Charlie Sedman’s post to The Central Connection on February 28, 2009:
Hamilton County was formed Oct 25, 1819 as a result of the Calhoun Treaty giving all Cherokee land North of the Tennessee River and Hiwassee River to Tennessee. First county seat was at Dallas. Joseph Vann, a wealthy Cherokee, owned a large plantation at the mouth of Ooltewah (Wolftever) Creek across the Tennessee River from Dallas, and operated a ferry to Dallas. In 1828 Georgia confiscated all Cherokee lands, driving Vann from his largest plantation in Georgia to refuge in Tennessee. Vann lived at his Tennessee plantation (which in 1828 had 110 slaves, 35 houses, a mill, three horse racing courses, and a ferry boat) until 1838, when all Cherokees were removed forcibly. The New Echota treaty of December 1835 gave all Cherokee lands to Tennessee, so Hamilton County was extended to the Georgia border. A land office was set up in Cleveland in November 1838 to sell the parcels south of the Tennessee River, including the Vann plantation.
A group of prominent citizens was charged by Hamilton County to consider relocation of the government and that group chose the new community of Harrison near the old Vann plantation, to be the new county seat in January, 1840. Coincidentally, that same group of prominent citizens had previously purchased all of Vann’s estate and much more, had surveyed and laid out a new town, and had named the new location Vanville, and were offering lots for sale in 1839.
The name was changed to Harrison (named for the new US President) in 1840 when the county government was moved across the river. Harrison began competing almost immediately for the new railroad planned from Marthasville (now Atlanta) Georgia to the Tennessee River, but lost out when the State of Georgia was offered a large piece of land by Chattanooga (later housing the old Union Station on Broad Street).
So Chattanooga became the railroad center and Harrison remained a small community. In 1870, the County seat moved to Chattanooga, and, in protest, Harrison residents successfully petitioned the courts to form a new County, James, with intentions of becoming the new county seat. However, in an 1871 referendum, Ooltewah was voted the James county seat. So Harrison remained a small community until flooded by Chickamauga Lake in 1940. As a footnote, one of the earliest Hamilton County residents south of the Tennessee River was Thomas Guthrie, who on August 7, 1839, secured a land grant of 160 acres one mile north of Vanville (Harrison) on Georgetown Road, where he lived and raised 8 children.