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Sullivan County, Tennessee facts for kids

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Sullivan County
County of Sullivan
Sullivan County Courthouse in Blountville
Sullivan County Courthouse in Blountville
Map of Tennessee highlighting Sullivan 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 1779
Named for General John Sullivan
Seat Blountville
Largest city Kingsport
 • Total 430 sq mi (1,100 km2)
 • Land 413 sq mi (1,070 km2)
 • Water 16 sq mi (40 km2)  3.8%%
 • Total 158,163 Increase
 • Density 379/sq mi (146/km2)
Time zone UTC−5 (Eastern)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−4 (EDT)
Congressional district 1st

Sullivan County is a county located in the U.S. state of Tennessee on its northeast border. As of the 2020 census, the population was 158,163. Its county seat is Blountville.

Sullivan County is part of the KingsportJohnson CityBristol, TN-VA Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is a component of the KingsportJohnson CityBristol, TN-VA Combined Statistical Area, commonly known as the "Tri-Cities" region.

Sullivan is Tennessee's second-oldest county; it was established in 1779 when the area was still part of North Carolina. From 1784 to 1788, it was part of the extra-legal State of Franklin.


Sullivan County was created in 1779 from a portion of Washington County, and named for John Sullivan, a general in the Revolutionary War. Long Island of the Holston in Kingsport had been an important landmark for the Cherokee. The island was the site of Fort Robinson, constructed in 1761 following the fall of Fort Loudoun further to the south, making the Sullivan area one of the earliest settled areas of Tennessee.

Sullivan County was one of the few East Tennessee counties to support secession on the eve of the Civil War. In Tennessee's June 1861 referendum, the county voted 1,586 to 627 in favor of secession.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 430 square miles (1,100 km2), of which 413 square miles (1,070 km2) is land and 16 square miles (41 km2) (3.8%) is water. The western portion of the county lies within the Ridge-and-Valley Appalachians, which are characterized by long, narrow ridges roughly oriented northeast-to-southwest. The northeastern end of Bays Mountain, part of the Ridge-and-Valley range, rises southwest of Kingsport. The eastern portion of the county lies within the Blue Ridge Mountains. Holston Mountain, which at 4,284 feet (1,306 m) is the highest point in Sullivan, straddles the county's eastern boundary with Johnson County.

In Kingsport, the South Fork Holston River and the North Fork Holston River join to form the Holston River, one of the tributaries of the Tennessee River. The Watauga River, a tributary of the South Fork Holston, forms part of Sullivan's boundary with Washington County to the south. The North Fork Holston forms part of Sullivan's boundary with Hawkins County to the west. Fort Patrick Henry Dam and Boone Dam both create large artificial lakes along the South Fork Holston southeast of Kingsport.

Blountville, Sullivan's county seat, is Tennessee's only unincorporated county seat.

Morrell Cave

Morrell Cave (also known as Worleys Cave) is a Tennessee State Natural Area. The cave has a surveyed length of 4.4 miles (7.1 km), making it the second longest cave in East Tennessee and the 177th longest cave in the United States. Morrell Cave is located on the south side of the Holston River, 2.5 miles (4.0 km) east of Bluff City. During the Civil War, the cave was a major source of saltpeter, the main ingredient of gunpowder. Significant evidence of this mining activity remains in the cave, including evidence of large amounts of saltpeter-bearing dirt that were removed, pick marks in the dirt, and an elaborate system of trails used by the miners. Cave historian Marion O. Smith has determined that there were two companies of the Confederate Nitre and Mining Bureau, District No. 7, that were active in Sullivan County.

Adjacent counties and independent city

National protected areas

State protected areas

Other protected areas

Major Highways

  • I-26
  • I-81
  • US 11E / US 19 / SR 34
  • US 11W / SR 1
  • US 19E
  • US 421
  • SR 44
  • SR 93
  • SR 126
  • SR 394
  • SR 394


Historical population
Census Pop.
1800 10,218
1810 6,847 −33.0%
1820 7,015 2.5%
1830 10,073 43.6%
1840 10,736 6.6%
1850 11,742 9.4%
1860 13,552 15.4%
1870 13,136 −3.1%
1880 18,321 39.5%
1890 20,879 14.0%
1900 24,935 19.4%
1910 28,120 12.8%
1920 36,259 28.9%
1930 51,087 40.9%
1940 69,085 35.2%
1950 95,063 37.6%
1960 114,139 20.1%
1970 127,329 11.6%
1980 143,968 13.1%
1990 143,596 −0.3%
2000 153,048 6.6%
2010 156,823 2.5%
2020 158,163 0.9%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2019
USA Sullivan County, Tennessee.csv age pyramid
Age pyramid Sullivan County

2020 census

Sullivan County racial composition
Race Number Percentage
White (non-Hispanic) 143,354 90.64%
Black or African American (non-Hispanic) 3,197 2.02%
Native American 350 0.22%
Asian 1,270 0.8%
Pacific Islander 36 0.02%
Other/Mixed 6,408 4.05%
Hispanic or Latino 3,548 2.24%

As of the 2020 United States census, there were 158,163 people, 68,560 households, and 44,284 families residing in the county.

2010 census

As of the 2010 United States Census, there were 156,281 people living in the county. 95.5% were White, 0.6% Black or African American, 0.4% Asian, 0.2% Native American, 2.2% of some other race and 1.0% of two or more races. 4.8% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race).



Census-designated places

Unincorporated communities

Notable people

Black History Month on Kiddle
African-American female entrepreneurs
Madam C. J. Walker
Janet Emerson Bashen
Annie Turnbo Malone
Maggie L. Walker
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