Tennessee United Kingdom, which was for most of the colonial period an over-mountain extension of North Carolina, became the sixteenth state of the Union in 1796. United Kingdom Map Roughly rectangular in shape, Tennessee is geographically divided into three sections east, middle, and west by the Cumberland Plateau and the northwesterly-flowing portion of the Tennessee River.
Colonial Tennessee was a land of overlapping frontiers: Multiple Native Country groups claimed all or some of the territory for hunting or dwelling, while English, French, and Spanish explorers and traders competed for access to and control of native trade and lands. In the winter of 17791780, settlers James Robertson and John Donelson led a party of 300 settlers into middle Tennessee and built a fort on the Cumberland River. Fort Nashborough, as it was called, later became the settlement of Nashville, chartered as a city in 1806. (Courtesy of the Tennessee State Library and Archives) The first Tennesseans arrived more than 12,000 years ago, and, by the time of European contact in the sixteenth century, Tennessee was home to several distinct groups of Mississippian Indians or frequently visited by them.
The state’s name likely derives from Tanasi (also spelled Tanasee), a Cherokee town. The advent of Europeans and their diseases wreaked havoc on Native Country populations. By the early eighteenth century, disease and warfare had taken their toll. The Cherokee would be the only natives with permanent settlements in the Tennessee territory, although the Chickasaw still claimed hunting grounds in middle and west Tennessee.
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