Tennessee, Early 1800s
Treaties signed with the Cherokee and Chickasaw between 1798 and 1806 resulted in the acquisition of much of south-central Tennessee and most of the Cumberland Plateau, finally removing the Indian barrier between the eastern counties and the Cumberland settlements. Tennessee now had jurisdiction over contiguous territory from east to west, which made it easier for westward travelers to reach Middle Tennessee. With so much fresh land—some of it quite fertile—opening for settlement, the state experienced a very rapid rate of population growth. Between 1790 and 1830, Tennessee’s growth rate exceeded that of the nation, as each successive Indian treaty opened up a new frontier. Between 1790 and 1800, the state’s populace tripled. It grew 250 percent from the years 1800 to 1810, increasing from 85,000 to 250,000 during the first fourteen years of statehood alone.
By 1810, middle Tennessee Middle Tennessee was opening for settlement, the state experienced a very rapid rate of population growth. Between 1790 and 1830, Tennessee’s growth rate exceeded that of the nation, as each successive Indian treaty opened up a new frontier. Between 1790 and 1800, the state’s populace tripled. It grew 250 percent from the years 1800 to 1810, increasing from 85,000 to 250,000 during the first four teen years of statehood alone. By 1810, Middle Tennessee had moved ahead of the eastern section in population. This demographic shift caused a shift in the balance of political power, as leadership in the Governor’s Office and the General Assembly passed from the older region of East Tennessee to the middle section, particularly the up-and-coming town of Nashville.
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Some claim the 'Volunteer State' nickname 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 claim stems from Tennessee's involvement during the Mexican–American War, during the late 1840s.
Preserving food in 1815, required smoking, drying, or salting meat. Vegetables were kept in a root cellar or pickled.
With the opening of former Indian lands and the heavy migration into the state, the period from 1806 to 1819 was one of prosperity and rapid development in Tennessee. Thirty-six of Tennessee’s ninety-five counties were formed between 1796 and 1819. Raw, isolated settlements developed quickly into busy county seats, and the formerly beleaguered outpost of Nashville grew into one of the leading cities of the Upper South.
The typical Tennessee farm was a self-sufficient enterprise. Eighty percent of its people engaged in agriculture, Tennessee retained an overwhelmingly rural character. Although most farmers worked simply to supply the food needs of their families, income could be made from selling certain “cash crops.” Cotton and tobacco were commercial crops from the beginning. They were profitable, easily transported, and could be worked on large farms, or plantations, with slave labor.
Tennessee farmers also converted corn, the state’s most important crop, into meal, whiskey, or (by feeding it to hogs) cured pork and shipped it by keelboat or flatboat to Natchez and New Orleans. Land-locked as they were and plagued by poor roads, early Tennesseans relied mainly on rivers to move their crops to market. Most types of manufacturing, like spinning cloth, soap-making, and forging tools, were done in the farm household. Even larger enterprises like gristmills, sawmills, tanneries, and distilleries centered on the processing of farm products.
The one true industry in early Tennessee was iron-making. Frontier ironworks were erected in upper East Tennessee by men who had brought knowledge of the craft from Pennsylvania. Beginning with James Robertson’s Cumberland Furnace in 1796, Middle Tennessee ironmasters built numerous furnaces and forges to capitalize on the abundant iron ores of the western Highland Rim region. These were complicated enterprises employing hundreds of men (slave and free) to dig the ore, cut the wood for charcoal, and operate the furnace. The early Tennessee iron industry supplied blacksmiths, mill owners, and farmers with the metal they needed and laid the groundwork for future industrial development.
As nearly all farm work was performed by hand and much of the settlers’ time was devoted to raising or making the goods necessary to survive, little time remained for cultural diversions. All able-bodied men were subject to militia duty, and the militia musters served as festive social occasions for the whole county. There was little opportunity for organized religious practices in the early days and few ministers to preach. In the absence of formal churches, camp meetings—conducted by itinerant and self-taught ministers—served as the main arena for frontier religion.
Another sign of Tennessee’s emergence from the frontier stage was the rapid development of cultural and intellectual life. Nashville became an early center of the arts and education in the South. Music publishing gained a foothold here as early as 1824, making possible the preservation of many traditional American tunes. By the 1850s, the University of Nashville had grown into one of the nation’s foremost medical schools, training many of the physicians who practiced in the transAppalachian West. [A History of Tennessee]
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