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Tennessee at the beginning of the 19th century


Economy of Tennessee
Economy of Tennessee

At that time nearly three-fourths of Tennessee was claimed by the Cherokee and Chickasaw, although settlers, speculators, and Revolutionary soldiers, under grants given by North Carolina, claimed much of the same territory. In a series of cessions between 1798 and 1819 the Native Americans gave up most of their claims, and by 1819 the Cherokee lands in the Chickamauga Valley around Chattanooga were the only Native American claims recognized.

As Native American lands were opened, whites settled all parts of the state. The 1830 population of 681,904 grew to more than 1 million by 1860. Vast new lands, opened to cultivation, yielded large crops of corn, cotton, and tobacco, and by 1840 Tennessee led all states in corn production. Most of the corn was fed to livestock, and Tennessee became one of the large swine producing states. Tobacco and cotton were the state’s major cash crops, but neither was grown as widely as corn.

Agricultural patterns varied considerably between sections of the state. East Tennessee, with its many narrow valleys and steep ridges, was largely an area of small subsistence farms. Middle Tennessee developed diversified commercial farming, where cotton growing, corn and livestock farming, and tobacco growing, particularly in the northern counties, were carried on. The region gained repute for its horses and mules raised on the bluegrass pastures of the Nashville Basin, and there was also substantial dairy farming. West Tennessee, with its fertile lowlands, was largely taken up with cotton cultivation.

Memphis, founded in 1819, quickly became the commercial center for the western cotton region.

Plantations worked by slaves were more common in West Tennessee than elsewhere, although the central region also had its share of plantations in the southern counties. In 1860, slaves were 40 percent of the population in the western counties and 25 percent in the state as a whole. Less than 10 percent lived in the eastern counties. Although by 1860 the vast majority of Tennesseans made their living in agriculture, the manufacture of textiles grew rapidly in the developing towns. By that date Tennessee ranked just behind Pennsylvania and New York in the mining and manufacture of iron. Coal, copper, and other minerals were mined in East Tennessee. "Tennessee" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia

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