Founding of Nashville

Nashville was orginally founded as Fort Nashborough between 1779 and 1780, and the first permanent settlement was founded on Christmas of 1779. The community, comprised of a group of European settlers led by James Robertson, was situated on the banks of what is now the Cumberland River. In 1783, the territory was established by the state of North Carolina.

Our First Century

A History of Nashville from Its Original Settlement: The Progress of a Hundred Years

Graphically Described by Anson Nelson, Esq., read at the opening of the Nashville Centennial Celebration, April 24, 1880.

A hundred years ago. How solemn the reverberation when the world's mighty time piece strikes again, and another century is numbered with the ages in the silent and irrevocable past. Century after century glides noiselessly away and the eart speeds onward to the development of her highest endeavors and to the unfolding of her many mysteries.

Great changes have taken place in this spot of earth from which the bounty of the Creator gave to us for a home one hundred years of age. Buffalos, elk, deer, bear, panthers, wolves, foxes and occasionally the wild red man were its in-habitants, and roamed through the dense thickets of cane that rose from ten to twenty feet high and in the forest of cedar trees that covered this country. The only roads were the trails of these wild animals and the only open space was around the sulphur spring where the numerous tracks had destroyed the trees and undergrowth. How different the scene from this prominence which delights our eyes today. Instead a solitary cedar crowned hill top, vocal with the cries of wild beasts and the ________ breathing of nature, here towers a noble state house, from whose lofty cupola floats the flag of one of the world's mightiest powers. Here will soon stand the statue of one the world's heroes whose life, and triumphs have raised the city in a worthy place among the cities of the world. The glorious landscape that surrounds us, bounded only by the dim, soft line of the horizon, north south, east, and west, is a region of beauty, long to be remembered. In the north stands the cotton factory looking in the twilight like some illuminated palace and pouring forth volumes of smoke as if it held an imprisoned spirit striving to break its shackles. In the east, lies the city square, with its courthouse, a miniature capitol, surrounded by elegant buildings. This was in early tmes a wild place with huge rocks where the market now stands. Beyond the belt of the gleaming river lies beautiful East Nashville embowered in forest trees and garlands of lovely flowers - the rural retreat of many professional and business men. On the south and all around us rises spire after spire for ours is a city of Churches. Shining against the background of sky and tress the new _____ hotel looks like a Moorish palace. Away to the west Vanderbilt University in a frame work of green lawns and leafy trees seems to us to walk in wisdom's ways. The landscape was beautiful when the illimitable forest filled the prospect, and graceful forms of wild creatures were glancing in the scattered sunshine beneath its grand green arches, much more beautiful is it now with all these evidences of presence of the glorious and gentle heart of men.

Excerpt from John Egerton's Nashville: The Faces of Two Centuries, 1780-1980

Nobody knows what the Mound Builders called the river. Even the Shawnee elders, who knew of their nation's tenure in the valley from the middle of the seventeenth century, had no recollection of the people who had preceded them here and left their dead in stone coffins buried beneath the gracefully curved earthen mounds.

What would in time become Middle Tennessee was until early in the eighteenth century a home for the Shawnees, but their presence was never secure. It was a region of primeval beauty, an undisturbed wilderness garden of nature, and many besides the Shawnees coveted it: the Iroquois in the north, the Cherokees in the east, the Chickasaws in the west, the Creeks and Chocktaws in the south. Eventually, the Shawnees were driven out, leaving little behind except their name for the river: Warioto.

For nearly three-quarters of a century, it was understood among the various Indian tribes and the handful of French trappers and traders who ventured here that this park-like expanse of forest and streams could be hunted and fished by all, but possessed by none. The Iroquois did in fact claim it but did not occupy it; until well past 1770, no one did.

Egerton, John. Nashville: The Faces of Two Centuries 1780-1980. Nashville: PlusMedia Incorporated, 1979.