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Tennessee I - History

Tennessee I - History

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Tennessee I

The first Tennessee—a former Confederate, sidewheel steamboat—was captured by the West Gulf Blockading Squadron when Rear Admiral David G. Farragut took New Orleans on 25 April 1862. Commissioned in the United States Navy on 2 May 1862, the ship was renamed Mobile (q.v.) on 1 September 1864.


Tennessee ( / ˌ t ɛ n ə ˈ s iː / ( listen ) , [7] [8] locally / ˈ t ɛ n ɪ s i / [9] ), officially the State of Tennessee, is a state in the Southeastern region of the United States. Tennessee is the 36th largest by area and the 16th most populous of the 50 states. It is bordered by eight states, with Kentucky to the north, Virginia to the northeast, North Carolina to the east, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi to the south, Arkansas to the west, and Missouri to the northwest. Tennessee is geographically, culturally, and legally divided into East, Middle, and West Tennessee. Nashville is the state's capital and largest city, and anchors the state's largest metropolitan area. Shelby County is its most populous administrative division, and contains its second-largest city, Memphis. The state's population as of the 2020 United States census is approximately 6.9 million. [10]

Tennessee is rooted in the Watauga Association, a 1772 frontier pact generally regarded as the first constitutional government west of the Appalachian Mountains. [11] The state's name is derived from "Tanasi", a Cherokee town in the eastern part of the state that existed before the first European American settlement. [12] Tennessee was initially part of North Carolina, and later part of the Southwest Territory, before its admission to the Union as the 16th state on June 1, 1796. It earned the nickname "The Volunteer State" early in its history due to a strong tradition of military service. [13] A slave state until the American Civil War, Tennessee was politically divided, with its western and middle parts supporting the Confederacy and the eastern parts harboring pro-Union sentiment. As a result, Tennessee was the last state to formally join the Confederacy and the first readmitted to the Union after the war. [14]

During the 20th century, Tennessee transitioned from a predominantly agrarian society to a more diversified economy. This was aided in part by massive federal investment in the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the city of Oak Ridge, which was established just outside of Knoxville to house the Manhattan Project's uranium enrichment facilities. Oak Ridge was used to construct the world's first atomic bombs, two of which were dropped on Imperial Japan near the end of World War II. After the war, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory became a key center of scientific research. In 2016, the element tennessine was named for the state, largely in recognition of the roles played by Oak Ridge, Vanderbilt University, and the University of Tennessee in its discovery. [15] The state has also played a major role in the development of many forms of popular music, including country, blues, rock and roll, soul, and gospel.

Tennessee has diverse terrain and landforms, and from east to west, contains a mix of topographic features characteristic of Appalachia, the Upland South, and the Deep South. The Blue Ridge Mountains along the eastern border reach elevations above 6,000 feet (1,800 m), and the Cumberland Plateau contains many scenic valleys and waterfalls. The central part of the state is marked by cavernous bedrock and irregular rolling hills, and level, fertile plains define western Tennessee. The state is twice bisected by the Tennessee River, and the Mississippi River forms its western border. Its economy is dominated by the health care, music, automotive, chemical, electronics, banking, food, and tourism industries, and cattle, soybeans, corn, poultry, and cotton are its primary agricultural products. [16] The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the nation's most visited national park, is in eastern Tennessee. [17]

Tennessee I - History

The Great Smokey Mountains by Aviator31

Before the Europeans arrived in Tennessee, the land was settled by the Cherokee and Chickasaw Native American tribes. The Cherokee lived in the eastern part of Tennessee and built permanent homes. The Chickasaw lived to the west and were more of a nomadic tribe, moving often.

The first European to arrive in Tennessee was Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in 1541. He claimed the land for Spain, but it would be over 100 years later until Europeans began to settle the area.

In 1714, Charles Charleville built a small fort in Tennessee called Fort Lick. He traded furs with the local Indian tribes for many years. This area would eventually become the city of Nashville.

Nashville, Tennessee by Kaldari

Despite the British law, colonists began to settle in Tennessee. It was a land rich with furs and open land. The city of Nashborough was founded in 1779. It would later become Nashville, the capital city. People moved into the Tennessee frontier and the land became more and more settled over the next several years.

After the Revolutionary War, Tennessee became part of the United States. Eastern Tennessee became the State of Franklin in 1784, but this only lasted until 1788. In 1789, Tennessee became a U.S. Territory and on June 1, 1796 Congress made Tennessee the 16th state of the United States.

When the Civil War broke out between the Union and the Confederacy in 1861, Tennessee was divided on which side to join. Eventually they decided to secede. Tennessee became the last southern state to join the Confederacy in June of 1861. Men from Tennessee went to fight on both sides of the war including 187,000 to the Confederacy and 51,000 to the Union.

A number of major Civil War battles were fought in Tennessee including the Battle of Shiloh, the Battle of Chattanooga, and the Battle of Nashville. The Union had control over much of Tennessee by the end of the war and, when President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, it was Andrew Johnson from Tennessee who became president.

In the 1920s, Nashville, Tennessee became known for country music. The Grand Old Opry music show began to broadcast on the radio and became very popular. Since then, Nashville has been the country music capital of the world with the nickname "Music City."

The Grand Ole Opry from the US Department of Defense

Tennessee History Timeline

9000-3000 BCE, the Native Americans begin cultivating edible plants such as squash and gourds. Populations expand and villages form along the banks of most major rivers. And by 900 CE groups of Native Americans begin to battle for territory and develop tribal identities.

Tennessee became the 16th state of the union in 1796. It is just 112 miles wide, but stretches 432 miles from the Appalachian Mountains boundary with North Carolina in the east to the Mississippi River borders with Missouri and Arkansas in the west.

16th Century Tennessee History Timeline

1540 - Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto is the first white man known to come to the area. The dominant tribes are the Cherokee, Shawnee, and the Chickasaw.

17th Century Tennessee History Timeline

1673 - James Needham and Gabriel Arthur of England explore the Tennessee River Valley.

18th Century Tennessee History Timeline

1714 - Charles Charleville sets up a French trading post at French Lick.

1715 - The last Shawnee had been driven out by Chickasaw and Cherokee attacks.
1730 - Sir Alexander Cuming, an emissary of King George II, confers the title of emperor on Chief Moytoy at Tellico.
1754 - The French and Indian War breaks out between British and French settlers.
1763 - After 9 bloody years of war, the British win out. In the Treaty of Paris, the French surrender to the British all claim to lands east of the Mississippi.
1769 - William Bean, the first permanent white settler, builds a cabin on the Watauga River in northeast Tennessee. New settlers begin to come into the area from Virginia and North Carolina.
1772 - A group of settlers form their own government called the Watauga Association. They draw up one of the first written constitutions in North America.
1775 - The Transylvania Company buys a large piece of land from the Cherokees. Daniel Boone, working for the company, blazes a trail from Virginia across the mountain at Cumberland Gap to open the land to settlement. His trail is called the Wilderness Road and becomes the main route to the new settlements.
1779 - Jonesborough is the first chartered town. 2 groups led by James Robertson and John Donelson settle around the Big Salt Lick on the Cumberland River. They build Fort Nashborough and draw up an agreement called the Cumberland Compact- - it establishes representative government and creates a court system.
1780 -

  • Samuel Doak, a Presbyterian minister, starts the first school in Tennessee.
  • "Over- mountain men" gather at Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga River on September 25th at Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga River on September 25th to march over the Great Smokey Mountains. Led by John Sevier, they help to defeat the British as the Battle of King's Mountain on October 7th. The victory proves to be a major turning point in the war. Scots- Irish Covenanters settle in the Tennessee Valley, naming their town Greeneville for Revolutionary War general Nathanael Greene.

1784 - 3 counties in East Tennessee form the State of Franklin, which secedes from North Carolina for 4 years. Greeneville is the capital and John Sevier is their governor.
1789 - North Carolina gives the Tennessee region to the US It is made into a new territory, The Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio. William Blount is its first and only governor.
1791 - George Roulstone establishes the first Tennessee newspaper, the Knoxville Gazette.
1794 - Blount College is founded in Knoxville on September 10th, the first American nondenominational institution of higher learning.
1795 - Martin Academy in Washington changes its name to Washington College, the first college to be named after George Washington.
1796 - Tennessee adopts a constitution on February 6th in preparation for statehood- - Andrew Jackson helps to draw it up. Tennessee becomes a state on June 1st, the 16th state. John Sevier is elected the first governor. The total population of Tennessee is 77,000.

19th Century Tennessee History Timeline

1800 - Congress establishes a post rout along the Natchez Trace, an old trail between Nashville and Natchez, Mississippi.
1807 - Kingston is the capital for one day, September 21st, while the state legislature discusses a treaty with the Cherokee Indians.
1809 - 35- year- old national hero Meriwether Lewis dies of gunshot wounds at Grinder's Stand, a small inn on the Natchez Trace. Maybe a suicide and maybe not, questions abound and are never satisfactorily answered as to how the brilliant but moody explorer died.
1812 - The worst earthquake in US history occurs on February 7th in northwestern Tennessee. A vast land area drops several feet and tidal waves are created on the Mississippi River. The river flows backward into the depression, creating 13,000- acre Reelfoot Lake. Andrew Jackson is a hero of the War of 1812. [See also our Louisiana and New Orleans pages for more information.]
1813 - The state's first public library opens in Nashville.
1817 - Greeneville is incorporated under the laws of Tennessee.
1818 - The Chickasaw have ceded their land, nearly all of West Tennessee, to the federal government. But the Cherokee still hold a large area in Middle Tennessee and another area south of the Little Tennessee and Sequatchie rivers in the east.
1820 - Having moved to Columbia as a child from North Carolina, James K. Polk begins his law practice there.
1821 - Nathan Bedford Forrest is born near Chapel Hill on July 13th.
1824 - Poor North Carolinian Andrew Johnson, only 16, runs away from his employer and ends up in Tennessee with a bounty on his head. The Tennessee adjourns on October 22nd, ending Davy Crockett's state political career. Andrew Jackson runs unsuccessfully for president.
1826 - Frances "Fanny" Wright establishes Nashoba, a colony for free blacks near Memphis. Plagued by administrative problems and widespread disease, the colony will fail and the remaining settlers move to Haiti 4 years later.
1829 - Andrew Jackson is President of the US
1831 - Tailor Andrew Johnson buys a Greeneville shop and has it moved on logs down Greeneville's steep streets.
1834 - The state constitution is amended. Free blacks can no longer vote.
1836 - Davy Crockett, with 130 other men, dies at the Alamo. [See also our page, Texas : The Lone Star State, for more information.]
1837 - Sea captain William Driver settles in Nashville. He has with him the flag we calls Old Glory, a gift from relatives and friends that he flew on his ship during his voyages around the world.
1838 - Tennessee is the first state to pass a temperance law.
1845 - James K. Polk is now President of the US, having been elected on an expansionist platform.
1861 - The Civil War begins. William Drive hides Old Glory inside a quilt for safekeeping. Nathan Bedford Forrest becomes a daring and very successful cavalry commander for the Confederacy. Andrew Johnson, although a slaveholder, refuses to side with his state when it secedes. He is the only Southerner to retain his seat in the US Senate. Lincoln will appoint him military governor of Tennessee.
1862 - Union troops under Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant force the "unconditional surrender" of Confederate Fort Donelson. The February 16th win is the Union's first major victory in the Civil War. On March 15th, General John Hunt Morgan begins 4 days of raids near Gallatin. A 2- day battle is bought at Shiloh- - it's one of the largest engagements in the western theater of the Civil War. Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest defeats a Union army at Murfreesboro on July 13th.
1863 - Confederate General Joseph Johnston takes command of the Army of Tennessee, replacing Lieutenant General William Hardee.
1864 - 1,500 confederate cavalrymen overwhelm Fort Pillow, garrisoned with 500 troops. After their surrender, scores of the black defenders and some of the white soldiers are murdered. For black soldiers, "Remember Fort Pillow!"becomes a rallying cry, spurring them to fight to the death and to offer no quarter. Confederate General Hood sends Nathan Bedford Forrest's cavalry and a division of infantry towards Murfreesboro on December 5th. Union and Confederate forces clash outside of Nashville in December. The Union forces under General George H. Thomas win the battle on December 16th.
1865 - The Civil War ends. Former vice president and now president, Andrew Johnson is faced with the almost impossible task of reuniting the North he served and the South he calls home. The Ku Klux Klan is formed in Pulaski.
1866 - Fisk University is founded in Nashville as a school "equal to the best in the country," primarily for the newly freed slaves. Tennessee is the first state readmitted to the Union, on July 24th.
1868 - The House of Representatives votes in March to impeach Andrew Johnson.
1869 - An embittered Johnson leaves office and returns with his wife Eliza to their house in Greeneville. He will completely remodel it, adding upstairs bedrooms and a porch.
1870 - The state constitution is amended.
1871 - Fisk University's Jubilee Singers perform the spiritual Steal Away to Jesus to a thunderous ovation. So they add the beautiful, plaintive spirituals, born in slavery, to their program.
1873 - Vanderbilt University is founded in Nashville, named after Cornelius Vanderbilt, an American businessman who donated $1 million to build and support the school.
1874 - An unhappy Andrew Johnson is able to leave retirement when he is elected to the US Senate, the only ex- president to return to that chamber. But he attends only one session before dying of a stroke at his daughter's house in Carter County during the summer recess. He is buried in Greeneville, wrapped in an American flag and with a copy of the Constitution as his pillow.
1878 - 5,200 of Memphis' 19,600 residents die in a yellow fever epidemic. Memphis will lose its city charter after the disaster and not regain it until 1893.
1879 - Blount College becomes the University of Tennessee.
1880 - Grantland Rice is born in Murfreesboro.
1886 - 2 brothers- - Robert Love Taylor and Alfred Alexander Taylor- - compete in the gubernatorial election on November 2nd. Robert, the Democrat, wins the "War of the Roses."
1887 - Alvin Cullum York is born in Fentress County.
1890 - Columbia's economic base shifts with the exploitation of local phosphate deposits.
1894 - President Grover Cleveland signs legislation on December 27th, creating Shiloh National Military Park. It preserves the field of a 2- day battle in April 1862, one of the largest Civil War engagements in the western theater. [For more information, see our page, The National Parks.]

20th Century Tennessee History Timeline

1900 - Casey Jones' train crashes on April 30th, killing him.
1909 - Liquor production is banned for the next year.
1914 - World War I begins.
1916 - After pulling a wealthy Chattanooga businessman's car out of a shallow creek bed, "horseless carriage"mechanic Ernest Holmes invents the tow truck. The first production model will sell for $680.
1918 - 101 people are killed and 171 injured in the worst train wreck in US history in Nashville on July 9th. Corporal Alvin York kills more than 20 Germans and forces 132 others to surrender on October 8, 1918. He will receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for his deed. World War I ends.
1920s - Grantland Rice gains fame by writing newspaper reports on sports. He writes about Bobby Jones, Jack Dempsey, Bill Tilden, Helen Wills, and others.
1922 - The Driver family donates Old Glory to the Smithsonian Institution. Tennessee's first radio station, WNAV, begins broadcasting from Knoxville.
1925 - Tom Lee saves 32 people from disaster when an excursion boat capsizes on the Mississippi near Memphis. On June 10th, Tennessee adopts a new biology textbook denying the theory of evolution. High school teacher John T. Scopes is found guilty of violating the state law banning the teaching of evolution. The "monkey trial"as it is called, attracts worldwide attention as 2 celebrities, William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow battle it out in court. Scopes is fined $100, but the conviction is later reversed because of a small legal error. The "Grand Ole Opry"begins on radio in Nashville.
1928 - On March 26th, President Calvin Coolidge signs legislation creating Fort Donelson National Battlefield, a national military park at the site of the Union's first major Civil War victory (February 1862). [For more information, see our page, The National Parks.]
1933 - The federal government establishes the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) to conserve and develop the resources of the Tennessee River Valley.
1939 - The "Grand Ole Opry" is first heard on network radio.
1941 - Glenn Miller and his Orchestra record Chattanooga Choo Choo in Hollywood on May 6th. It's a big hit.
1942 - The federal government begins to build an atomic energy plant at Oak Ridge. Scientists work on the development of the atomic bomb.
1948 - WMCT- TV in Memphis is the state's first television station. State elections turn against the control of Memphis political boss E.H. Crump.
1949 - The American Museum of Atomic Energy opens in Oak Ridge on March 19th.

1950/53 - 10,500 Tennesseans served in the Korean War.
1952 - Sun Studio in Memphis makes the first rock 'n roll recording.
1953 - Elvis Presley graduates from L.C. Humes High School in Memphis on June 14th. He will have his first #1 record (Heartbreak Hotel) within 3 years. The state constitution is amended.
1954 - Rice's autobiography, The Tumult and the Shouting, is published.
1955 - The "Grand Old Opry" makes it to television.
1956 - Elvis Presley makes his second appearance on Milton Berle's Texaco Star Theatre, singing Heartbreak Hotel. Critics say his performance looks "like the mating dance of an aborigine."National Guardsmen halt rioters protesting the admission of 12 African- American children to schools in Clinton.
1958 - Elvis Presley reports to his local draft board in Memphis on March 24th. US #53310761 is now in the Army and Uncle Sam stands to lose an estimated $500,000 in lost taxes every year that Private Presley is in the service.
1960 - The state constitution is amended.
1966 - The state constitution is amended again.
1967 - The anti- evolution law that tripped up John Scopes is abolished by the state legislature. Columbia State Community College is opened in Columbia.
1968 - After buying a rifle in a Birmingham sporting goods store, sniper James Earl Ray assassinates civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. at a Memphis motel. His April 4th death shocks the nation and precipitates rioting in many cities. Roy Orbison's 2 sons die in a fire in his Hendersonville home while he is performing in England.
1970 - Tennessee has 3,926,018 people. Winfield Dunn is the first Republican governor in 50 years.
1972 - The state constitution is amended.
1974 - A sunshine law allows the public to attend local and state government meetings.
1976 - Alex Haley wins the Pulitzer Prize and international acclaim for Roots. It will be translated into over 30 languages.
1977 - James Earl Ray, the convicted assassin of Martin Luther King, Jr., escapes from Brushy Mountain State Prison on June 10th with 6 other inmates. He will be recaptured on June 13th. Elvis Presley dies in Memphis. His most popular song on the charts: Don't Be Cruel.
1978 - The state constitution is amended.
1980 - Tennessee has 4,591,120 people, an increase of 17% over the 1970 census figure.
1982 - A world's fair is held in Knoxville. Its theme is "Energy Turns the World." The fair helps promote tourism in the state. Elvis Presley's Graceland mansion is opened to the public on June 7th.
1985 - Spring Hill is selected as the new home of the Saturn automobile assembly plant.

1987 - General Motors opened the new Saturn Corporation auto plant in Spring Hill.
1991 - The National Civil Rights Museum opens in Memphis at the site of the Lorraine Motel where Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated on April 4, 1968.

1992 - Albert Gore, Jr. was elected Vice-President of the United States
1994 - Tennessee ranks 17th in the nation in population: 5,175,240.
1995 - Tennessee finally honors Andrew Johnson with a statue on the state capitol grounds, long after statues of its other favorite sons, Andrew Jackson and James K. Polk, started watching over things at the capitol.
1996 - Tennessee celebrates the bicentennial of its 1796 entrance into the Union with a year of festivities and projects.

1998 - The University of Tennessee football team became the national champions, going undefeated for the season.

21st Century Tennessee History Timeline

2001 - Passenger attacked bus driver causing accident, six people killed

  • The National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis opens its new $11 million addition that includes Bessie Brewer's boarding house across the street from the Loraine Motel where James Earl Ray used a hunting rifle to shoot Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Former Nashville Mayor, Phil Bredesen, elected Governor

2003 - 14 people killed by tornadoes in northwestern part of state

Early statehood and the Jackson era

Initially a part of the new state of North Carolina following the Revolution, Tennessee made a bid for admission to the Union as a state named Franklin. Because North Carolina had rescinded its original cession of western lands, however, the Continental Congress—the governing body of the early United States—turned down this petition for statehood. Under the new federal constitution, the region was organized as the Territory South of the River Ohio. In 1796 Tennessee became a state, the first admitted from territorial status, with Knoxville as its first capital, John Sevier as its first governor, and Gen. Andrew Jackson as its first congressman.

Tennesseans played a decisive role as volunteers under the leadership of Jackson in the Creek War, which erupted in 1813 and ended in 1814 at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in Alabama. In response to a devastating attack by Creek warriors on Fort Mims, Alabama, such Tennessee volunteers as Davy Crockett led the destruction of many Muskogee (Upper Creek) towns and people. Jackson’s victory over the British at New Orleans in 1815 made him a national hero of the War of 1812. Jackson, perceived as a champion of the common people, in part because of his success in fighting the indigenous populations, was elected president in 1828 and again in 1832. As president he was the leader of the Democratic Party, an opponent of the national bank, and an advocate of the removal of all native peoples in the eastern United States to the western regions.

Tennessee’s Slave History Lives in Old Newspapers, New Book

The government of Nashville owned 26 slaves. chancery court officials routinely sold slaves at practically every courthouse in the state. Companies ranging from cotton mills to railroads advertised for slave labor. The state of Tennessee gave away slaves as young as 3 years old in a lottery. A slave died in the construction of the Tennessee State Capitol.

These are just some of the discoveries I made during a journey that started with a column and ended with a book.

Knoxville Gazette, Oct. 19, 1793

Back in October, I went to the Tennessee State Library and Archives in Nashville. At the time, I thought I would write a column about the first few issues of the Knoxville Gazette newspaper, which debuted in 1791. I thought the column would be funny.

However, when I pulled up the first few issues of the Gazette, I noticed something far from amusing. The Gazette had slavery-related advertising in every issue: runaway slave ads, items announcing the sheriff’s capture of runaway slaves, slave sale ads and “slave wanted” ads. This took me by surprise after all, those of us who write about Tennessee history don’t often talk about slavery in East Tennessee in the 1790s.

I looked through every issue of the Gazette and made copies of every slave-related ad. I then looked through the Tennessee Gazette, printed in Nashville from 1800 to 1808, and every issue of the Nashville Whig, printed from 1812 to 1849. I did the same with the Jackson Gazette, Memphis Enquirer, Clarksville Jeffersonian, Athens Post … and the list goes on and on.

I eventually looked through every antebellum newspaper I could find. I organized the ads into categories and created spreadsheets with notes on their contents. To learn more about the subject, I bought several books on slavery, the best of which was one titled “Slave Trading and the Old South,” printed in 1931. I kept digging.

Memphis Daily Eagle and Examiner, Jan. 8, 1853

I eventually wrote a book called “Runaways, Coffles and Fancy Girls: A History of Slavery in Tennessee.” It contains, among other information, details about how slavery made its way into Tennessee in frontier times until it was abolished during the Civil War. It includes chapters on the slave trade and how slavery was embedded in the economy. It also contains data from no fewer than 906 runaway slave ads that document the flight of more than 1,400 Tennessee slaves, starting in 1791 and going until 1864.

Here are some of the more notable revelations:

  • In 1830, the government of Nashville paid a slave trader named William Ramsey $12,000 to buy slaves on its behalf. Ramsey went to Virginia and bought two dozen slaves: Ben, Emanuel, Jim, Frank, Lewis, Moses, Salem, Anthony, Charles, Lucinda, Lilburn Henderson, Allen, Jim, Moses, Allen, Isaac, Vincent, Peter, Bob, Granville, John, Isaac, John and Jim. Those 24 slaves were taken away from their families and herded to Middle Tennessee (probably chained together in what was then referred to as a slave coffle). Nashville’s government later bought two more slaves named Daniel and Betsy and used its 26 slaves to perform such tasks as building the city’s first waterworks. At least twice, some of these slaves tried to escape. The mayor of Nashville purchased runaway slave ads in hopes of tracking them down.
  • In 1836, the government of Tennessee organized a lottery to raise money for internal improvements (mainly road construction). Lottery prizes included assets such as land, a farm, steamboats and five slaves: a 45-year-old man named Charles, a 43-year-old woman named Nancy and three girls named Matilda (12), Rebecca (11) and Maria (6).
  • Slaves were often sold as the result of lawsuits, the dispensation of an estate or the financial over-extension of a slaveholder. These sales were carried out by chancery court clerks and masters at slave sales that were announced in public notice ads. I found 163 of these events that accounted for the sale of 1,199 slaves in counties ranging from Blount to Lincoln to Shelby.
  • The leasing of slave labor was so common that companies ran ads to hire slaves. Under this arrangement, the slave would work for the company that leased him or her, and the slaveholder would receive the wages. Through this method, families hired slaves to do domestic work. Construction firms hired slaves to be carpenters, bricklayers and painters. Cotton mills, iron foundries and tobacco processers manned their factories with slave labor. When railroads were built in Tennessee, many of them hired slaves. The practice of “hiring out” slaves became so common that there were people in Nashville and Memphis who made their living as “temp agencies for slaves,” if you will.
  • Isaac Franklin — possibly the most successful professional slave trader in American history — was from Middle Tennessee. He owned a business called Franklin & Armfield, which bought slaves in Virginia and Maryland and sold them in Louisiana and Mississippi, transporting most of them by ship. Franklin & Armfield bought and sold upwards of 13,000 slaves in the late 1820s and early 1830s. Some of the money it made was used to pay for Nashville’s Belmont Mansion as well as the early buildings at the University of the South at Sewanee.
  • Professional slave traders came and went in most Tennessee cities while Memphis and Nashville had well-established professional slave-trading industries. Although the people who ran these companies varied from year to year, you can follow the evolution of each city’s slave traders through newspaper advertising from the 1820s until the Civil War. Bolton, Dickins and Company of Memphis was probably the largest slave-trading firm in the city’s history, and Nathan Bedford Forrest was its most famous slave trader.
  • On Oct. 21, 1848, a slave who had been hired by architect William Strickland died during the construction of the Tennessee State Capitol. “A sad accident happened on Saturday, about noon, at the Capitol quarry,” the Republican Banner reported. A negro man belonging to Mr. Baldwin, whilst at work there, received a blow from a lever, by some mismanagement, which broke his spine.”
  • The fact that slave families were separated from each other is reflected in slave sale ads and runaway slave notices. When slaves ran away, the purchaser of the runaway ad often predicted that the slave would head in the direction of the family from which he or she had been separated. So, when two slaves named John and Sam ran away in 1822, slaveholder David Harding pointed out, “I purchased John in Maryland and Sam high up in Virginia. There is no doubt what they are aiming to get back again.” When a slave named John ran away in 1833, his slaveholder, Elisha Clampitt of Jackson County, predicted, “He will probably aim for Nashville” since “his mother belongs to Mr. Matthew H. Quin” of that city and because he “was raised by Mr. Jos. T. Elliston,” also of Nashville.

Nashville Republican, Aug. 12, 1834

The separation of slave families is also documented in advertisements related to the sale of slaves. Slaveholders often indicated in such ads their intentions to sell some members of a slave family (such as children) but not others.

Knoxville Register, Feb. 1, 1820

One more thing about my research and discoveries: There are old newspapers held by local libraries and collectors that are not on microfilm at the Tennessee State Library and Archives. I did the best I could, but I didn’t discover everything.

Early History of Native Americans in Tennessee

The names of the Tennessee tribes included the Catawba, Cherokee, Chiaha, Chickasaw, Mosopelia, Muskogee Creek, Natchez, Shawnee, Tali, Tuskegee and the Yuchi.

The story of man in Tennessee begins with the last retreat of the Ice Age glaciers, when a colder climate and forests of spruce and fir prevailed in the region. Late Ice Age hunters probably followed animal herds into this area some 12,000-15,000 years ago. These nomadic Paleo-Indians camped in caves and rock shelters and left behind their distinctive arrowheads and spear points. They may have used such stone age tools to hunt the mastodon and caribou that ranged across eastern Tennessee. About 12,000 years ago, the region's climate began to warm and the predominant vegetation changed from conifer to our modern deciduous forest. Abundant acorns, hickory, chestnut and beech mast attracted large numbers of deer and elk. Warmer climate, the extinction of the large Ice Age mammals, and the spread of deciduous forests worked together to transform Indian society. During what is known as the Archaic period, descendants of the Paleo-Indians began to settle on river terraces, where they gathered wild plant food and shellfish in addition to hunting game.

Sometime between 3,000 and 900 BC, natives took the crucial step of cultivating edible plants such as squash and gourds- the first glimmerings of agriculture. Archaic Indians thereby ensured a dependable food supply and freed themselves from seasonal shortages of wild plant foods and game. With a more secure food supply, populations expanded rapidly and scattered bands combined to form larger villages.

The next major stage of Tennessee pre-history, lasting almost 2,000 years, is known as the Woodland period. This era saw the introduction of pottery, the beginnings of settled farming communities, the construction of burial mounds and the growing stratification of Indian society. Native Americans in Tennessee made the transition from societies of hunters and gatherers to well-organized tribal, agricul- Early man hunted mastodon that roamed during the last Ice Age.

The peak of prehistoric cultural development in Tennessee occurred during the Mississippian period (900-1,600 AD). Cultivation of new and improved strains of corn and beans fueled another large jump in population. An increase in territorial warfare and the erection of ceremonial temples and public structures attest to the growing role of chieftains and tribalism in Indian life. Elaborate pottery styles and an array of personal artifacts such as combs, pipes, and jewelry marked the complex society of these last prehistoric inhabitants of Tennessee

Sometime between 3,000 and 900 BC, natives began to cultivate plants such as squash and gourds, and could therefore depend upon a regular food supply. This caused the native population to increase, and groups of nomadic hunters began to settle into larger villages.

During the next stage, known as the Woodland period, natives began to make pottery, develop agriculture, construct burial mounds, and live in large, permanent towns. Between 900 and 1600 AD, natives learned to cultivate corn and beans, and the population increased again. It was at this time that groups of natives began to battle each other for territory and develop tribal identity. Archaeologists have found elaborate pottery, and personal items like combs, pipes and jewelry which demonstrate the complexity of these native societies.

The first Europeans to explore the area were led by Hernando de Soto in 1541 as part of de Soto's futile search for gold and silver. Two later expeditions led by Juan Pardo introduced firearms and deadly European diseases to the native populations. Both of these prompted a sharp decline in the native tribes. Guns changed the way the natives hunted and battled with neighboring tribes, and made the native people dependent upon the colonial fur trade. Natives supplied deer and beaver hides to European traders in return for guns, rum and manufactured articles. No longer were the native tribes self-sufficient, and they began more and more influenced by European settlers and politics.

In the 150 years after de Soto first came to Tennessee, new native tribes moved into the area, defeating the less developed tribes. The Cherokee, the Chickasaw and the Shawnee tribes began to increase their influence in the area, but by 1715, the stronger Cherokee and Chickasaw had driven out the Shawnee.


From a strictly geological perspective, Tennessee is divided into six natural regions. In the extreme eastern part of the state lie the Unaka Mountains—a section of which is popularly known as the Great Smoky Mountains—with more than a dozen peaks that rise above 6,000 feet (1,830 metres) the tallest of them, Clingmans Dome, rises to 6,643 feet (2,025 metres). West of the Unakas, the Great Appalachian Valley (or, simply, Great Valley) of East Tennessee, varying from 30 to 60 miles (50 to 100 km) in width, includes a series of low ridges that rise above the intervening valleys. West of the Appalachians, the Cumberland Plateau has a generally flat, slightly undulating surface cut by deep and sometimes wide river valleys. The Interior Low Plateau in Middle Tennessee is dominated by the Nashville, or Central, Basin and the Highland Rim. About 60 miles (100 km) wide and running roughly north to south across the state, the basin floor is a slightly rolling terrain punctuated by small hills known as knobs. To the west the eastern Gulf Coastal Plain undulates only slightly and is laced with meandering low-banked streams the region stretches westward, terminating in the Mississippi alluvial plain, a narrow strip of swamp and floodplain alongside the Mississippi River.


The university was established as the Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State Normal School for Negroes in 1912. [9] [10] Its dedication was held on January 16, 1913. [9] It changed its name to Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State Normal College in 1925. [9] Two years later, in 1927, it became known as Tennessee Agricultural & Industrial State College. [9]

In 1941, the Tennessee General Assembly directed the Board of Education to upgrade the educational program of the college. Three years later the first master's degrees were awarded and by 1946 the college was fully accredited the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. [11]

Significant expansion occurred during the presidency of Walter S. Davis between 1943 and 1968, including the construction of "70 percent of the school's facilities" and the establishment of the graduate school and four other schools. [12]

In 1968, the college officially changed its name to Tennessee State University. And in 1979, the University of Tennessee at Nashville merged into Tennessee State due to a court mandate. [11]

Today, Tennessee State University is divided into eight schools and colleges and has seen steady growth since its inception. It remains the only public university in Nashville and its health science program is the largest in the state and one of the largest in the nation. [13]

Aligned with the Tennessee Board of Regents, it is currently governed by an institutional Board of Trustees.

The 500 acres (2.0 km 2 ) main campus has more than 65 buildings, and is located in a residential setting at 3500 John A. Merritt Blvd in Nashville, Tennessee. Tennessee State's main campus has the most acres of any college campus in Nashville. The Avon Williams campus is located downtown, near the center of the Nashville business and government district. Tennessee State offers on-campus housing to students. There are on-campus dorms and two apartment complexes for upperclassmen. On-campus facilities include dormitories Wilson Hall, Watson Hall, Eppse Hall, Boyd Hall, Rudolph Hall, Hale Hall, as well as the Ford Complex and New Residence Complex, TSU's two on-campus apartment complexes.

Academic rankings
U.S. News & World Report [16] #34 (tie) in Historically Black Colleges and Universities and #293-#381 in National Universities [14]
Washington Monthly [17] #100 [15]

The university is currently accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) to award 38 baccalaureate degrees, 24 master's degrees, and doctoral degrees in seven areas (Biological Sciences, Computer Information Systems Engineering, Psychology, Public Administration, Curriculum and Instruction, Educational Administration and Supervision, and Physical Therapy), as well as two Associate of Science degree programs, one in nursing and one in dental hygiene. [18]

Tennessee State is classified among "R2: Doctoral Universities – High research activity." [19]

The university is organized into the following colleges:

  • College of Agriculture, Human, and Natural Sciences [20]
  • College of Business [21]
  • College of Education [22]
  • College of Engineering [23]
  • College of Health Sciences [24]
  • College of Liberal Arts [25]
  • College of Life and Physical Sciences [26]
  • College of Public Service [27]

The University Honors College (UHC) is an exclusive academic program founded in 1964 that caters to select academically talented and highly motivated undergraduate students. [28]

The College of Business is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). It was the first institution in Nashville to earn the accreditation of both its undergraduate and graduate business programs in 1994. The Psychology program is accredited by the American Psychological Association and the Teacher Education program by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

The College of Engineering has developed corporate partnerships with NASA, Raytheon, and General Motors and is accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) and the National Association of Industrial Technology (NAIT).

The College of Health Sciences (formerly the School of Allied Health) includes such programs as the Masters in Physical Therapy and the Bachelor of Health Sciences. The Master of Public Health program was accredited in 2015 by the Council on Education for Public Health (CEPH). [29]

Athletics Edit

Tennessee State University sponsors seven men's and eight women's teams in National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) sanctioned sports. [30] The school competes in the NCAA's Division I Football Championship Subdivision and is a member of the Ohio Valley Conference. Tennessee State is one of two Division I HBCUs that are not members of the MEAC or SWAC, the other being Hampton University of the Big South Conference.

Tennessee Whiskey

The term “Tennessee whiskey” does not apply to all whiskey made in Tennessee. In order to be recognized by the State of Tennessee as such, Tenn. Code Ann. § 57-2-106, Tennessee whiskey must be produced in Tennessee and meet both the legal requirements for bourbon (use a mash of at least 50 percent corn, be aged in new charred oak barrels, and meeting limits on alcohol content, distilling concentration, aging, and bottling), and use the Lincoln County process, which means the whiskey must be steeped in or filtered through maple charcoal chips (often sugar maple) before going into casks for aging. The two largest distillers, Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel, use this process, though there is a legal exception for Benjamin Pritchard’s, which does not use the Lincoln County Process but is still Tennessee whiskey.*

Whiskey production has a rich history in Tennessee that survived both national prohibition and a longer statewide prohibition. As Scottish, Scots-Irish, and Irish immigrants moved to the frontier in the late 18th century, they brought their distilling practices with them, though they primarily used rye rather than corn. Whiskey consumption increased nationally, and many farmers found that turning their corn into whiskey yielded better profits. The temperance and prohibition movements of the mid-19th and early-20th centuries nearly destroyed the whiskey industry in Tennessee, and Jack Daniel’s and George Dickel were the only Tennessee whiskey producers to survive this period. Today, Tennessee whiskey has enjoyed a revival, with many smaller distillers emerging to take part in this Tennessee tradition and offering tours to visitors from near and far.

*Whiskey produced in Tennessee that does not follow this process is often labeled “corn whiskey.” Moonshine, which is also often made in Tennessee, is a form of corn whiskey that is not aged.

Bud Miller and Bob Swann with the first bottle of legal whiskey from the distillery south of the river Dandridge, Tennessee, ca. 1905. Looking Back at Tennessee Collection, Tennessee State Library and Archives.

Watch the video: Tennessee Beginnings (May 2022).