Athens was established in 1850, and named for Athens, Greece, in hopes that the town would become a cultural center. The town did not begin to grow until 1890, from 177 people to 1,500. By 1940, population had grown to 4,765.

Home of the The Old Fiddlers Reunion each May, Athens is also known as the “Black-Eyed Pea Capital of the World,”complete with a jamboree every July, and the birthplace of the hamburger. In the 1880s, Fletcher Davis, who owned a downtown cafe, invented the hamburger. It was so popular that a group of businessmen raised funds to send Davis and his hamburger to the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904, where the hamburger was introduced to the world.