A shallow rectangle, only one hundred miles from north to south,
TENNESSEE stretches 450 miles from the Mississippi to the Appalachians,
and divides into three distinct regions. The marshy western third
of the state occupies a low plateau edging down toward the Mississippi.
Only in the far southwest corner do the bluffs rise high enough
to permit a sizeable riverside settlement - the exhilarating port
of Memphis . Tennessee's largest city is a magnet for music fans,
as the birthplace of urban blues and long-time home of Elvis .
The fine plantation homes and tidy old towns of middle Tennessee
's rolling farmland reflect the comfortable lifestyle of its pioneers;
smack at the heart of this is Nashville , still country music's
capital, despite upstart competition from Branson and Myrtle Beach.
The mountainous east shares its top attraction with North Carolina
- the peaks, streams and meadows of Great Smoky Mountains National
Tennessee's first white settlers, most of them British Protestants,
arrived from across the mountains in the 1770s to settle in the
hills and hollows of the Appalachians. Initially relations with
the Cherokee were good. However, demand for land increased, and
confrontations throughout the state culminated in 1838 with the
forced removal of the Indians on the "Trail of Tears." One
of the main congressional opponents of this process was Davy
Crockett , familiar from legend as the heavy-drinking hunter
in a coonskin cap. When Civil War came, the plantation owners
of the west maneuvered Tennessee into the Confederacy, against
the wishes of the nonslaveholding smallhold farmers in the east.
The last state to secede became the primary battlefield in the
west, the site of 424 battles and skirmishes.
Despite economic development to rival any in the country, soil
erosion and farm mechanization led to a mass migration to the
cities in the years before World War I. The fundamentalist beliefs
of these transplanted hill-dwellers (whose folk and fiddle music
served to spark Nashville's country scene) influenced a prohibition
movement that kept all of Tennessee bone-dry until 1939, and
still sees a majority of counties forbidding the sale of alcohol.
The New Deal of the 1930s brought significant changes. In particular,
the Tennessee Valley Authority , created in 1933, harnessed the
flood-prone Tennessee River , providing much-needed jobs and
cheap power, and ignited the transition from an agricultural
to an industrial economy.