The origin of the town’s unusual name is not known. According to the local chamber of commerce, one story says that one of the first white men to travel through the area found a tree with carvings of a cowbell and a buckle, possibly carved by Indians to warn white settlers away, or possibly carved by surveyors to mark the area as good pasture. Another form of the legend holds that a bell and buckle were tied around a tree. In any case, the nearby creek was named Bell Buckle Creek, and the town later took the name of the creek.
The Bell Buckle area was settled in the early 19th century. A bustling town grew up after the Nashville and Chattanooga Railroad came through the area in 1852. A railroad depot was built in 1853, and the town was incorporated in 1856. Bell Buckle had its period of greatest prosperity after about 1870, becoming the major stockyard between Nashville and Chattanooga and growing to a population of more than 1,000.
See also, GeoWoodstock VII.