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History Data

1541
Indians living near present-day Shelby County encounter the Hernando De Soto expedition.

1739
French explorers build Fort Assumption on Memphis site.

1795
Fort San Fernando de las Barrancas built by the Spanish.

1797
The U.S. gains control of the area; Fort Adams erected.

1818
The Chickasaw Nation signs treaty ceding West Tennessee to the U.S.

1819
John Overton, James Winchester, and Andrew Jackson found the city of Memphis on May 22. Shelby County formed.

1825
Frances Wright organizes utopian community of Nashoba near present-day Germantown.

1826
Memphis incorporated on December 19.

1827
County seat moved from Memphis to Raleigh.

1840
Memphis Appeal organized.

1845
U.S. government establishes a navy yard in the city.

1850
Memphis and South Memphis merge.

1857
The Memphis & Charleston Railroad completed, linking the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River.

1862
On June 6, Union fleet defeats Confederate naval forces in the Battle of Memphis. Federal troops occupy the city.

1863
Grant names Memphis as hospital and supply base to support the attack on Vicksburg.

1865
The Memphis Freedmen's Bureau established to provide services such as banking and education.

1867
Memphis regains the county seat.

1878
City's most devastating yellow fever epidemic claims 5,000 lives.

1879
Memphis declares bankruptcy, loses its charter, and becomes a Taxing District of the state.

1887
Artesian well water becomes available for the first time.

1892
Great Bridge at Memphis opened. Later named Frisco Bridge.

1893
Cossitt Library opens, the first public library in Memphis. Memphis regains its city charter. Black millionaire Robert Reed Church, Sr. buys first city bond.

1895
The ten-story Porter Building, the city's first skyscraper, opens.

1899
Church's Park & Auditorium, the city's first park and entertainment center for African Americans, opens.

1906
The Overton Park Zoo opens.

1909
W.C. Handy writes the "Memphis Blues." Memphis adopts the commission form of government.

1911
University of Tennessee Medical School merges with the Memphis Hospital Medical College and the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

1912
A major Mississippi River flood brings high water to downtown Memphis.

1916
Clarence Saunders opens his first Piggly Wiggly store.

1923
The Universal Life Insurance Company, one of the largest black-owned insurance companies in the nation, is founded.

1925
The present Peabody Hotel opens to the public. Tom Lee rescues 32 people when the excursion boat M.E. Norman capsizes in the Mississippi River.

1928
The Orpheum Theatre opens; replaced Grand Opera House.

1937
The Mississippi River Great Flood devastates huge area; thousands of homeless brought to Memphis.

1939
City purchases the local utility company and renames it Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division.

1942
The Naval Air Station at Millington is built.

1943
The Army (now Defense) Depot and the Mallory Air Force Depot built.

1948
Construction on the Memphis Harbor project begins.

1950s
Memphis named the country's quietest, cleanest and safest city on several occasions.

1951
Tri-State Defender, local black newspaper, begins publication.

1952
Kemmons Wilson opens his first Holiday Inn on Summer Ave.

1954
E.H. Crump, Memphis political leader for 45 years, dies. Elvis Presley gives his first concert in Memphis.

1958
Stax Records, creator of the "Memphis Sound," organized.

1960s
Federal court decisions end segregation in the city's public libraries, schools, parks and recreation facilities.

1968
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated April 4 at the Lorraine Motel while in Memphis to support the Sanitation Workers' strike.

1972
Federal Express Corporation organized.

1973
Busing begins in order to bring about full integration of schools.

1976
Benjamin L. Hooks elected executive director of the NAACP. Victorian Village named historic district.

1977
Elvis Presley dies at Graceland on August 16.

1982
Mud Island Park and River Walk open.

1983
Redeveloped Beale Street opens as a tourist attraction. Jesse H. Turner becomes first black to serve as chairman of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners.

1986
Lighting of the Hernando DeSoto Bridge features 2,000 lights in a giant M.

1987
Ramesses the Great initiates the Wonders Series.

1990
World War II Memphis Belle moved to Mud Island.

1991
Dr. W.W. Herenton elected city's first black mayor. National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis Pyramid open.

1993
Downtown trolley begins operation.

© Compiled 1996 by the staff of the History Department


For Additional Memphis History visit these resources:

City of Memphis

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