Wednesday, June 2, 2010

See It To Believe It

Magnet # 258:  Map of Tennessee

Material:  Wood, Laminated Paper

Purchased By:  Me

Now that Kentucky has had its time in the spotlight, it's time to move on to the second state that joined the Union on July 1, 1796 - Tennessee. Even though this state and Kentucky are neighbors and joined the United States at the same time, their histories are fairly different.

While the Spanish were the first Europeans to enter the area that would become Tennessee, they never really settled it. Soon, however, a dispute had broken out between Spain, Britain, and France as to which nation controlled the region.  The French set up a post there, but it was so remote that they left the area.  The British also established their westernmost post there, in the eastern part of the region. It was pretty much wiped out by the Indians, but both parties continued to develop the area, and tensions grew so that the French and Indian war broke out.  The British were able to win the conflict, taking control of the area.  Settlers from both Virginia and North Carolina began to stream into the area, which was considered to be part of the North Carolina colony.  During the American Revolution, a group of fighters from the area helped the Americans defeat the British at the Battle of Kings Mountain in the Carolinas.  After the war was over, three counties in the eastern part of what would become Tennessee tried to break apart from North Carolina to form the state of Franklin, but the move proved to be unsuccessful and the counties were returned.  But North Carolina later handed over those counties and others to the federal government to form the Southwest Territory.  In just six years, the area was admitted to the Union as the state of Tennessee.  It was the first state to be added from a federal territory, but it certainly wouldn't be the last.

Considering that Tennessee borders my homestate, Alabama, I've spent a fair amount of time there over the years. The Tennessee cities I've visited the most are Memphis, Nashville, Chatanooga, and Gatlinburg, which has given me a pretty good sampling of the state, as they are really spread out across it. My family and I used to go up to Memphis on an almost annual basis when I was growing up to see the great exhibits they had there, like Ramesess the Great, Napoleon, Catherine the Great, and the Ottoman Empire. We also toured the rest of the city, like the Peabody Hotel, famous for its pampered ducks, and Mud Island, which back then featured the Memphis Belle, a famous aircraft that fought in World War II, although it's now been moved to Ohio for restoration. We also saw Beale Street, home of the blues, and tried out the ribs at two Memphis institutions - Charles Vergos' Rendezvous and Corky's. We haven't been to Nashville as many times, but we did go to Opryland USA, a theme park that combined musical shows and theme park rides, but is now regrettably closed. But another site we toured there, the Parthenon, is still around. It was built in 1897 and later rebuilt in 1920 as a full-scale copy of the structure in Athens to cement Nashville's reputation as the "Athens of the South" and visitors have the opportunity to see what the one in Greece might have originally looked like. We also saw the Ryman Auditorium, home to the Grand Ole Opry. And in Chattanooga, we saw natural wonders like Rock City and Ruby Falls when I was growing up as well at the Tennessee Aquarium, which we visited just last year. Finally, in the eastern part of the state, we've spent a good deal of time in Gatlinburg, the Tennessee gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Along with its neighbors, Pigeon Forge and Sevierville, it's a great place to shop for both artisan crafts and more mass produced souvenirs (like magnets) as well as try out attractions like Dollywood, Ober Gatlinburg, and Ripley's Aquarium of the Smokies. We've also been to nearby Knoxville, home of the 1982 World's Fair. Clearly, Tennessee offers quite a few interesting cities, all with their own distinct vibe, spanning across it. And if you've never tried out even one, you might want to consider it. As for me, I've had plenty of good times in this state, but I imagine I'll be there again someday to have still more - it's just a matter of time.

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