Clarksville is a city in Tennessee and is Tennessee’s fifth largest city. . Clarksville is the principal central city of the Clarksville, TN-KY metropolitan statistical area, which consists of Montgomery County, Stewart County, Tennessee, Christian County, Kentucky and Trigg County, Kentucky,
Clarksville is the home of Austin Peay State University. The Fort Campbell, Kentucky, United States Army post, home to the 101st Airborne Division, is approximately 10 miles (16 km) from Clarksville, straddling the Tennessee-Kentucky state line.
Clarksville was incorporated in 1785, and named for General George Rogers Clark, frontier fighter and Revolutionary War hero. Clarksville is home to The Leaf-Chronicle, established in 1869.
The city’s nicknames include “The Queen City” or “Queen of the Cumberland” and “Gateway to the New South”.The slogan “Tennessee’s Top Spot” was introduced as a new city “brand” in April 2008.
The area around Clarksville was first surveyed by Thomas Hutchins in 1768. He identified Red Paint Hill, a rock bluff at the confluence of the Cumberland and Red Rivers, as a navigational landmark. In the years between 1771 and 1775, John Montgomery, the namesake of the county, along with Kasper Mansker visited the area while on a hunting expedition. That same year, the land between the Ohio and the Cumberland was purchased by Richard Henderson from the Cherokee Indians for horses, guns, and alcohol. The other local tribes, such as the Creek, Shawnee, and Chickasaw claimed parts of the territory, creating conflict between the Indians and the settlers.
In 1779, James Robertson brought a group of settlers from upper East Tennessee via Daniel Boone’s “Wilderness Road”. Robertson would later build an iron plantation in Cumberland Furnace. A year later, in 1780, John Donelson led a group of flat boats up the Cumberland River bound for the French trading settlement, French Lick (or Big Lick), that would later be Nashville. When the boats reached Red Paint Hill, Moses Renfroe, Joseph Renfroe, and Solomon Turpin, along with their families, branched off onto the Red River. They traveled to the mouth of Parson’s Creek, near Port Royal, and came ashore to settle down. However, an attack by Indians in the summer drove them back. (See Port Royal State Park)
Clarksville was designated as a town to be settled in part by soldiers from the disbanded Continental Army that served under General George Washington during the American Revolutionary War. At the end of the war, the federal government lacked sufficient funds to repay the soldiers, so the Legislature of North Carolina , in 1790, designated the lands to the west of the state line as federal lands that could be used in the land grant program. Since the area of Clarksville had been surveyed and sectioned into plots, it was identified as a territory deemed ready for settlement. The land was available to be settled by the families of eligible soldiers as repayment of service to their country.
The development and culture of Clarksville has had an ongoing interdependence between the citizens of Clarksville and the military. The formation of the city is associated with the end of the American Revolutionary War. During the American Civil War a large percent of the male population was depleted due to Union Army victories at Fort Henry and Fort Donelson. Many Clarksville men were interned at Union prisoner of war (POW) camps. Clarksville also lost many native sons during World War I (WWI). With the formation of Camp Campbell, later Fort Campbell, during World War II (WWII), the bonds of military influence were strengthened. Soldiers from Fort Campbell, Kentucky have deployed in every military campaign since the formation of the post.
On January 16, 1784, John Armstrong filed notice with the Legislature of North Carolina to create the town of Clarksville, named after General George Rogers Clark. Even before it was officially designated a town, lots had been sold. In October of 1785, Col. Robert Weakley laid off the town of Clarksville for Martin Armstrong and Col. Montgomery, and Weakley had the choice of lots for his services. He selected Lot #20 at the northeast corner of Spring and Main Streets. The town consisted of 20 ‘squares’ of 140 lots and 44 out lots. The original Court House was on Lot #93, on the north side of Franklin Street between Front and Second Street. The Public Spring was on Lot #74, on the northeast corner of Spring and Commerce Streets. Weakley built the first cabin there in January of 1786, and about February or March, Col. Montgomery came there and had a cabin built, which was the second house in Clarksville. After an official survey by James Sanders, Clarksville was founded by the North Carolina Legislature on December 29, 1785. It was the second town to be founded in the area. Armstrong’s layout for the town consisted of 12 four-acre (16,000 mÂ²) squares built on the hill overlooking the Cumberland as to protect against floods. The primary streets (from north to south) that went east-west were named Jefferson, Washington (now College Street), Franklin, Main, and Commerce streets. North-south streets (from the river eastward) were named Water (now Riverside Drive), Spring, First, Second, and Third streets.
The tobacco trade in the area was growing larger every year and in 1789, Montgomery and Martin Armstrong persuaded lawmakers to designate Clarksville as an inspection point for tobacco. In 1790, Isacc Rowe Peterson staked a claim to Dunbar Cave, just northeast of downtown.
When Tennessee was founded as a state on June 1, 1796, the area around Clarksville and to the east was named Tennessee County. (This county was established in 1788, by North Carolina.) Later, Tennessee County would be broken up into modern day Montgomery and Robertson Counties, named to honor the men who first opened up the region for settlement.
The 19th Century Clarksville
Clarksville Museum and Cultural Center, Built 1898As time progressed into the 19th century, Clarksville grew at a rapid pace. By 1806, the town realized the need for an educational institution, and the Rural Academy was established that year. Later, the Rural Academy would be replaced by the Mount Pleasant Academy. By 1819, the newly-established town had 22 stores, including a bakery and silversmith. In 1820, steamboats begin to navigate the Cumberland, bringing hardware, coffee, sugar, fabric, and glass. They also exported flour, tobacco, cotton, and corn to ports like New Orleans and Pittsburgh along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Trade via land also grew as four main dirt roads were established, two to Nashville, one crossing the Red River via ferry called the Kentucky Road, and Russellville Road. In 1829, the first bridge connecting Clarksville to New Providence was built over the Red River. Nine years later, the Clarksville-Hopkinsville Turnpike was built. In 1855, Clarksville was incorporated as a city. Railroad service came to the town on October 1, 1859 in the form of the Memphis, Clarksville and Louisville Railroad. The line would later connect with other railroads at Paris, Tennessee and Guthrie, Kentucky.
By the start of the Civil War, the combined population of the city and the county was 20,000. The area was openly for slavery, as blacks worked in the tobacco fields. In 1861, both Clarksville and Montgomery County voted unanimously to join the Confederate States of America. The proximity of the birthplace of Confederate President Jefferson Davis gave the city a strong tie to the CSA, and both sides saw the city as strategic and important. Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston set up a defense line around Clarksville expecting a land attack; however, the Union sent troops and gunboats down the Cumberland, and in 1862, captured Fort Donelson, Fort Henry, and Clarksville. Between 1862 and 1865, the city would shift hands but the Union would retain control. Many slaves that had been freed gathered in Clarksville and joined the Union Army, which created all-black regiments. The remaining lived along the side of the river in shanties.
After the war, the city began Reconstruction, and in 1872, the existing railroad was purchased by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. The city reached a high point until the Great Fire of 1878, which destroyed 15 acres (60,000 mÂ²) of downtown Clarksville’s business district, including the courthouse at that time and many other historic buildings. It was believed to have started in a Franklin Street store. After the fire, the city rebuilt and entered the 20th century with a fresh start.It was at this time that the first automobile rolled into town, drawing much excitement.
The 20th Century Clarksville
Mural painted on the only remaining wall of a building destroyed by the ’99 tornado.Another new form of entertainment soon came. In 1913, the Lillian Theater, Clarksville’s first “movie house” for motion pictures, was opened on Franklin Street by Joseph Goldberg. It sat more than 500 people. Less than two years later, in 1915, the theater burned down. It was rebuilt later that year.
As World War I raged in Europe, many locals volunteered to go, reaffirming Tennessee as the Volunteer State, a nickname earned during the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War and other earlier conflicts. Also during this time, women’s suffrage was becoming a major issue, and Clarksville women saw a need for banking independent of their husbands and fathers who were fighting. In response, the First Women’s Bank of Tennessee was established in 1919 by Mrs. Frank J. Runyon.
The 1920s brought additional growth to the city. Travelwise, a bus line between Clarksville and Hopkinsville was established in 1922. 1927 saw the creation of Austin Peay Normal School, later to become Austin Peay State University. Two more theaters were added, the Majestic (with 600 seats) and the Capitol (with 900 seats) Theaters, both in 1928. John Outlaw, a local aviator, established Outlaw Field in 1929.
The Roxy has been used as a backdrop for numerous photo shoots, films, documentaries, music videos and television commercials; most notably for Sheryl Crow’s Grammy-award winning song All I Wanna Do, which was shot in front of the Roxy in downtown Clarksville.
It has been suggested that the Monkees’ 1966 #1 song “Last Train to Clarksville” was inspired by the city’s train depot.
On the morning of January 22, 1999, the downtown area of Clarksville was devastated by an F3 tornado, damaging many buildings including the county courthouse. The tornado, 880 yards (800 m) wide, continued on a 4.3-mile (6.9 km)-long path that took it up to Saint Bethlehem. No one was seriously injured or killed in the destruction. Clarksville has since recovered, and has rebuilt much of the damage as a symbol of the city’s resilience. Where one building on Franklin Street once stood has been replaced with a large mural of the historic buildings of Clarksville on the side of one that remained.
Clarksville has the distinction of being home to the oldest bank in the state, the Northern Bank established in 1854, now AmSouth Bank ; the state’s oldest newspaper, The Leaf-Chronicle, established in 1808; and the first and only bank in the world established and operated entirely by women, the Women’s Bank of Tennessee that opened in 1919
History of the County Courthouse
Montgomery County CourthouseThe first Montgomery County courthouse was built from logs in 1796 by James Adams. It sat close to the riverbank on the corner of what is now present-day Riverside Drive and Washington Street. It was later replaced by a second courthouse built in 1805, and a third in 1806, with the land provided by Henry Small. The fourth courthouse was built in 1811, and the first to be built of brick. It was constructed on the east half of Public Square, with the land donated by Martin Armstrong. In 1843, yet another courthouse was built, this time on Franklin Street. It would remain standing until the Great Fire of 1878.
The sixth and current courthouse was built between Second and Third Streets, with the cornerstone laid on May 16, 1879. This particular building was designed by George W. Bunting of Indianapolis, Indiana. Five years later, the downtown area was hit by a tornado, which damaged the roof of the courthouse. The building was rebuilt. On March 12, 1900, the building was again ravaged by fire, with the upper floors gutted and the clock tower destroyed. Many citizens wanted the courthouse torn down and replaced with a safer one, but the judge refused and repaired the damage.
The courthouse was destroyed once again by the January 22, 1999 tornado. The building of another new courthouse was on the minds of locals, but in the end the courthouse was fully restored as a county office building. On the fourth anniversary of the disaster the courthouse was rededicated. In addition to the restoration of the original courthouse and plazas, a new courts center was built on its north side.