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Knox County, Tennessee facts for kids

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Knox County
County of Knox
Knox County Courthouse
Official seal of Knox County
Map of Tennessee highlighting Knox County
Location within the U.S. state of Tennessee
Map of the United States highlighting Tennessee
Tennessee's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Tennessee
Founded June 11, 1792
Named for Henry Knox
Seat Knoxville
Largest city Knoxville
 • Total 526 sq mi (1,360 km2)
 • Land 508 sq mi (1,320 km2)
 • Water 18 sq mi (50 km2)  3.5%
 • Total 478,971 Increase
 • Density 850/sq mi (330/km2)
Congressional district 2nd

Knox County is located in the U.S. state of Tennessee. As of the 2020 census, the population was 478,971, making it the third-most populous county in Tennessee. Its county seat is Knoxville, which is the third-most populous city in Tennessee.

Knox County is included in the Knoxville metropolitan area. The county is located at the geographical center of the Great Valley of East Tennessee. Near the heart of the county is the origin of the Tennessee River, at the confluence of the Holston and French Broad rivers.


Knox County was created on June 11, 1792, by Governor William Blount from parts of Greene and Hawkins counties, one of the few counties created when the state was still known as the Southwest Territory. It is one of nine United States counties named for American Revolutionary War general and first United States Secretary of War Henry Knox. Parts of Knox County later became Blount (1795), Anderson (1801), Roane (1801), and Union (1850) counties.

In 1783, an expedition into the Upper Tennessee Valley led by James White and Francis Alexander Ramsey explored what is now Knox County. White moved to what is now the Riverdale community in the eastern part of the county in 1785, and the following year constructed a fort a few miles to the west that would evolve into the city of Knoxville. Blount chose the fort as the capital of the Southwest Territory in 1790, and gave the new town the name "Knoxville" after his superior, Henry Knox.

Blount began construction of his house, Blount Mansion, in the early 1790s. The house still stands in downtown Knoxville. The Alexander McMillan House, built in the mid-1780s by Alexander McMillan (1749–1837), still stands in eastern Knox County. The Alexander Bishop House, built by Stockley Donelson in 1793, and a log house built in the same year by Nicholas Gibbs, both still stand in the northern part of the county. Campbell's Station, a fort and stagecoach stop located in what is now Farragut, was built by Captain David Campbell (1753–1832) in 1787. John Sevier established a plantation, known as Marble Springs, in the southern part of the county in the 1790s.

Civil War

View from the south bank of the Tennessee River by Union photographer George C. Barnard after the end of the Siege of Knoxville, December 1863. Source: Library of Congress

Knox County's strategic location along important railroad lines made it an area coveted by both Union and Confederate forces throughout the Civil War. Since the mountainous terrain of East Tennessee was mostly unsuitable for plantation crops such as cotton, slavery was not as prevalent as it was in Middle and West Tennessee - an 1860 census of Knox County showed a population of 20,020 white citizens and just 2,370 enslaved African Americans. The lack of slavery combined with the vestiges of a once strong abolitionist movement in the region were two of the reasons that Knox County, along with much of East Tennessee, contained a great deal of pro-Union sentiment. In February 1861, 89% of Knox Countians voted for the pro-Union ballot in a statewide referendum on secession. On June 8, 1861, the county voted against Tennessee's Ordinance of Secession by a margin of 3,108 to 1,226.

Prior to secession, Unionists from Knox County collaborated with other East Tennessee Unionists in an attempt to secede from Tennessee itself and remain part of the Union. Oliver Perry Temple, a Knoxville lawyer, was named to a 3-man commission to appear before the General Assembly in Nashville and request East Tennessee and pro-Union Middle Tennessee counties be allowed to secede from the state. The attempt failed. Knox County joined the Confederacy along with the rest of Tennessee after the second referendum for secession passed in 1861.

Knox County remained under Confederate control until September 3, 1863, when General Ambrose Burnside and the Union army marched into Knoxville unopposed. Union Colonel William Harris, son of New York Senator Ira Harris, wrote his father:

'Glory be to God, the Yankees have come! The flag's come back to Tennessee!' Such were the welcomes all along the road, as we entered Knoxville, it was past all description. The people seemed frantic with joy. I never knew what the Love of Liberty was before. The old flag has been hidden in mattresses and under carpets. It now floats to the breeze at every staff in East Tennessee. Ladies wear it -- carry it -- wave it! Little children clap their hands and kiss it.

With the success of Burnside's troops in the Knoxville Campaign, and especially during the decisive Battle of Fort Sanders, Knox County remained under Union control for the duration of the Civil War.

Tennessee marble

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Knox County played an important role in the quarrying and finishing of Tennessee marble, a type of limestone used in monument construction across the United States and Canada. Eleven quarries were operating in Knox County in 1882, and within ten years that number had doubled. Notable quarries in Knox included the Bond Quarry in Concord, an Evans Company quarry near Forks-of-the-River, and the Ross-Republic quarries near Island Home Park in South Knoxville. Finishing centers were located in Lonsdale and at the Candoro Marble Works in South Knoxville.


House Mountain, Knox County's high point, viewed from Emory Road, near the Knox-Grainger line

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 526 square miles (1,360 km2), of which 508 square miles (1,320 km2) is land and 18 square miles (47 km2) (3.4%) is water. The county lies amidst the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians, which are characterized by long, narrow ridges, oriented northeast-to-southwest, alternating with similarly-shaped valleys. Notable ridges in the county include Bays Mountain, McAnnally Ridge, Beaver Ridge, Sharp's Ridge and Copper Ridge. House Mountain, at 2,064 feet (629 m), is the county's highest point, and is the focus of a state natural area.

The Holston and French Broad rivers join to form the Tennessee River in the eastern part of the county, an area known as "Forks-of-the-River." This section of the river is part of Fort Loudoun Lake, which is created by Fort Loudoun Dam several miles downstream in Lenoir City.

Cherokee Caverns

Cherokee Caverns is located 14 miles west of Knoxville on Highway 62. It was discovered in 1854 by Robert Crudgington who noticed fog emerging between rocks on his farm. He dug the entrance open and explored the cave. His daughter Margaret Crudgington opened the cave to the public in 1929 under the name Gentrys Cave, then changed the name to Grand Caverns in 1930. The cave has been open to the public, sporadically, ever since, under a variety of names. The name currently in use is Cherokee Caverns.

Indian artifacts located in the cave indicate that another entrance to the cave existed at some time in the past.

Adjacent counties

State protected areas


Historical population
Census Pop.
1800 12,446
1810 10,171 −18.3%
1820 13,034 28.1%
1830 14,498 11.2%
1840 15,485 6.8%
1850 18,807 21.5%
1860 22,813 21.3%
1870 28,990 27.1%
1880 39,124 35.0%
1890 59,557 52.2%
1900 74,302 24.8%
1910 94,187 26.8%
1920 112,926 19.9%
1930 155,902 38.1%
1940 178,468 14.5%
1950 223,007 25.0%
1960 250,523 12.3%
1970 276,293 10.3%
1980 319,694 15.7%
1990 335,749 5.0%
2000 382,032 13.8%
2010 432,226 13.1%
2020 478,971 10.8%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790–1960 1900–1990
1990–2000 2010–2014
USA Knox County, Tennessee.csv age pyramid
Age pyramid Knox County

2010 census

As of the census of 2010, there were 432,226 people, 177,249 households, and 110,757 families residing in the county. The population density was 821.72 persons per square mile. The average housing unit density was 348.92 units per square mile. The racial makeup of the county was 86.78% White, 8.8% Black or African American, 0.29% Native American, 1.87% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, and 1.91% multiracial. Hispanics and/or Latinos (of any race) were 3.47% of the population.

Out of all the households, 29.68% had children under the age of 18 living in them, 47.04% were family households, 3.95% had a male householder with no wife present, 11.49% had a female householder with no husband present, and 37.51% were non families. 29.65% of all households were made up of individuals living alone, and 9.14% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.37 and the average family size was 2.95.

21.86% of the population was under the age of 18, 65.07% from ages 18 to 64, and 13.05% aged 65 and older. The median age was 37.2 years. 51.39% of the population was female, and 48.61% was male.

The median household income was estimated to be $52,458, and the per capita income was estimated to be $30,541. Approximately 13.5% of the population was below the poverty line.

2020 census

Knox County racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 392,756 82.00%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 39,853 8.32%
Native American 1,079 0.23%
Asian 11,881 2.48%
Pacific Islander 300 0.06%
Other/Mixed 23,500 4.91%
Hispanic or Latino 28,568 5.96%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 478,971 people, 191,925 households, and 118,160 families residing in the county.


Mass transportation

Knoxville Area Transit provides city bus service, while McGhee Tyson Airport features a variety of regional flights to Midwestern and Southern cities.

Major highways

  • Future I-3
  • I-40
  • I-75
  • I-140
  • I-275
  • I-640
  • US 11
  • US 11E
  • US 11W
  • US 25W
  • US 70 (Kingston Pike)
  • US 129
  • US 441
  • SR 1
  • SR 7
  • SR 9
  • SR 33
  • SR 34
  • SR 61
  • SR 62
  • SR 71
  • SR 115
  • SR 131
  • SR 158
  • SR 162
  • SR 168
  • SR 169
  • SR 170
  • SR 331
  • SR 332




Census-designated place

Unincorporated communities

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Knox (Tennessee) para niños

National Hispanic Heritage Month on Kiddle
Legendary Hispanic musicians
Carlos Santana
Ricky Martin
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