Tennessee Facts

Tennessee’s First People
The first Tennessee area inhabitants, for all we know, were the Paleo Indians who had probably come to the region some sixteen thousand years back. Subsequently, there were periods of Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian culture and civilization.

After that came the Mound Builders, a group of people that received this name because of the giant earthen mounds they built to honor the dead. They settled in the area that we now know as Tennessee around the year 1,000 A.D.

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After these Mound Builders, the region was dominated by the Cherokee, Shawnee, Chickasaw, and Chickamunga Indian Tribes. In the beginning, these tribal members also built mounds, but it wasn’t long before they ceased doing that.

Some other tribes that resided in the area were the Yuchi (Uchean) and the Creek tribes. The Cherokee tribe was dominating the eastern and middle parts and they claimed that land for hunting purposes.

The Shawnee resided in the central portion of the region, while the Chickamunga (a Cherokee subdivision) were living in the more southern parts, in the area where now Chattanooga is located. The Chickasaw were living in the western portions of Tennessee.

European Exploration

The Spanish were actually the first Europeans to explore the Tennessee region. Hernando de Soto was leading the expedition that in 1540 roamed through several Native American villages that were situated in the valley of the Tennessee River.

The next year (1541) de Soto also would set out to discover the Mississippi River, close to where now Memphis is located.

For more than a century, not one single other explorer visited the area and both the French and the English were claiming portions of the region. In 1673, expeditions coming from both countries were exploring Tennessee.

First came two Englishmen (Gabriel Arthur and James Needham) to explore the area of the Tennessee River valley, and later that year, French priest Jacques Marquette and Louis Jolliet (both coming from Canada) came to explore the Mississippi River region.

The Spanish, British, and French were all claiming portions of Tennessee, though the French were the first ones to settle into the region. In 1714, the French established a trading post (at French Lick) near the area the settlers had called New France.

In 1754, the French and Indian War (actually between French and British settlers) began, and though the British outnumbered the French by far, the French won practically all early skirmishes. The British, however, were winning the war in the end and they subsequently took over all French land east of the Mississippi.

By the year 1770, Tennessee already had an impressive population of settlers, some of which set up the Watauga Association in 1772, and this law-and-order driven group of settlers actually wrote the first North American constitution.

Territorial Period and Statehood
In 1784, after the American Revolutionary War, the State of Franklin was established. This east Tennessean territory was established from the land that fell from North Carolina to the federal government.

However, the State of Franklin wouldn’t last because North Carolina did not recognize the independence of the territory, and in 1788, Governor John Sevier was imprisoned and the territory was folded.

One more attempt to set up an independent territorial state occurred in 1789 when the state of North Carolina was forced again to cede portions of its western land to the Federal Government.

William Blount was appointed as the new governor to deal with all the land lying south of the Ohio River. This new territory was then named the ‘Southwest Territory’, and this period of territorial independence lasted around six years until in 1796 (on June 1st) Tennessee had become the 16th state in the Union. John Sevier was the first Tennessee governor.

Economic Activity
In the early days, Tennessee was purely an agricultural state. These days, however, just a tiny percentage of the state’s populace are earning their bread in the agricultural business. The Mississippi River area lowlands, though, still offer the best land for agricultural purposes, and this land is suited well for growing various crops such as wheat, soybeans, and tobacco.

Another key factor in Tennessee’s economy plays the sector of Manufacturing. This sector is good for some 25% of the state’s gross product and the state boasts a wide variety of manufacturing industries such as transportation equipment, chemicals, electronic equipment, and various other products. Tennessee has also a number of automobile assembly plants.

The state is additionally home to several scientific institutions and energy-related industries. Since the Great Depression, Tennessee has been receiving all its power from a public works program, the Tennessee Valley Authority, that was set up during the Great Depression.

The atomic bomb project, a national secret venture, was conceived at Oak Ridge, but after World War II it became public knowledge.

These days, Oak Ridge is continuing to play an important role and boasts an impressive national laboratory. Let’s not forget the music industry, as Nashville is America’s most important center of County Music.

Important Events
1540 – Hernando de Soto explores the Tennessee River Valley.
1541 – De Soto and his company explore the Mississippi River close to Memphis. 1566 – The Spanish establish a fort near what we know as Chattanooga.
1673 – French and British explorers and settlers come to Tennessee.
1714 – The French set up a trading post at French Lick.
1769 – First white settlement established in Mississippi Valley.
1772 – Settlers set up the Watauga Association to establish law and order.
1784 – The state of Franklin was founded but it did not receive recognition.
1788 – Sevier (Franklin’s governor) is arrested, and the territory cedes to exist.
1790 – Tennessee’s new name: Southwest Territory.
1829 – Andrew Jackson is elected Seventh President of the United States.
1843 – Nashville becomes the new state capital.
1861 – As the last Southern state, Tennessee steps out of the Union.
1862 – The most costly battle of the Civil War if fought, the Battle of Shiloh.
1863 – The Confederate are defeated at Chickamauga and Chattanooga.
1866 – Tennessee gets readmitted to the Union.
1925 – “Monkey Trial” (in Dayton) as John Scopes is accused of teaching evolution.
1933 – The creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
1942 – Manhattan Project (building the atomic bomb).
1964 – Foundation of the Tennessee Space Institute.
1968 – The assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis on April 4th.
1988 – Tennessee gets hit by a severe drought, the worst in many years.