Hancock County got its territory from Greene and Washington counties in 1793. Its name honors John Hancock whose signature heads the list of signers of the Declaration of Independence. Hancock had presided over the Continental Congress.
Sparta, the county seat, owes its name to the ancient Greek city, probably because its early residents realized they would need Spartan characteristics to survive so near hostile Indian territory and so far from supportive neighbors. This county remained a troubled frontier for 40 years before the state acquired and residents settled more westerly lands.