion of Hardeman County along US Highway 64, is an ideal "commuter community" for those wishing to escape congested urban areas. A mayor and board of six aldermen, elected every four years, govern Whiteville. Annexations of the Hardeman Correctional Facility and the Whiteville Correction Facility, both located south of town on Mecklinburg Road, resulted in a substantial increase in town population from 1,176 to 4,474 residents. In addition to the two prisons, Whiteville has numerous retail and service businesses, motels, a bakery and other businesses operated by members of their large Mennonite Community, several manufacturers and has welcomed the establishment of the Hardeman County Humane Society. The Tennessee Technology Center at Whiteville provides vocational training and continuing education, as well as employment opportunities for area residents. The city has also developed an industrial park with full city services for potential industries on the south side of town.
The Whiteville Elementary School is still in operation and has received national recognition in recent years for its innovative educational programs and instruction. Whiteville boasts one of the prettiest libraries and community centers in the county, located in the historic home of Mrs. Lee Ola Roberts, who deeded her property to the city when she died in 1960.
Today Whiteville continues to play an integral role in the economic development and growth of Hardeman County, while developing an appreciation for its rich heritage.
Dr. John White moved to Hardeman County from Virginia in the early 1800's and established a trading post in the wilderness. His Whiteville Trading Post was located at the east end of the modern Whiteville street called Norment's Lane. His is one of the earliest known settlements in Hardeman County. Following the signing of a treaty with the Chickasaw Indians in 1818, other settlers began arriving at the Whiteville Post and settled nearby along the banks of Clear Creek. The first stage line passed through the settlement as early as 1821.
By the 1830's, Whiteville had a post office, school, doctors, lawyers, three stores, one hotel, one saloon and a blacksmith shop. In 1844, settler John Bills wrote, "Whiteville is a thriving settlement." In 1856, the Jeffersonian Institute was erected. The school emphasized music and art. In 1928, a gymnasium built in Whiteville, the first in the county, became the site of county basketball tournaments for many years thereafter.
In 1930, the Allen-White High School was established, in honor of Jessie Christopher Allen and James H. White, who served as driving forces for the establishment of a school for Negro students. Allen-White was the only African-American high school in Hardeman County; students came from all over the county to attend, with some boarding.
Many of Hardeman County's most prominent African-American families came from the Whiteville area. Early records indicate the county's first hand-operated merry-go-round inventor and operator, the first jeweler and the first dry cleaning operator were members of Whiteville's African-American community. The community formed its own co-op and soda fountain, had two attorneys, and started the Mid-South Oil Consumer Co-op, the only oil co-op owned by a minority firm in the United States. Dr. Gilbert Shelton, a prominent, well-educated African American Doctor practiced medicine downtown in an office next to the old Post Office. Lane Chapel CME Church, organized about 1900, and the Elcanaan Missionary Baptist Church remain prominent historic churches established by Whiteville's African-American community.
Many beautiful historic homes and buildings remain in Whiteville to attest to its rich past. Visitors will discover of a variety of architectural styles and periods of homes throughout the city, as well as many interesting historical building remaining in the downtown area. One of these homes was used for a portion of the movie "In the Valley of Elah" which stars Tommy Lee Jones and Susan Sarandon.