Created on October 24, 1823, and organized on January 19, 1824, Obion County included what is now Lake County until 1870. The county took its name from the Obion River; the word Obion is thought to be an Indian word meaning “many forks.” Situated in the rolling hills of northwest Tennessee, Obion County has earned the nickname “Land of Green Pastures.”
Historically Obion County has been a region of small farms; in 1860 most farms ranged in size from twenty to fifty acres. Tobacco, corn, and wheat were the principal crops. The population of Obion County increased rapidly in the antebellum years; in 1830 the population numbered just over 2,000, increasing to 12,800 by 1860.
Economic development in the twentieth century rested on manufacturing. In 1923 Brown Shoe Company joined the Canvas Duck Decoy Company and Child’s Specialty House (children’s clothing) as the major industries located in Union City. In 1934 Salant & Salant established shirt manufacturing in that city. In 1968 Goodyear Tire, employing 3,000 workers, came to Union City. The newest industry to locate in Obion County is Tyson Foods, which established a processing plant in 1996. In addition to rail service, Obion County is served by Everett-Stewart Airport, originally a World War II aviation training field.
The 2000 census lists the county’s population at 32,450, representing a slight growth of 2.3 percent since 1990. Union City too experienced slow growth, reaching a population of 10,876. Despite its industrial growth, Obion County has retained its agricultural base and still ranks high in the production of corn, wheat, orchard products, soybeans, and swine.
The government of Obion County, Tennessee operates under a home rule format. The county administrator is called the County Mayor. There is also an elected County Commission. The county officials’ districts do not correspond with those of the cities, which has its own mayor and city council. Obion County runs a school system, health department and library branches. The cities maintains a police department independent of the County Sheriff. Other Obion County elected offices include the Property Assessor, County Clerk, Register of Deeds, Trustee, District Attorney General, Law Director, Public Defender and Court Clerks.