Tennessee is a state with a very rich history and vast resources. Not only is Tennessee home to mountain ranges, lakes and plateaus put it is also often credited as the birthplace of country music and several well known historical figures. Below we’ve listed ten interesting facts about the state of Tennessee.
This article is courtesy of The Village on Sewanee Creek.
1. Tennessee was inhabited by Native American Cherokee people long before European settlers arrived. Woodland Indians were the first Native Americans who lived within the Appalachian Mountains nearly 3,000 years ago. By the 1500’s Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, Shawnee, and Cherokee Native American tribes settled, hunted, and travelled within the frontier nation then known as “Tanasee” meaning “meeting place.” In 1772 the first frontier pact known as the Watauga Association became the first constitutional government west of the Appalachians. Tennessee was admitted into the Union as the 16th state in America on June 1, 1796.
2. Tennessee was the birthplace of David “Davy” Crockett born on August 17,1768. Davy Crockett was a world renown 19th century folk hero, frontiersman, soldier, and politician better known as the “King of the Wild Frontier.” As a youth, Crockett spent his years hunting and weaving elaborate stories which have entertained many over the years. As an adult, Crockett was elected as U.S. House of Representatives member for the state of Tennessee in 1821 after serving as colonel in the militia of Lawrence County, Tennessee. While in office, Crockett publicly opposed President Andrew Jackson’s Indian Removal Act which displaced tens of thousands of Native American people to then western frontiers. Crockett later expatriated to Texas and later served in the Texas Revolution or the Texas War of Independence in a bloody military conflict between Mexico and Texan settlers in Coahuila y Tejas from October 2, 1835 until April 21, 1836. Crockett never saw the end of the Texas Revolution as he died on March 6, 1836 in the Battle of The Alamo. Crockett is a famed part of American history as much of his bravery has been portrayed in stage plays and almanacs, securing his place amongst America’s best known folk hero.
3. Reelfoot Lake located in Northwest Tennessee in Tiptonville, was created by by a series of earthquakes which rattled the area during the New Madrid earthquakes of 1811-1812. During the early 1900’s the Reelfoot area was home to widespread lawlessness and “Night Riding,” a group of vigilantes who found the landowner’s claims an infringing upon their rights to the lake. The resulting clash between landowners who had purchased the shore line and formed the West Tennessee Land Company and the Night Riders escalated into murder. A pair of attorneys representing the West Tennessee Land Company were fishing the lake at night when one was hanged and shot and the other escaped after swimming across the lake at night while under fire of the Night Riders guns. The escapee then reported the incident to the Nashville Banner and government action was soon taken. In response to the crime wave, Malcom R. Patterson, the governor of Tennessee deployed the state militia to restore order and lay down the law. Since then, people for generations travelled to the 13,000 acre lake which offers year round fishing and hunting. Vacationers and locals can take tours of the area given by the Reelfoot Lake State Park service. Reelfoot Lake draws many to camp, fish, hunt, and take in natures offerings. Reelfoot Lake is home to many species of turtles, bald eagles, naked cypress trees, and the Reelfoot National Wildlife Refuge.
4. Tennesee is notorious for being the birthplace of Ku Klux Klan, also known as “The Klan” or “KKK.” The KKK was founded by a group of extremists in 1865 by veterans of the Confederate Army in Pulaski, Tennessee. KKK groups spread rampantly throughout the South following the Civil War as Southerners resisted Federal Reconstruction. The infamous KKK group represents right wing hate groups, commits acts of violence against minorities, and seeks to further the interests of white Americans of Protestant faith under the premise of protecting rights. KKK members wrapped in iconic white costumes complete with robes, masks, and conical hats, use violence and intimidation to evoke fear and gain control. The KKK has a long record of lynching, murder, and terrorism to oppress minorities of ethnic or religious groups, including African Americans, Jews, Roman Catholics, and even specific labor unions. The KKK is a fraternal organization with a membership that peaked in during the mid 1920’s and is still presently active despite many governmental attempts to eradicate racial strife. There are presently 150 KKK chapters including 5,000 to 8,000 members nationwide.
5. Jack Daniels is a Tennessee born brand of the world’s best selling whiskey derived from sour mash and then filtered through sugar maple charcoal in huge wooden vats prior to aging. The process is very different from that used to make Kentucky bourbon and Tennessee whiskey is very different from Kentucky whiskey. Jack Daniels whiskey is a liquor well known for it’s square bottle, black label, and Tennessee roots. The liquor was invented in 1866 by Jasper Newton “Jack” Daniel. Daniel was born September 1850 to Calaway Daniel, an immigrant from Scotland, and Lucinda Cook, an immigrant from England. Daniel was one of who had thirteen children who became a licensed distiller at 16 and opened his first distillery in Lynchburg, Tennessee. Daniel never married and later died from blood poisoning stemming from his short fused, sometimes violent temper. Daniel kicked a safe that wouldn’t open in anger one morning while working. His foot later developed an infection, allegedly beginning in a toe injured as a result of the incident. Daniel never married but bequeathed the distillery to his nephew and book-keeper Lem Motlow in 1907 due to failing health. Motlow later received the better part of Daniel’s estate, who later left the distillery to his children, Robert, Reagor, Dan, Conner, and Mary, upon his death in 1947.
6. Tennessee is also the birthplace of country music, an American tradition which set the tune for the future of rock and roll and early blues. In 1927, country music was born in the Victor recording studio located in Bristol. Jimmie Rodgers and the Carter Family sang for the first recording sessions within the studio. In 1930, Nashville became home to the Grand Old Opry, a radio program which still broadcasts to this day where many country musicians begin their careers. Memphis, Tennessee is home to Sun Records founded by Sam Phillips, where music legends Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, Jerry Lee lewis, Roy Orbison, Charlie Rich, and a host of others began their careers during the 1950’s.
7. Tennessee is home to Oak Ridge, a base for the U.S. government’s Manhattan Project. Oak Ridge was created in the 1940’s originally as a top secret site to create and develop an atomic bomb. The city is also known as “Atomic City,” “The Secret City,” “The Ridge,” and “The City Behind The Fence.” Oak Ridge, a sleepy little Tennessee town, was literally invaded by the U.S. army and many residence were evicted from their homes as government forces acquired 60,000 acres within the town by March 1943. Major General Leslie Groves led his forces to erect fences and security check points around the town of Oak Ridge. Major Groves chose Oak Ridge because of it’s small population and location within natural ridges to provide protection against disasters amongst the 4 “industrial plants” nestled in the surrounding valley near the Norris Dam. Oak Ridge’s population grew from 3,000 in 1942 to 75,000 by 1945 because of the Clinton Engineering Works (CEW) top secret governmental cover-up of the Manhattan Project and development of the world’s K-25 uranium separating facility covering 44 acres of land, as well as the X-10 site, the S-50 plant, and the Y-12 plant. All 5 plants were constructed to separate fissile isotope uranium-235 from natural uranium and create plutonium. The government employed thousands of locals to work in the factories which later became the Oak Ridge National Laboratory. The detonation of the first atomic bomb used against Japan on August 6, 1945 caused the workers at Oak Ridge to learn that they had built the bomb.
8. Tennessee was the sight of Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination in Memphis on April 4, 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. was an American civil rights leader, Baptist clergyman, and iconic activist. King lead African Americans during the Civil Rights Movement lasting from 1955 when King led the Montgomery Bus Boycott until 1968 at the time of his death. King was a founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. King led a March on Washington, DC, in 1963 where he gave his historical “I Have Dream” speech which secured his place as on of the greatest American orators. In 1964, King was the youngest person in history to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent protests against racial segregation, racial discrimination, and other civil rights violations. Near the end of his life, King focused his work on ending poverty and was a forerunner in opposition to the Vietnam War. King’s life tragically ended on April 4, 1968 in Memphis when he was shot by sniper fire from the second floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel by James Earl Ray. His death secured his place as a martyr within The Episcopal Church in The USA and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
9. Great Smoky Mountains National Park is located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee in the Smoky Mountains. The park is known as a World Heritage Site brimming with Southern Appalachian history. The area is full of diverse plant and animal life and is America’s most visited national park. Birdwatchers take pleasure in vieing the Henslow’s Sparrow, Olive-sided Flycatcher, Cerulean Warbler, Red Corssbill, Black capped Chickadee, Yellow bellied Sapsucker, Golden Winged Warbler, and the Red Cockaded Woodpecker. The park is home to a “hiker’s paradise” with over 800 miles of trails to trek. The park is home to 1,500 bears, as well as deer, elk, and other biologically diverse animals due to it’s temperate habitat. The park is also home to 1,660 different varieties of flowering plants.
10. Tennessee is also home to the Tennessee Aquarium, the biggest fresh water aquarium in the world. The Tenneesee Aquarium opened on April 1, 1992 and has operated as a non profit, public aquarium. The Chattanooga site is home to more than 300 species of birds, assorted reptiles, and mammals, totalling 7,000 animals housed on the Aquarium campus. The Aquarium is home to an IMAX theater, hosts various community events, and focuses on several conservation programs. The Aquarium also has an educational program which leads 200,000 individuals yearly with learning that meets or exceeds educational requirements in Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee.
Bonus: Tennessee is one of the few states that has zero income tax.