Pre-history 1700s: New Communities
For about 10,000 years prior to exploration by white settlers, prehistoric Native Americans ranged over what is now Middle Tennessee. Tribes of the Woodland period made advancements in agriculture, regional trade, and cultural community, and built ceremonial structures and earthen mounds as their culture became less nomadic. The mounds still exist in the Southeast today, and some are preserved at Sellars Farm State Archaeological Area inside Long Hunter State Park in Hermitage. By 1000 A.D., agricultural advances and the development of the bow and arrow made these communities so self-sufficient that they had little need for trade. Around this time on The Jack Trail, a prehistoric Native American walled structure of crudely stacked stones known as the Old Stone Fort was built. it was later used as a rope factory and a mill, and is now part of Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park in Manchester.
With improved ability to hunt and grow food efficiently, the prehistoric people of the Southeast became more isolated and developed their own unique cultures. By the 1600s, there were four primary Native American tribes living within the boundaries of Tennessee: the Cherokee, the Creek, the Chickasaw, and the Shawnee.
1700s-1838: Longhunters Forge West
Around the mid-1700s, game in the eastern regions of Tennessee became scarce as settlements grew along the base of the Appalachian Mountains. Merchants returning from trade missions brought back news of the abundance of game west of the range.
Skilled woodsmen known as "long hunters" came to the west territory to hunt animals and sell their fur on the lucrative international market. As their name implies, long hunters would be gone for months at a time hunting and trapping deer, otter, beaver and elk. They took the first essential steps toward permanent settlement in the regions west of the Appalachian Mountains, locating the best routes for travel, fresh springs for water and the most suitable land for settlement. Many creeks, streams, and rivers of the area bear the names of some of these long hunters, like Stones River on The Jack Trail. It is named after Uriah Stone, who after months of successful trapping had his hides stolen from him by his French hunting companion.
As the 19th century began, more people began to push west of the Appalachians, and settlements popped up along The Jack Trail. Many settlers came to the area to claim land granted to them by the U.S. government as payment for their service in the Revolutionary War. These homesteads would grow first into villages and eventually into the towns you visit today. You'll see some of the early structures and sites still standing on the trail, like the cabin at Stone Bridge Park in Fayetteville, dating back to the late 1700s.
1836-1862: Tears, Trails & Rails
In 1836, President Andrew Jackson implemented a policy to remove Native Americans from their homelands to make room for European American settlers. The Cherokees were driven from their settlements and herded into internment camps in Southeastern Tennessee. From there, they were forcibly moved to Indian Territory (in what is now Oklahoma). Approximately 4,000 died from cold, hunger, illness and despair on what is now known as the Trail of Tears. By 1837, tens of thousands of Native Americans had been removed from their Tennessee homeland on routes crossing through The Jack Trail.
During this time, settlements that had once been just a few homes and churches were flourishing into small towns, with grain milling operations, blacksmith shops, general stores, inns and post offices. Wilhoite Village was one of them; Former Senator and Governor of Tennessee Henry Horton lived there with his wife Adeline Wilhoite and their family. Though the houses and shops are long gone, you can still see remnants of the old mill; a shaft, gears and pulleys at Henry Horton State Park in Chapel Hill.
In the mid-1800s, the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad connected towns and villages and brought commerce to the entire region. The construction of the railroad began in 1849 and new towns like Smyrna, Decherd, Bell Buckle, Wartrace, Normandy, Tullahoma and Cowan sprung up as a result. The railroad created work for laborers, opportunities for land speculators, and a more lucrative way of conducting business for Tennesseans.
1862-1900: Battles & Distilleries
The Cumberland Plateau experienced its fair share of Civil War bloodshed, most famously during the Battle of Stones River, the second deadliest battle in Civil War history with 23,515 casualties. Today, the battlefield is preserved in Stones River National Park. The 11-day Tullahoma Campaign also marked a major turning point of the war, Union General Rosecrans severed Confederate supply lines along the Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad, nearly driving Confederate troops completely out of Middle Tennessee. Historians call the campaign a "brilliant" strategy that achieved significant goals with very few casualties on either side. It's not just the military engagements that changed this area of Tennessee; many towns were occupied by Union forces following the Tullahoma Campaign, which influenced the life and culture of the region. This trail holds countless personal and local stories, including those of newly-freed slaves forging lives for themselves in the new cultural landscape of the South.
In the 1860s, young Jasper "Jack" Daniel from Lynchburg began working at a distillery at the age of 12. Daniel grew up to run his own distillery, and his whiskey became famous in the early 1900s. Around the same time, successful Nashville merchant George A. Dickel sold "whisky" (spelled without an "e" in keeping with the Scotch whisky tradition) that he crafted at a distillery located just down the way from Jack Daniel's, along Cascade Creek in Coffee County.
The late 1800s and early 1900s saw the communities of The Jack Trail rebuilding following the Civil War and continuing to grow and establish schools like Middle Tennessee State University, The Webb School, and Martin Methodist College.
1920s-today: Musical Roots & Modern Commerce
The 1920s produced Uncle Dave "The Dixie Dewdrop" Macon, the first major star of the Grand Ole Opry, who made his home in a small frame log house near Woodbury. When Uncle Dave Macon debuted on the Opry in 1925, his success was instantaneous. Macon energized the audience with his own form of country music that combined Highland Rim folk music and African-American blues. The music of The Jack Trail continues today from world-famous Nashville honky tonks to the Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival in Manchester, drawing international crowds of more than 80,000 music lovers each year.
Another world-famous regional tradition is the Tennessee Walking Horse National Celebration, held every year at The Celebration Grounds in Shelbyville. This 11-day event culminates to the greatly anticipated declaration of the "World Grand Champion," and sets the standard for Walking Horse shows everywhere.
Today's Jack Trail is also a hub for automobile manufacturing and aeronautical technology. In February 1981, Nissan broke ground for an automobile facility in Smyrna, and by December 2000, the Nissan North America-Smyrna plant had produced its 5 millionth vehicle. Recently, Nissan has announced its plans to build all-electric cars at the Smyrna plant by the year 2012. In the world of aeronautics, The Arnold Air Force base near Tullahoma is home to the Arnold Engineering Development Center (AEDC), the most advanced fight simulation test facility in the world. AEDC develops advanced testing techniques to serve the rapidly changing world of aerospace engineering.
The distillery tradition of the area didn't stop with Jack and George. On the scene since 1997, Prichard's Distillery in Kelso creates handcrafted spirits using traditional methods, like copper pot stills. It's a theme you'll find throughout The Jack Trail; a reverence for tradition and history, evident in our preserved landmarks and Southern hospitality.