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Nashville History

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Nashville History Fun Facts

Founded in 1779, Nashville was originally called Fort Nashborough, in honor of acclaimed Revolutionary War hero General Francis Nash. In 1784, the community's name was changed from Nashborough to Nashville. The city became Tennessee's capital from 1812 to 1815 and was permanently established as the capital in 1843.

Under its Metropolitan Charter, which became effective April 1, 1963, Nashville and Davidson County have a unique single government, with an authority reaching more than 1.5 million people and 533 square miles. This widespread area is governed by Mayor Bill Purcell, Vice Mayor Howard Gentry and the 40-member Metro Council.

Nashville Timeline

  • 8000 BC
    First Indian inhabitants build villages in the Nashville area.
  • 1200 AD
    (Mississippian Era) Large Indian villages cover the Nashville area.
  • 1450 AD
    Indian villages disappear; Middle Tennessee becomes a hunting area.
  • 1600s
    Charleville, a French-Canadian fur trader, establishes a trading post at the French Lick.
  • 1714
    Charleville's post is abandoned; Middle Tennessee becomes a shared hunting ground for the Cherokee, Choctow, Chickasaw, and Creek Indian tribes.
  • 1769
    Timothy Demonbreun, a French-Canadian fur trader, arrives at the French Lick and begins hunting in the area.
  • 1775
  • 1775
    North Carolinian Richard Henderson meets with Cherokee Indian leaders on the Wautauga River and bargains with them for claim to the land between the Ohio and Cumberland Rivers.
  • 1776
  • 1779
    Robertson leads the first group of settlers, mostly men and boys to the Cumberland Bluff; they arrive on Christmas Day.
  • 1779
    Col. John Donelson prepares flotilla of flatboats to bring women and children by water.
  • 1780
    Donelson arrives with second group on April 24 after a river voyage of 1,000 miles.
  • 1780
    Cumberland Compact, detailing the rights of the settlers, is signed by 250 men May 13.
  • 1783
  • 1783
    North Carolina legislature creates Davidson County.
  • 1784
    North Carolina legislature passes an act establishing the town of Nashville, naming it for General Francis Nash
  • 1785
    Colonel John Donelson, a founder of Nashville, is mysteriously killed.
  • 1785
    The first physician, Dr. John Sappington, arrives in Nashville.
  • 1787
    Real estate in Nashville is assessed and taxed one dollar per acre.
  • 1788
    Andrew Jackson arrives in Nashville to serve as public prosecutor.
  • 1788
    Bob Renfroe, a free African American, opens popular tavern in Nashville.
  • 1796
    Tennessee becomes the 16th state admitted to the Union.
  • 1799
    Nashville's first newspaper, Henkle's Tennessee Gazette & Mero Advertiser, is printed.
  • 1806
    Nashville is incorporated as a town, electing six aldermen and a mayor.
  • 1812
    WAR OF 1812 BEGINS
  • 1812
    The first legislature meets in Nashville.
  • 1813
    James Robertson, a founder of Nashville, dies near Memphis.
  • 1815
    Andrew Jackson defeats British troops at the Battle of New Orleans, January 8.
  • 1815
    WAR OF 1812 ENDS
  • 1818
    Nashville celebrates the first arrival of a steamboat, the Andrew Jackson.
  • 1819
    James Monroe makes the first presidential visit to Nashville.
  • 1821
    Nashville Medical Society, the first medical association in Tennessee, is founded in the log courthouse on the public square.
  • 1822
    The first bridge, made of stone, is built across the Cumberland.
  • 1822
    The City Cemetery is established on 4th Avenue, South.
  • 1824
    Andrew Jackson is defeated in his campaign for president of the United States.
  • 1824
    Music publishing begins in Nashville with the publication of Western Harmony, a book of hymns and instructions for singing.
  • 1828
    Andrew Jackson is elected seventh president of the United States.
  • 1833
    Nashville's first publicly owned waterworks is completed.
  • 1838
    Cherokee Indians pass through Nashville on the Trail of Tears.
  • 1843
    Nashville is named the permanent capital of Tennessee.
  • 1844
    James K. Polk is elected president of the United States.
  • 1845
    Construction of the Tennessee State Capitol begins.
  • 1845
    Andrew Jackson dies at his home, The Hermitage.
  • 1847
    The Nashville Merchant's Exchange, the predecessor of the Chamber of Commerce, is founded.
  • 1848
    The first telegraph message is received.
  • 1849
    James K. Polk dies in Nashville.
  • 1855
    Nashville's first public school opens on the northeast corner of 8th Avenue, North, and Broad Street.
  • 1855
    Mount Olivet Cemetery is established.
  • 1859
    The Tennessee State Capitol is completed.
  • 1859
    The building of the Maxwell House Hotel begins.
  • 1861
  • 1862
    Federal troops occupy Nashville, the first southern capital to fall to the Union army.
  • 1862
    African American laborers help Union troops build Fort Negley.
  • 1864
    Union troops defeat Confederate forces in the Battle of Nashville, December 15 and 16.
  • 1865
  • 1865
    First mule-drawn streetcars appear in Nashville.
  • 1869
    Mount Ararat Cemetery for African Americans is established.
  • 1873
    Sampson Keeble becomes first African American to serve in the Tennessee General Assembly.
  • 1876
    Meharry Medical College is founded.
  • 1876
    Jubilee Hall, the first building in the U.S. constructed for the higher education of African Americans, is built.
  • 1877
    The city's first telephone call is made.
  • 1880
    Nashville celebrates the centennial year of its founding.
  • 1882
    Nashville sees its first electric light.
  • 1885
    Nashville's first professional baseball game is played in Athletic Park near the Sulphur Spring Bottom north of downtown.
  • 1889
    Electric trolleys replace mule-drawn streetcars.
  • 1892
    The Union Gospel Tabernacle, now Ryman Auditorium, is completed.
  • 1892
    Joel Owsley Cheek develops Maxwell House Coffee blend.
  • 1896
    The first automobile is driven in Nashville.
  • 1897
    The Centennial Exposition opens with the Parthenon as its centerpiece.
  • 1900
    Union Station opens.
  • 1902
    Centennial Park is acquired by the city, marking the beginning of Nashville's public park system.
  • 1904
    The city's first Carnegie Library opens at the corner of 8th Avenue, North, and Union Street.
  • 1904
    Nashville's first skyscraper is constructed at the southeast corner of Fourth Avenue, North, and Church Street.
  • 1905
    The African American community institutes a streetcar boycott to protest a new law requiring separation of the races on electric streetcars.
  • 1907
    Tony Sudekum opens the first movie theater, The Dixie, on 5th Avenue, North, next to the Arcade.
  • 1911
    A Model T Ford climbs the steps of the Capitol to prove that the automobile could replace the horse.
  • 1911
    Nashvillian James C. Napier becomes Registrar of the U.S. Treasury.
  • 1912
    Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial State Normal School, later Tennessee State University, opens.
  • 1917
  • 1918
    The town of Old Hickory and a powder plant are built by DuPont.
  • 1919
  • 1919
  • 1919
    "Hampton Field" becomes Nashville's first airfield.
  • 1920
    Tennessee becomes the 36th and deciding state to vote for ratification of the 19th (Woman Suffrage) Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
  • 1920
    The first Nashville symphony orchestra was organized.
  • 1925
    Grand Ole Opry begins.
  • 1931
    The Parthenon reopens in its permanent form.
  • 1937
    The present Davidson County Courthouse is completed and opened.
  • 1937
    Nashvillian William Edmondson becomes the first African American to be given a one-man show at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
  • 1937
    American Airlines lands the first plane in the new airport.
  • 1941
  • 1943
    Cornelia Fort becomes the first woman pilot to die on war duty in American history.
  • 1943
    The Grand Ole Opry moves to Ryman Auditorium.
  • 1945
    World War II ends.
  • 1950
    Capital Records becomes the first major company to locate its director of country music in Nashville.
  • 1951
    Belmont College opens.
  • 1954
  • 1955
    Kelley Vs The Board of Education in Nashville leads to school desegregation plan.
  • 1958
    The Country Music Association is founded.
  • 1960
    Nashville Sit-In Movement leads to widespread desegregation of public facilities.
  • 1961
    The Maxwell House Hotel burns.
  • 1962
    Metropolitan Government is approved by the voters.
  • 1962
    Tennessee's first interstate highway, connecting Nashville to Memphis, arrives in Nashville.
  • 1963
    Metropolitan Government is formally inaugurated; County Judge Beverly Briley takes office as the first mayor.
  • 1964
  • 1974
    The Grand Old Opry moves from Ryman Auditorium to Opryland.
  • 1976
    The United Nations comes to Nashville for its first meeting away from New York City.
  • 1996
    Tennessee celebrates its Bicentennial.
  • 1998
    Nashville Banner Newspaper ceases with final edition Friday, February 20, 1998.
  • 1999
    Name "Adelphia Coliseum" chosen in June for new stadium. First game in new coliseum is played on August 15, 1999.
  • 2001
    New Country Music Hall of Fame opens


Additional Nashville History resources:

History of Nashville

Nashville Convention & Visitors Bureau