Tennessee State Parks and the History of Tennessee

July 22, 2014  |  Permalink

Tennessee has to be the best of states in which to put a park system! The diversity that Tennessee State Parks presents across the state is remarkable. And this is both a natural and cultural diversity. The great geologic divisions of the state, and the ecological regions that follow according to climate and terrain, bring about diversity in stories of people in these environments. In addition, what is known as the Frontier Line was in the process of passing through Tennessee for a long period of time. The Frontier Line concept is a way of perceiving the impact of the first contact of Europeans on an area and then the surge forward of the continuing elements of European advancement over a particular part of the state. The frontier advanced, and greater and greater development and use of resources advanced in its wake. At certain times and places, Europeans made jumps to places beyond the general boundary line of frontier advancement. Tennessee State Park’s Fort Loudoun site is a good example of the stories that come of these furthest advances that sometimes occurred too soon to be considered successful elements of sustainable frontier advancement. The east/west distance across our great state gives us stories based on frontier advancement over a longer period of time and distance than most other states.

Of course, Europeans were not the first peoples to leave their stories across Tennessee. There is great time depth to the American Indian population of what is now Tennessee – in fact the word on which the name “Tennessee” is based comes from this once dense occupation of Native groups. American Indians lived in gradually changing cultural traditions prior to contact with people and culture of European and African origin. All of the archaeologically defined cultural traditions or lifeways are identifiable in our state – Paleo, Archaic, Woodland, and Mississippian. After some 12,000 years that we can document through archaeology, these cultures entered “history” when, particularly, the Spanish began to document their contact with American Indians in Tennessee.

We will have opportunities on this page to come back to these stories of prehistoric American Indians in Tennessee, the Spanish in Tennessee, and the stories of early English efforts in Tennessee at places like Fort Loudoun, mentioned above.

Watch for the next entry where we will continue to lay the groundwork for these great stories of Tennessee history.  Before turning to specifics, we will take an opportunity to look at the geologic and ecologic regions of the state from East to West and how those regions interacted with the Frontier Line and the developing regional cultures.

About the author

Niki Conolly