The History of Nashville, TN

History of Nashville Tennessee

History of Nashville Close
Page Summary

The History of Nashville TN

The first settlers in what is now known as Nashville were Indians of the Mississippian culture, who lived in the area about 1000 to 1400 A.D. They raised corn, made great earthen mounds, painted beautiful pottery and then mysteriously disappeared. Other Indians, the Cherokee, Chickasaw and Shawnee, followed and used the area as a hunting ground.

The first white men to come to the area were French fur traders, who established a trading post around 1717. The first settlement, however, was not established until 1779. It was then on the banks of the Cumberland River near the center of present downtown Nashville, then a band of pioneers led by Englishman James Robertson cleared the land and built a log stockade. This was Fort Nashborough, named in honor of General Francis Nash who won acclaim in the new community that was then a part of North Carolina. In 1784 the community's name was changed from Nashborough to Nashville.

Tennessee became the sixteenth state in 1796 and Nashville was made its permanent capital in 1843.

By 1860 Nashville was a prosperous city, soon to be devastated by the Civil War. Because of its strategic location on the river and the railroad, the city was occupied by Federal troops for three years. The Battle of Nashville, fought in 1864, was the last aggressive action of the Confederate Army.

In the decades following the war, Nashville once again experienced a growth in population, business and industry and education. Another area of growth was in country music, which has grown to the point that Nashville today is known as Music City, USA.


Under its present Metropolitan Charter, which became effective April 1, 1963, Nashville and Davidson County have a single government with its authority encompassing more than a half-million people and 533 square miles, a vice-mayor and a legislative council of 40 members.

A Look Back at Nashville's Earliest Days

Nashville was founded by James Robertson and a party of Wataugans in 1779, and was originally called Fort Nashborough, after the American Revolutionary War hero Francis Nash. Nashville quickly grew because of its prime location, accessibility as a river port, and its later status as a major railroad center. In 1806, Nashville was incorporated as a city and became the county seat of Davidson County, Tennessee. In 1843, the city was named the permanent capital of the state of Tennessee.

By 1860, when the first rumblings of secession began to be heard across the South, antebellum Nashville was a very prosperous city. The city's significance as a shipping port made it a desirable prize as a means of controlling important river and railroad transportation routes. In February 1862, Nashville became the first state capital to fall to Union troops.

Though the Civil War left Nashville in dire economic straits, the city quickly rebounded.

Within a few years, the city had reclaimed its important shipping and trading position and also developed a solid manufacturing base. The post-Civil War years of the late 19th century brought a newfound prosperity to Nashville. These healthy economic times left the city with a legacy of grand classical-style buildings, which can still be seen around the downtown area.

It was the advent of the Grand Ole Opry in 1925, combined with an already thriving publishing industry, that positioned it to become "Music City USA". In 1963, Nashville consolidated its government with Davidson County and thus became the first major city in the United States to form a metropolitan government. Since the 1970s, the city has experienced tremendous growth, particularly during the economic boom of the 1990s under the leadership of Mayor (now-Tennessee Governor) Phil Bredesen, who made urban renewal a priority, and fostered the construction or renovation of several city landmarks, including the Country Music Hall of Fame, the Nashville Public Library downtown, the Sommet Center, and Nissan Stadium.

Nashville downtown overlooking the cumberland river

Moving Forward: A Look at Modern Day Nashville

The Sommet Center (formerly Nashville Arena and Gaylord Entertainment Center) was built as both a large concert facility and as an enticement to lure either a National Basketball Association or National Hockey League (NHL) sports franchise. This was accomplished in 1997 when Nashville was awarded an NHL expansion team which was subsequently named the Nashville Predators. Nissan Stadium (formerly LP Field and Adelphia Coliseum) was built after the National Football League's (NFL) Houston Oilers agreed to move to the city in 1995. The NFL debuted in Nashville in 1998 at Vanderbilt Stadium, and LP Field opened in the summer of 1999. The Oilers changed their name to the Tennessee Titans and saw a season culminate in the Music City Miracle and a close Super Bowl game.

Today the city along the Cumberland River is a crossroads of American culture, and easily the fastest-growing part of the Upper South and the territory between Atlanta and Texas. Currently, there are many plans of building multiple residential and business towers in the downtown area, including the Signature Tower. If constructed, this will be the tallest building in both Nashville and Tennessee surpassing the BellSouth Building, and will also become the tallest building in the USA outside of New York and Chicago surpassing the Bank of America Plaza in Atlanta.