On June 1, 1792, the Commonwealth of Kentucky was admitted to the United States of America as the nation’s 15th state. Four years later, on June 1, 1796, Tennessee joined the Union as the 16th state. I only lived in north-central Tennessee (Nashville, Hermitage and Hendersonville) from late 1973 or early 1974 until August 1977, but during those three-and-a-half years of my childhood (aged 8-11) I formed many of the interests that still fascinate me to this day. It was there that I first became a stamp collector and began my fascination with the history of wherever I happen to be living. I also developed my love of the great outdoors, not only what was on the surface (and above) but below ground as well. Every chance we got, my family would pack up the car and visit one of Tennessee’s beautiful State Parks and various regional National Parklands. My favorite, by far, was Mammoth Cave in Kentucky and I have fond memories of exploring sinkholes on and around our own properties. For years afterwards, whenever I drove remote country roads no matter where in the world, I would always think back to our journeys from Nashville to Chattanooga while constantly on the lookout for another fading barn emblazoned with “See Rock City!” upon its roof.
Yes, Tennessee and Kentucky hold special memories for me and the region is probably the most beautiful I’ve ever lived in (New Mexico being a close second, including the deserts of the southern portion of the state with Phuket in Thailand coming third). My only regret is that we never visited any of the numerous sites in Kentucky associated with Abraham Lincoln (my family were staunch Southerners at the time; I vividly recall carrying around a Confederate battle flag during much of the Bicentennial year).
I’m a bit surprised that there hasn’t yet been an ASAD article detailing some aspect of Tennessee history — the Battle of Shiloh was covered in another multi-stamp entry (as these are becoming more commonplace, perhaps I should change the name of the blog to “Stamps Everyday” or “Everyday Stamps”). Also, there have been profiles of several people associated with Tennessee (including Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash) while Andrew Jackson was mentioned for his role in the Battle of New Orleans. My postcards-only blog includes brief write-ups on two of the places in the Nashville area that I enjoyed visiting as a child — the full-scale Parthenon reproduction in Centennial Park and Andrew Jackson’s home, The Hermitage, which was just down the road from one of our homes.
I did think about separating this into two articles as the statehood profiles on ASAD tend to be quite lengthy (take a look at Wisconsin’s a few days ago). Due to a bit of a time crunch, however, I’ve decided on just one article (the other option was to wait and profile one of the states NEXT year). I do plan to cover other aspects of Tennessee in future ASAD articles, including one on the Great Smoky Mountains at the middle of this month; that article MIGHT be another multi-stamp article as it’s also the anniversary of Arkansas statehood (1836) as well as the Oregon Treaty (1846). For now, may I present….
Kentucky, officially the Commonwealth of Kentucky, is a state located in the east south-central region of the United States. Although styled as the “State of Kentucky” in the law creating it, Kentucky is one of four U.S. states constituted as a commonwealth (the others being Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts). Originally a part of Virginia, on June 1, 1792, Kentucky became the 15th state to join the Union. Kentucky is the 37th most extensive and the 26th most populous of the 50 United States. It is situated in the Upland South and a significant portion of eastern Kentucky is part of Appalachia.
Kentucky borders seven states, from the Midwest and the Southeast. West Virginia lies to the east, Virginia to the southeast, Tennessee to the south, Missouri to the west, Illinois and Indiana to the northwest, and Ohio to the north and northeast. Only Missouri and Tennessee, both of which border eight states, touch more. Kentucky’s northern border is formed by the Ohio River and its western border by the Mississippi River. The official state borders are based on the courses of the rivers as they existed when Kentucky became a state in 1792 but some parts of the river have deviated since then. For instance, northbound travelers on U.S. 41 from Henderson, after crossing the Ohio River, will be in Kentucky for about two miles (3.2 km). Ellis Park, a thoroughbred racetrack, is located in this small piece of Kentucky. Waterworks Road is part of the only land border between Indiana and Kentucky.
Kentucky has a non-contiguous part known as Kentucky Bend, at the far west corner of the state. It exists as an exclave surrounded completely by Missouri and Tennessee, and is included in the boundaries of Fulton County. Road access to this small part of Kentucky on the Mississippi River (populated by only 18 people as of 2010) requires a trip through Tennessee. The epicenter of the powerful 1811–12 New Madrid earthquakes was near this area, even causing the river to flow backwards in some places. Though the series of quakes did change the area geologically and affect the small number of inhabitants of the area at the time, the Kentucky Bend was formed because of a surveying error, not the New Madrid earthquake.
Kentucky is known as the “Bluegrass State”, a nickname based on the bluegrass found in many of its pastures due to the fertile soil. One of the major regions in Kentucky is the Bluegrass Region in central Kentucky, which houses two of its major cities, Louisville and Lexington. It is a land with diverse environments and abundant resources, including the world’s longest cave system, Mammoth Cave National Park, the greatest length of navigable waterways and streams in the contiguous United States, and the two largest man-made lakes east of the Mississippi River. The state is also known for horse racing, bourbon distilleries, moonshine, coal, the historic site My Old Kentucky Home, automobile manufacturing, tobacco, bluegrass music, college basketball, and Kentucky Fried Chicken.
In 1776, the counties of Virginia beyond the Appalachian Mountains became known as Kentucky County, named for the Kentucky River. The precise etymology of the name is uncertain, but likely based on an Iroquoian name meaning “(on) the meadow” or “(on) the prairie” (Mohawk kenhtà:ke, Seneca gëdá’geh, “at the field”). Others have put forth the possibility of Kenta Aki, which would absolutely come from Algonquian language and, therefore, would probably have derived from the Shawnees. Folk etymology states that this translates as “Land of Our Fathers.” The closest approximation in another Algonquian language, Ojibwe (northern Michigan) translates it more-so to “Land of Our In-Laws,” thus making a fairer English translation “The Land of Those Who Became Our Fathers.” In any case, the word aki comes out as land in practically all Algonquian languages.
In about the 10th century, the Kentucky native people’s variety of corn became highly productive, supplanting the Eastern Agricultural Complex, and replaced it with a maize-based agriculture in the Mississippian era. French explorers in the 17th century documented numerous tribes living in Kentucky until the Beaver Wars in the 1670s. However, by the time that European colonial explorers and settlers began entering Kentucky in greater numbers in the mid-18th century, there were no major Native American settlements in the region.
As of the 16th century, the area known as Kentucky was home to tribes from five different culture groups — Iroquoian, Hokan Sioux, Algonquian, Muskogean, and Yuchi. Around the Bluestone River was the Siouan Tutelo. North of the Tennessee River was the Yuchi and south of it was the Cherokee. Much of the interior of the state was controlled by the Algonquian Cisca and the confluence region of the Mississippi and Ohio was home to the Chickasaw. During a period known as the Beaver Wars, 1640–1680, another Algonquian tribe called the Maumee, or Mascouten was chased out of southern Michigan. The vast majority of them moved to Kentucky, pushing the Kispoko east and war broke out with the Tutelo that pushed them deeper into Appalachia, where they merged with the Saponi and Moneton. The Maumee were closely related to the Miami of Indiana. Later, the Kispoko merged with the Shawnee (who broke off from the Powhatan on the east coast) and the Thawikila of Ohio to form the larger Shawnee nation that inhabited the Ohio River Valley into the 19th century.
The Shawnee from the northwest and Cherokee from the south also sent parties into the area regularly for hunting. As more settlers entered the area, warfare broke out because the Native Americans considered the settlers to be encroaching on their traditional hunting grounds. Today, there are two state recognized tribes in Kentucky, the Southern Cherokee Nation of Kentucky and the Ridgetop Shawnee.
A 1790 U.S. government report states that 1,500 Kentucky settlers had been killed by Native Americans since the end of the Revolutionary War. In 1786, George Rogers Clark led a group of 1,200 men in actions against Shawnee towns on the Wabash River to begin the Northwest Indian War.
On December 31, 1776, the region of Virginia beyond the Appalachian Mountains was established as Kentucky County by the Virginia General Assembly. Kentucky County was abolished on June 30, 1780, when it was divided into Fayette, Jefferson, and Lincoln counties. On several occasions, the region’s residents petitioned the General Assembly and the Confederation Congress for separation from Virginia and statehood. Ten constitutional conventions were held in Danville between 1784 and 1792.
Several factors contributed to the desire of the residents of Kentucky to separate from Virginia. First, traveling to the state capital was long and dangerous. Second, offensive use of local militia against Indian raids required authorization from the governor of Virginia. Last, Virginia refused to recognize the importance of trade along the Mississippi River to Kentucky’s economy. It forbade trade with the Spanish colony of New Orleans, which controlled the mouth of the Mississippi, but this was important to Kentucky communities.
The magnitude of these problems increased with the rapid growth of population in Kentucky, leading Colonel Benjamin Logan to call a constitutional convention in Danville in 1784. Over the next several years, nine more conventions were held. During one, General James Wilkinson proposed secession from both Virginia and the United States to become a ward of Spain, but the idea was defeated.
In 1788, Virginia granted its consent to Kentucky’s statehood in the form of two enabling acts. The second and operative act required that the Confederation Congress admit Kentucky into the Union by July 4, 1788. A Committee of the Whole reported that Kentucky be so admitted, and on July 3, the full Congress took up the question of Kentucky statehood. Unfortunately, one day earlier, Congress had learned of New Hampshire’s all-important ninth ratification of the proposed Constitution, thus establishing it as the new framework of governance for the United States. In light of this development, Congress thought that it would be “unadvisable” to admit Kentucky into the Union, as it could do so “under the Articles of Confederation” only, but not “under the Constitution”. Therefore it resolved…
That the said Legislature and the inhabitants of the district aforesaid [Kentucky] be informed, that as the constitution of the United States is now ratified, Congress think it unadviseable [sic] to adopt any further measures for admitting the district of Kentucky into the federal Union as an independent member thereof under the Articles of Confederation and perpetual Union; but that Congress thinking it expedient that the said district be made a separate State and member of the Union as soon after proceedings shall commence under the said constitution as circumstances shall permit, recommend it to the said legislature and to the inhabitants of the said district so to alter their acts and resolutions relative to the premisses [sic] as to render them conformable to the provisions made in the said constitution to the End that no impediment may be in the way of the speedy accomplishment of this important business.
On December 18, 1789, Virginia again gave its consent to Kentucky statehood. The United States Congress gave its approval on February 4, 1791. This occurred two weeks before Congress approved Vermont’s petition for statehood. Kentucky’s final push for statehood, now under the Federal Constitution, officially began with a convention, again held at Danville, in April 1792. There delegates drafted Kentucky’s first Constitution and submitted it to the United States Congress. Kentucky officially became the fifteenth state in the Union on June 1, 1792. Isaac Shelby, a military veteran from Virginia, was elected its first Governor.
Central Kentucky, the bluegrass region, was the area of the state with the most slave owners. Planters cultivated tobacco and hemp (see Hemp in Kentucky) and were noted for their quality livestock. During the 19th century, Kentucky slaveholders began to sell unneeded slaves to the Deep South, with Louisville becoming a major slave market and departure port for slaves being transported downriver.
Kentucky was one of the border states during the American Civil War. Although frequently described as never having seceded, representatives from 68 of 110 counties met at Russellville calling themselves the “Convention of the People of Kentucky” and passed an Ordinance of Secession on November 20, 1861. They established a Confederate government of Kentucky with its capital in Bowling Green.
Though Kentucky was represented by the central star on the Confederate battle flag, it remained officially “neutral” throughout the war due to the Union sympathies of a majority of the Commonwealth’s citizens. Some 21st-century Kentuckians observe Confederate Memorial Day on Confederate President Jefferson Davis’ birthday, June 3, and participate in Confederate battle re-enactments. Both Confederate President Jefferson Davis and U.S. President Abraham Lincoln were born in Kentucky.
On January 30, 1900, Governor William Goebel, flanked by two bodyguards, was mortally wounded by an assassin while walking to the State Capitol in downtown Frankfort. Goebel was contesting the Kentucky gubernatorial election of 1899, which William S. Taylor was initially believed to have won. For several months, J. C. W. Beckham, Goebel’s running mate, and Taylor fought over who was the legal governor, until the Supreme Court of the United States ruled in May in favor of Beckham. After fleeing to Indiana, Taylor was indicted as a co-conspirator in Goebel’s assassination. Goebel is the only governor of a U.S. state to have been assassinated while in office.
The Black Patch Tobacco Wars, a vigilante action, occurred in Western Kentucky in the early 20th century. As a result of the tobacco industry monopoly, tobacco farmers in the area were forced to sell their crops at prices that were too low. Many local farmers and activists united in a refusal to sell their crops to the major tobacco companies.
An Association meeting occurred in downtown Guthrie, where a vigilante wing of “Night Riders”, formed. The riders terrorized farmers who sold their tobacco at the low prices demanded by the tobacco corporations. They burned several tobacco warehouses throughout the area, stretching as far west as Hopkinsville to Princeton. In the later period of their operation, they were known to physically assault farmers who broke the boycott. Governor Augustus E. Willson declared martial law and deployed the Kentucky National Guard to end the wars.
Kentucky is one of four U.S. states to officially use the term commonwealth. The term was used for Kentucky as it had also been used by Virginia, from which Kentucky was created. The term has no particular significance in its meaning and was chosen to emphasize the distinction from the status of royal colonies as a place governed for the general welfare of the populace.
The commonwealth term was used in citizen petitions submitted between 1786 and 1792 for the creation of the state. It was also used in the title of a history of the state that was published in 1834 and was used in various places within that book in references to Virginia and Kentucky. The other two states officially called “commonwealths” are Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
Kentucky is one of only five states that elects its state officials in odd-numbered years (the others being Louisiana, Mississippi, New Jersey, and Virginia). Kentucky holds elections for these offices every 4 years in the years preceding Presidential election years. Thus, Kentucky held gubernatorial elections in 2011 and 2015.
After Kentucky became the 15th state in early 1792, five commissioners from various counties were appointed on June 20 to choose a location for the capital. They were John Allen and John Edwards (both from Bourbon County), Henry Lee (from Mason), Thomas Kennedy (from Madison), and Robert Todd (from Fayette). A number of communities competed for this honor, but Frankfort won. According to early histories, the offer of Andrew Holmes’ log house as capitol for seven years, a number of town lots, £50 worth of locks and hinges, 10 boxes of glass, 1,500 pounds of nails, and $3,000 in gold helped the decision go to Frankfort.
Frankfort had a United States post office by 1794, with Daniel Weisiger as postmaster. Post Office Department records were destroyed by a fire in 1836. October 1, 1794, is the date of the first quarterly account sent to Washington by Weisiger.
John Brown, a Virginia lawyer and statesman, built a home now called Liberty Hall in Frankfort in 1796. Before Kentucky’s statehood, he represented Virginia in the Continental Congress (1777−78) and the U.S. Congress (1789−91). While in Congress, he introduced the bill granting statehood to Kentucky. After statehood, he was elected by the state legislature as one of the state’s U.S. Senators.
In 1796, the Kentucky General Assembly appropriated funds to provide a house to accommodate the governor; it was completed two years later. The Old Governor’s Mansion is claimed to be the oldest official executive residence still in use in the United States. In 1829, Gideon Shryock designed the Old Capitol, Kentucky’s third, in Greek Revival style. It served Kentucky as its capitol from 1830 to 1910. The separate settlement known as South Frankfort was annexed by the city in January 3, 1850.
During the American Civil War, the Union Army built fortifications overlooking Frankfort on what is now called Fort Hill. The Confederate Army also occupied Frankfort for a short time starting from September 3, 1862, the only such time that Confederate forces took control of a Union capitol.
On February 3, 1900 Governor-elect William Goebel was assassinated in Frankfort while walking to the capitol on the way to his inauguration. Former Secretary of State Caleb Powers was later found guilty of a conspiracy to murder Goebel.
Frankfort grew considerably in the 1960s. A modern addition to the State Office Building was completed in 1967. The original building was completed in the 1930s on the location of the former Kentucky State Penitentiary. Some of the stone from the old prison was used for the walls surrounding the office building.
The Capitol Plaza was established in the 1960s. It comprises the Capitol Plaza Office Tower, the tallest building in the city, the Capitol Plaza Hotel (formerly the Holiday Inn, Frankfort), and the Fountain Place Shoppes. The Capital Plaza Office Tower opened in 1972 and has become a visual landmark for the center of the city. By the early 2000s, maintenance of the concrete structures was neglected and the plaza fell into disrepair, with sections of the plaza closed off to pedestrian activity out of concerns for safety. In August 2008, city officials announced a plan to demolish the Tower and redevelop the area over a period of years. The demolition of the office tower was completed on Sunday, March 11, 2018 at 1:30 PM EST, and was streamed live on Facebook. Demolition of the nearby convention center, which opened in 1971 and has hosted sporting events, concerts, and other local events, will be demolished in Spring 2018. City officials intend to replace the outdated office tower with a smaller, four- or five-story building in order to create a more pedestrian-oriented scale at the complex, to encourage street activity.
Frankfort is home to several major distilleries of Kentucky Bourbon, including the Buffalo Trace Distillery (formerly Ancient Age). Although there was some rapid economic and population growth in the 1960s, both tapered off in the 1980s and have remained fairly stable since that time.
The 150th anniversary of Kentucky’s admission to the Union was recognized with a 3-cent violet stamp issued on June 1, 1942 (Scott #904). A mural by Gilbert White in the State Capitol in Frankfort inspired the stamp’s vignette. The scene depicts Daniel Boone and his companions standing on a high point overlooking the Kentucky River and the site on the opposite shore where Frankfort is now located. U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt conrributed to the design. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing used the Rotary press to print 63,558,400 copies of the stamp, perforated 11 x 10½. There are at least two distinct shades of the violet stamp, although the Scott catalogue makes no mention of this (but compare the two copies from my collection below).
Tennessee is a state located in the southeastern region of the United States, the 36th largest and the 16th most populous of the 50 United States. It borders eight other states: Kentucky and Virginia to the north; North Carolina to the east; Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi on the south; Arkansas and Missouri on the Mississippi River to the west. Tennessee ties Missouri as the state bordering the most other states. The state is trisected by the Tennessee River. The Appalachian Mountains dominate the eastern part of the state, and the Mississippi River forms the state’s western border. Nashville is the state’s capital and largest city, with a population of 660,388. Tennessee’s second largest city is Memphis, which has a population of 652,717.
The highest point in the state is Clingmans Dome at 6,643 feet (2,025 m). Clingmans Dome, which lies on Tennessee’s eastern border, is the highest point on the Appalachian Trail, and is the third highest peak in the United States east of the Mississippi River. The state line between Tennessee and North Carolina crosses the summit. The state’s lowest point is the Mississippi River at the Mississippi state line: 178 feet (54 m). The geographical center of the state is located in Murfreesboro.
The state of Tennessee is geographically, culturally, economically, and legally divided into three Grand Divisions: East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and West Tennessee. The state constitution allows no more than two justices of the five-member Tennessee Supreme Court to be from one Grand Division and a similar rule applies to certain commissions and boards.
Tennessee features six principal physiographic regions: the Blue Ridge, the Appalachian Ridge and Valley Region, the Cumberland Plateau, the Highland Rim, the Nashville Basin, and the Gulf Coastal Plain. The state is home to the most caves in the United States, with over 10,000 documented caves to date.
The state of Tennessee is rooted in the Watauga Association, a 1772 frontier pact generally regarded as the first constitutional government west of the Appalachians. What is now Tennessee was initially part of North Carolina, and later part of the Southwest Territory. It was admitted to the Union as the 16th state on June 1, 1796, and was the last state to leave the Union and join the Confederacy at the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861. Occupied by Union forces from 1862, it was the first state to be readmitted to the Union at the end of the war.
Tennessee furnished more soldiers for the Confederate Army than any other state besides Virginia, and more soldiers for the Union Army than the rest of the Confederacy combined. Beginning during Reconstruction, it had competitive party politics, but a Democratic takeover in the late 1880s resulted in passage of disenfranchisement laws that excluded most blacks and many poor whites from voting. This sharply reduced competition in politics in the state until after passage of civil rights legislation in the mid-20th century. In the 20th century, Tennessee transitioned from an agrarian economy to a more diversified economy, aided by massive federal investment in the Tennessee Valley Authority and, in the early 1940s, the city of Oak Ridge. This city was established to house the Manhattan Project’s uranium enrichment facilities, helping to build the world’s first atomic bombs, two of which were dropped on Imperial Japan near the end of World War II.
Tennessee’s major industries include agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism. Poultry, soybeans, and cattle are the state’s primary agricultural products, and major manufacturing exports include chemicals, transportation equipment, and electrical equipment. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the nation’s most visited national park, is headquartered in the eastern part of the state, and a section of the Appalachian Trail roughly follows the Tennessee-North Carolina border. Other major tourist attractions include the Tennessee Aquarium in Chattanooga; Dollywood in Pigeon Forge; Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies and Ober Gatlinburg in Gatlinburg; the Parthenon, the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, and Ryman Auditorium in Nashville; the Jack Daniel’s Distillery in Lynchburg; Elvis Presley’s Graceland residence and tomb, the Memphis Zoo, the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis; and Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol.
The earliest variant of the name that became Tennessee was recorded by Captain Juan Pardo, the Spanish explorer, when he and his men passed through an American Indian village named Tanasqui in 1567 while traveling inland from South Carolina. In the early 18th century, British traders encountered a Cherokee town named Tanasi (or Tanase) in present-day Monroe County, Tennessee. The town was located on a river of the same name (now known as the Little Tennessee River), and appears on maps as early as 1725. It is not known whether this was the same town as the one encountered by Juan Pardo, although recent research suggests that Pardo’s Tanasqui was located at the confluence of the Pigeon River and the French Broad River, near modern Newport.
The meaning and origin of the word are uncertain. Some accounts suggest it is a Cherokee modification of an earlier Yuchi word. It has been said to mean “meeting place”, “winding river”, or “river of the great bend”. According to ethnographer James Mooney, the name “can not be analyzed” and its meaning is lost.
The modern spelling, Tennessee, is attributed to James Glen, the governor of South Carolina, who used this spelling in his official correspondence during the 1750s. The spelling was popularized by the publication of Henry Timberlake’s “Draught of the Cherokee Country” in 1765. In 1788, North Carolina created Tennessee County, the third county to be established in what is now Middle Tennessee. Tennessee County was the predecessor to current-day Montgomery County and Robertson County. When a constitutional convention met in 1796 to organize a new state out of the Southwest Territory, it adopted Tennessee as the name of the state.
Tennessee is known as The Volunteer State, a nickname some claimed was earned during the War of 1812 because of the prominent role played by volunteer soldiers from Tennessee, especially during the Battle of New Orleans. Other sources differ on the origin of the state nickname; according to the Columbia Encyclopedia, the name refers to volunteers for the Mexican–American War. This explanation is more likely, because President Polk’s call for 2,600 nationwide volunteers at the beginning of the Mexican–American War resulted in 30,000 volunteers from Tennessee alone, largely in response to the death of Davy Crockett and appeals by former Tennessee Governor and then Texas politician, Sam Houston.
The area now known as Tennessee was first inhabited by Paleo-Indians nearly 12,000 years ago. The names of the cultural groups that inhabited the area between first settlement and the time of European contact are unknown, but several distinct cultural phases have been named by archaeologists, including Archaic (8000–1000 BC), Woodland (1000 BC–1000 AD), and Mississippian (1000–1600 AD), whose chiefdoms were the cultural predecessors of the Muscogee people who inhabited the Tennessee River Valley before Cherokee migration into the river’s headwaters.
The first recorded European excursions into what is now called Tennessee were three expeditions led by Spanish explorers, namely Hernando de Soto in 1540, Tristan de Luna in 1559, and Juan Pardo in 1567. Pardo recorded the name Tanasqui from a local Indian village, which evolved to the state’s current name. At that time, Tennessee was inhabited by tribes of Muscogee and Yuchi people. Possibly because of European diseases devastating the Indian tribes, which would have left a population vacuum, and also from expanding European settlement in the north, the Cherokee moved south from the area now called Virginia. As European colonists spread into the area, the Indian populations were forcibly displaced to the south and west, including all Muscogee and Yuchi peoples, the Chickasaw and Choctaw, and ultimately, the Cherokee in 1838.
The first British settlement in what is now Tennessee was built in 1756 by settlers from the colony of South Carolina at Fort Loudoun, near present-day Vonore. Fort Loudoun became the westernmost British outpost to that date. The fort was designed by John William Gerard de Brahm and constructed by forces under British Captain Raymond Demeré. After its completion, Captain Raymond Demeré relinquished command on August 14, 1757, to his brother, Captain Paul Demeré. Hostilities erupted between the British and the neighboring Overhill Cherokees, and a siege of Fort Loudoun ended with its surrender on August 7, 1760. The following morning, Captain Paul Demeré and a number of his men were killed in an ambush nearby, and most of the rest of the garrison was taken prisoner.
In the 1760s, long hunters from Virginia explored much of East and Middle Tennessee, and the first permanent European settlers began arriving late in the decade. The vast majority of 18th century settlers were English or of primarily English descent but nearly 20% of them were also Scotch-Irish. These settlers formed the Watauga Association, a community built on lands leased from the Cherokee peoples.
During the American Revolutionary War, Fort Watauga at Sycamore Shoals (in present-day Elizabethton) was attacked (1776) by Dragging Canoe and his warring faction of Cherokee who were aligned with the British Loyalists. These renegade Cherokee were referred to by settlers as the Chickamauga. They opposed North Carolina’s annexation of the Washington District and the concurrent settling of the Transylvania Colony further north and west. The lives of many settlers were spared from the initial warrior attacks through the warnings of Dragging Canoe’s cousin, Nancy Ward. The frontier fort on the banks of the Watauga River later served as a 1780 staging area for the Overmountain Men in preparation to trek over the Appalachian Mountains, to engage, and to later defeat the British Army at the Battle of Kings Mountain in South Carolina.
Three counties of the Washington District (now part of Tennessee) broke off from North Carolina in 1784 and formed the State of Franklin. Efforts to obtain admission to the Union failed, and the counties (now numbering eight) had re-joined North Carolina by 1789. North Carolina ceded the area to the federal government in 1790, after which it was organized into the Southwest Territory. In an effort to encourage settlers to move west into the new territory, in 1787 the mother state of North Carolina ordered a road to be cut to take settlers into the Cumberland Settlements — from the south end of Clinch Mountain (in East Tennessee) to French Lick (|Nashville). The Trace was called the “North Carolina Road” or “Avery’s Trace”, and sometimes “The Wilderness Road” (although it should not be confused with Daniel Boone’s “Wilderness Road” through the Cumberland Gap).
When North Carolina ratified the Constitution of the United States in 1789, it also ceded its western lands, the “Tennessee country”, to the Federal government. North Carolina had used these lands as a means of rewarding its Revolutionary War soldiers. In the Cession Act of 1789, it reserved the right to satisfy further land claims in Tennessee.Congress designated the area as the “Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio”, more commonly known as the Southwest Territory. The territory was divided into three districts — two for East Tennessee and one for the Mero District on the Cumberland — each with its own courts, militia and officeholders. President George Washington appointed William Blount, a prominent North Carolinian politician with extensive holdings in the western lands, territorial governor. The Southwest Territory existed from May 26, 1790, until June 1, 1796.
In 1795, a territorial census revealed a sufficient population for statehood. A referendum showed a three-to-one majority in favor of joining the Union. Governor Blount called for a constitutional convention to meet in Knoxville, where delegates from all the counties drew up a model state constitution and democratic bill of rights. The voters chose John Sevier as governor; he’d previously been governor of the State of Franklin. The newly elected legislature voted for Blount and William Cocke as Senators, and Andrew Jackson as Congressman.
Tennessee leaders thereby converted the territory into a new state, with organized government and constitution, before applying to Congress for admission. Since the Southwest Territory was the first Federal territory to present itself for admission to the Union, there was some uncertainty about how to proceed, and Congress was divided on the issue.
Nonetheless, in a close vote on June 1, 1796, Congress approved the admission of Tennessee as the sixteenth state of the Union. They drew its borders by extending the northern and southern borders of North Carolina, with a few deviations, to the Mississippi River, Tennessee’s western boundary. It was the first state created from territory under the jurisdiction of the United States federal government. Apart from the former Thirteen Colonies only Vermont and Kentucky predate Tennessee’s statehood, and neither was ever a federal territory. The Constitution of the State of Tennessee, Article I, Section 31, states that the beginning point for identifying the boundary is the extreme height of the Stone Mountain, at the place where the line of Virginia intersects it, and basically runs the extreme heights of mountain chains through the Appalachian Mountains separating North Carolina from Tennessee past the Indian towns of Cowee and Old Chota, thence along the main ridge of the said mountain (Unicoi Mountain) to the southern boundary of the state; all the territory, lands and waters lying west of said line are included in the boundaries and limits of the newly formed state of Tennessee. Part of the provision also stated that the limits and jurisdiction of the state would include future land acquisition, referencing possible land trade with other states, or the acquisition of territory from west of the Mississippi River.
In the early years of settlement, planters brought enslaved African-Americans with them from Kentucky and Virginia. Enslaved African Americans were first concentrated in Middle Tennessee, where planters developed mixed crops and bred high quality horses and cattle, as they did in the Inner Bluegrass region of Kentucky. East Tennessee had more subsistence farmers and few slaveholders. During the early years of state formation there was support for emancipation. At the constitutional convention of 1796, “free negroes” were given the right to vote if they met residency and property requirements. Efforts to abolish slavery were defeated at this convention and again at the convention of 1834. The convention of 1834 also marked the state’s retraction of suffrage for most free African Americans.
By 1830 the number of African Americans had increased from less than 4,000 at the beginning of the century, to 146,158. This was chiefly related to the invention of the cotton gin in 1793 and the development of large plantations and transportation of numerous enslaved people to the Cotton Belt in West Tennessee, in the area of the Mississippi River.
During the administration of U.S. President Martin Van Buren, nearly 17,000 Cherokees — along with approximately 2,000 black slaves owned by Cherokees — were uprooted from their homes between 1838 and 1839 and were forced by the U.S. military to march from “emigration depots” in Eastern Tennessee (such as Fort Cass) toward the more distant Indian Territory west of Arkansas (now the state of Oklahoma). During this relocation an estimated 4,000 Cherokees died along the way west. In the Cherokee language, the event is called Nunna daul Isunyi — “the Trail Where We Cried.” The Cherokees were not the only American Indians forced to emigrate as a result of the Indian removal efforts of the United States, and so the phrase “Trail of Tears” is sometimes used to refer to similar events endured by other American Indian peoples, especially among the “Five Civilized Tribes”. The phrase originated as a description of the earlier emigration of the Choctaw nation.
In February 1861, secessionists in Tennessee’s state government — led by Governor Isham Harris — sought voter approval for a convention to sever ties with the United States, but Tennessee voters rejected the referendum by a 54–46% margin. The strongest opposition to secession came from East Tennessee (which later tried to form a separate Union-aligned state). Following the Confederate attack upon Fort Sumter in April and Lincoln’s call for troops from Tennessee and other states in response, Governor Isham Harris began military mobilization, submitted an ordinance of secession to the General Assembly, and made direct overtures to the Confederate government. The Tennessee legislature ratified an agreement to enter a military league with the Confederate States on May 7, 1861. On June 8, 1861, with people in Middle Tennessee having significantly changed their position, voters approved a second referendum calling for secession, becoming the last state to do so.
Many major battles of the American Civil War were fought in Tennessee — most of them Union victories. Ulysses S. Grant and the U.S. Navy captured control of the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers in February 1862. They held off the Confederate counterattack at Shiloh in April. Memphis fell to the Union in June, following a naval battle on the Mississippi River in front of the city. The capture of Memphis and Nashville gave the Union control of the western and middle sections; this control was confirmed at the Battle of Murfreesboro in early January 1863 and by the subsequent Tullahoma Campaign.
Confederates held East Tennessee despite the strength of Unionist sentiment there, with the exception of extremely pro-Confederate Sullivan County. The Confederates, led by General James Longstreet, did attack General Burnside’s Fort Sanders at Knoxville and lost. It was a big blow to East Tennessee Confederate momentum, but Longstreet won the Battle of Bean’s Station a few weeks later. The Confederates besieged Chattanooga during the Chattanooga Campaign in early fall 1863, but were driven off by Grant in November. Many of the Confederate defeats can be attributed to the poor strategic vision of General Braxton Bragg, who led the Army of Tennessee from Perryville, Kentucky to another Confederate defeat at Chattanooga.
The last major battles came when the Confederates invaded Middle Tennessee in November 1864 and were checked at Franklin, then completely dispersed by George Thomas at Nashville in December. Meanwhile, the civilian Andrew Johnson was appointed military governor of the state by President Abraham Lincoln.
When the Emancipation Proclamation was announced, Tennessee was mostly held by Union forces. Thus, Tennessee was not among the states enumerated in the Proclamation, and the Proclamation did not free any slaves there. Nonetheless, enslaved African Americans escaped to Union lines to gain freedom without waiting for official action. Old and young, men, women and children camped near Union troops. Thousands of former slaves ended up fighting on the Union side, nearly 200,000 in total across the South.
Tennessee’s legislature approved an amendment to the state constitution prohibiting slavery on February 22, 1865. Voters in the state approved the amendment in March. It also ratified the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution (abolishing slavery in every state) on April 7, 1865.
In 1864, Andrew Johnson (a War Democrat from Tennessee) was elected Vice President under Abraham Lincoln. He became President after Lincoln’s assassination in 1865. Under Johnson’s lenient re-admission policy, Tennessee was the first of the seceding states to have its elected members readmitted to the U.S. Congress, on July 24, 1866. Because Tennessee had ratified the Fourteenth Amendment, it was the only one of the formerly secessionist states that did not have a military governor during the Reconstruction period.
After the formal end of Reconstruction, the struggle over power in Southern society continued. Through violence and intimidation against freedmen and their allies, White Democrats regained political power in Tennessee and other states across the South in the late 1870s and 1880s. Over the next decade, the state legislature passed increasingly restrictive laws to control African Americans. In 1889, the General Assembly passed four laws described as electoral reform, with the cumulative effect of essentially disfranchising most African Americans in rural areas and small towns, as well as many poor Whites. Legislation included implementation of a poll tax, timing of registration, and recording requirements. Tens of thousands of taxpaying citizens were without representation for decades into the 20th century. Disfranchising legislation accompanied Jim Crow laws passed in the late 19th century, which imposed segregation in the state. In 1900, African Americans made up nearly 24% of the state’s population, and numbered 480,430 citizens who lived mostly in the central and western parts of the state.
In 1897, the state celebrated its centennial of statehood (albeit one year late) with a great exposition in Nashville. The Tennessee Centennial Exposition was the ultimate expression of the Gilded Age in the Upper South — a showcase of industrial technology and exotic papier-mâché versions of the world’s wonders. The Nashville Parthenon, a full-scale replica of Athens’ Parthenon, was built in plaster, wood and brick. Rebuilt of concrete in the 1920s, it remains one of the city’s attractions. During its six-month run at Centennial Park, the Exposition drew nearly two million visitors to see its dazzling monuments to the South’s recovery. Governor Robert Taylor observed, “Some of them who saw our ruined country thirty years ago will certainly appreciate the fact that we have wrought miracles.”
Tennessee provided the most celebrated American soldier of the First World War. Alvin C. York, of Fentress County, Tennessee, was a former conscientious objector who, in October 1918, subdued an entire German machine gun regiment in the Argonne Forest. Besides receiving the Medal of Honor and assorted French decorations, York became a powerful symbol of patriotism in the press and Hollywood film.
On August 18, 1920, Tennessee became the thirty-sixth and final state necessary to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, which provided women the right to vote. Disfranchising voter registration requirements continued to keep most African Americans and many poor whites, both men and women, off the voter rolls.
National attention came Tennessee’s way during the trial of John T. Scopes, also called the Scopes Trial. In 1925, the General Assembly, as part of a general education bill, passed a law that forbade the teaching of evolution in the public schools. Some local boosters in Dayton, Tennessee concocted a scheme to have Scopes, a high school biology teacher, violate the law and stand trial as a way of drawing publicity and visitors to the town. Their plan worked all too well, as the Rhea County Courthouse was turned into a circus of national and even international media coverage. Thousands flocked to Dayton to witness the high-powered legal counsels, William Jennings Bryan for the prosecution, and Clarence Darrow for the defense, argue their case.
Tennessee was ridiculed in the northeast and West Coast press as the “Monkey State,” even as a wave of revivals defending religious fundamentalism swept the state. The trial was also given the name “Monkey Trial” by the same reporters. The legal outcome of the trial was inconsequential. Scopes was convicted and fined $100, a penalty later rescinded by the state court of appeals. The law itself remained on the books until 1967.
At the very time that Tennessee’s rural culture was under attack by urban critics, its music found a national audience.
In 1925, WSM, a powerful Nashville radio station, began broadcasting a weekly program of live music which soon was dubbed the “Grand Ole Opry” (originally called the WSM Barn Dance). Such music came in diverse forms: banjo-and-fiddle string bands from Appalachia; family gospel singing groups; and country vaudeville acts (such as Murfreesboro native Uncle Dave Macon). Broadcast over clear-channel AM radio station WSM, it could be heard in 30 states across the eastern part of the nation. As of 2014, the longest-running radio program in American history, the Opry used the new technology of radio to tap into a huge market for “old timey” or “hillbilly” music.
Two years after the Opry’s opening, in a series of landmark sessions at Bristol, Tennessee, field scout Ralph Peer of the Victor Company recorded Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family to produce the first nationally popular rural records. Tennessee emerged as the heartland of traditional country music — home to many of the performers as well as the place from which it was broadcast to the nation.
Though not originally a stage show, the Opry began to attract listeners from around the region who would come to the WSM studio to see it live. When crowds got too large for the studio, WSM began broadcasting the show from the Hillsboro Theatre (now Belcourt Theatre) in 1934. The Opry moved to East Nashville’s Dixie Tabernacle in 1936, and then to War Memorial Auditorium in 1939. After four years, and several reports of upholstery damage caused by its rowdy crowds, the Opry was asked to leave War Memorial and sought a new home yet again. With its wooden pews and central location, Naff and the other Ryman leaders thought the auditorium would be a perfect venue for such an audience, and began renting the venue to WSM for its shows. The Grand Ole Opry was first broadcast from the Ryman on June 5, 1943, and originated there every week for nearly 31 years thereafter. Every show sold out, and hundreds were often turned away.
During its tenure at Ryman Auditorium, the Opry hosted the biggest country music stars of the day, and the show became known around the world. In addition to its home on WSM, portions of the show (at various times throughout its history) were also broadcast on network radio and television to a wider audience. Melding its then-current usage with the building’s origins as a house of worship, the Ryman earned the nickname “The Mother Church of Country Music”, which it still holds to this day.
The need to create work for the unemployed during the Great Depression, the desire for rural electrification, and the desire to control the annual spring floods on the Tennessee River drove the federal government’s creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the nation’s largest public utility, in 1933. The TVA affected the lives of nearly all Tennesseans. The agency was created mainly through the persistence of Senator George Norris of Nebraska. Headquartered in Knoxville, it was charged with the task of planning the total development of the Tennessee River Valley. TVA sought to do this by building hydroelectric dams, constructing 20 between 1933 and 1951, as well as electricity-producing coal-fired power plants.
Inexpensive and abundant electrical power was the main benefit the TVA brought to Tennessee, particularly to rural areas that previously did not have electrical service. TVA brought electricity to about 60,000 farm households across the state. By 1945, TVA was the largest electrical utility in the nation, a supplier of vast amounts of power whose presence in Tennessee attracted large industries to relocate near one of its dams or steam plants. This incentive contributed to important economic development in the state.
During World War II, the availability of abundant TVA electrical power led the Manhattan Project to locate one of the principal sites for production and isolation of weapons-grade fissile material in East Tennessee. The planned community of Oak Ridge was built from scratch to provide accommodations for the facilities and workers. These sites are now Oak Ridge National Laboratory, the Y-12 National Security Complex, and the East Tennessee Technology Park.
Tennessee played an important and prominent role during the Civil Rights Movement. Many national civil rights leaders, such as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., received training in methods of nonviolent protest at the Highlander Folk School in Monteagle, Tennessee. The methods which Gandhi had used were taught here.
In the spring of 1960, after decades of segregation, Tennessee’s Jim Crow laws were challenged by an organized group of Nashville college students from Fisk University, American Baptist Theological Seminary, and Vanderbilt University. The students, led by Jim Farmer, John Lewis, and ministers of local African-American churches, used methods of non-violent protest in anticipation of a planned and concerted effort to desegregate Nashville’s downtown lunch counters through a series of sit-ins. Although many were harassed and beaten by white vigilantes and arrested by the Nashville police, none of the students retaliated with violence.
The Nashville sit-ins reached a turning point when the house of Z. Alexander Looby, a prominent African-American attorney and leader, was bombed. Although no one was killed, thousands of protesters spontaneously marched to Nashville City Hall to confront Mayor Ben West. The mayor had offered only weak half-measures and vacillated toward segregation. Meeting the mass of protesters outside city hall, West informally debated with them and concluded by conceding that segregation was immoral. The bombing, the march, and Mayor West’s statement helped convince downtown lunch counters to desegregate. Although segregation and Jim Crow were by no means over, the episode served as one of the first successful events of nonviolent protest, and as a significant example to the rest of the nation.
The leadership, activism and moral arguments of African Americans in the Civil Rights Movement across the South gained passage of the national Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965. African Americans regained ordinary civil rights and the power to exercise their voting rights. Voting rights for all were protected by provisions of the Voting Rights Act.
In contrast to the successes of the movement in Tennessee, the April 4, 1968, assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in Memphis was perceived as symbolic of hatred in the state. King was in the city to support a strike by black sanitary public works employees of AFSCME Local 1733. The city quickly settled the strike on favorable terms to the employees. Riots and civil unrest erupted in African-American areas in numerous cities across the country, resulting in widespread injuries and millions of dollars in property damages.
Tennessee celebrated its bicentennial in 1996 after a yearlong statewide celebration entitled “Tennessee 200” by opening a new state park — the Bicentennial Mall — at the foot of Capitol Hill in Nashville.
In 2002, businessman Phil Bredesen became the 48th governor, and Tennessee amended the state constitution to allow for the establishment of a lottery. In 2006, Tennessee saw the only freshman Republican, Bob Corker, elected to the United States Senate in the midst of the 2006 midterm elections and the Constitution was amended to reject same-sex marriage. In January 2007, Ron Ramsey became the first Republican to become Speaker of the State Senate since Reconstruction. In 2010, during the historic 2010 midterm elections, Bill Haslam succeeded Bredesen, who was term-limited, to become the 49th Governor of Tennessee.
In April and May 2010, flooding in Middle Tennessee devastated Nashville and other parts of Middle Tennessee. Parts of East Tennessee, including Hamilton County and Apison in Bradley County, were devastated by the April 2011 tornado outbreak.
The Tennessee state flag consists of an emblem on a field of red, with a strip of blue on the fly. The emblem in the middle consists of three stars on a blue circle. The three stars represent the three Grand Divisions of the state, East Tennessee, Middle Tennessee, and West Tennessee. The blue circle around the stars represents the unity of the “Grand Divisions” of the state. The blue bar at the edge of the flag was just a design consideration. When asked about the blue bar, designer Colonel LeRoy Reeves of the Tennessee National Guard stated that “The final blue bar relieves the sameness of the crimson field and prevents the flag from showing too much crimson when hanging limp.” The Tennessee State Legislature officially adopted the flag on April 17, 1905.
Tennessee state law dictates on how the center emblem is drawn on the flag.
The arrangement of the three (3) stars shall be such that the centers of no two stars shall be in a line parallel to either the side or the end of the flag, but intermediate between the same; and the highest star shall be the one nearest the upper confined corner of the flag.
On February 23, 1976, the United States Postal Service issued a sheet of 50 stamps with one stamp for each state. The Tennessee flag was upside down as represented on its stamp (Scott #1648).
A flag was first proposed for the state in 1861. It was modeled after the First National Flag of the Confederate States of America, but with the State Seal in the canton, instead of seven stars. Between 1897 and the adoption of the current flag in 1905, Tennessee used a tricolor in red, blue, and white. The three bands were slanted to represent geographically the three regions of Tennessee. It included the number 16 and the words “The Volunteer State”, representing Tennessee being the 16th state in the Union, and the state’s nickname.
Scott #941 was released on June 1, 1946, to commemorate the 150th anniversary of Tennessee statehood. The 3-cent purple stamp features the Tennessee State Capitol in the center, flanked by portraits of United States President Andrew Jackson on the left and Tennessee Governor John Sevier on the right. Jackson was the first U. S. President from Tennessee. Sevier was the first governor of Tennessee. The Bureau of Engraving and Printing used the Rotary press to print 132,274,500 copies of the stamp in dark violet, perforated 11 x 10½.
Born in New Market, Virginia, John Sevier moved to the Holston River Valley in 1773. At the time, this area was an unsettled region of the colony of North Carolina, but is now in eastern Tennessee. In 1780, Sevier led an expedition against the British during the American Revolutionary War, defeating the British at Kings Mountain. Later, Sevier won fame as an Indian fighter.
After the Revolution, many settlers in what is now Tennessee started a movement to create a separate state. In 1784, they founded the state of Franklin. Sevier became the governor of Franklin in 1785. In 1788, troubles with Indians, land speculation plots, and political rivalries destroyed Sevier’s power and brought the end of the state of Franklin.
Later, Sevier was elected to the North Carolina Senate and then the U.S. Congress. In 1796, the area that had been “the lost state of Franklin” became part of the state of Tennessee. Sevier was elected Tennessee’s first governor and served for a total of six terms. He also served the state for one term as a senator and then returned to the Congress, where he served until his death.