Memphis History and Facts

Memphis History: A Chronology

c. 1541
Indians living near present-day Shelby County encounter the Hernando De Soto expedition.

1739
French explorers build Fort Assumption on Memphis site.

1795
Fort San Fernando de las Barrancas built by the Spanish.

1797
The U.S. gains control of the area; Fort Adams erected.

1818
The Chickasaw Nation signs treaty ceding West Tennessee to the U.S.

1819
John Overton, James Winchester, and Andrew Jackson found the city of Memphis on May 22. Shelby County formed.

1825
Frances Wright organizes utopian community of Nashoba near present-day Germantown.

1826
Memphis incorporated on December 19.

1827
County seat moved from Memphis to Raleigh.

1840
Memphis Appeal organized.

1845
U.S. government establishes a navy yard in the city.

1850
Memphis and South Memphis merge.

1857
The Memphis & Charleston Railroad completed, linking the Atlantic Ocean and the Mississippi River.

1862
On June 6, Union fleet defeats Confederate naval forces in the Battle of Memphis. Federal troops occupy the city.

1863
Grant names Memphis as hospital and supply base to support the attack on Vicksburg.

1865
The Memphis Freedmen's Bureau established to provide services such as banking and education.

1867
Memphis regains the county seat.

1878
City's most devastating yellow fever epidemic claims 5,000 lives.

1879
Memphis declares bankruptcy, loses its charter, and becomes a Taxing District of the state.

1887
Artesian well water becomes available for the first time.

1892
Great Bridge at Memphis opened. Later named Frisco Bridge.

1893
Cossitt Library opens, the first public library in Memphis. Memphis regains its city charter. Black millionaire Robert Reed Church, Sr. buys first city bond.

1895
The ten-story Porter Building, the city's first skyscraper, opens.

1899
Church's Park & Auditorium, the city's first park and entertainment center for African Americans, opens.

1906
The Overton Park Zoo opens.

1909
W.C. Handy writes the "Memphis Blues." Memphis adopts the commission form of government.

1911
University of Tennessee Medical School merges with the Memphis Hospital Medical College and the College of Physicians and Surgeons.

1912
A major Mississippi River flood brings high water to downtown Memphis.

1916
Clarence Saunders opens his first Piggly Wiggly store.

1923
The Universal Life Insurance Company, one of the largest black-owned insurance companies in the nation, is founded.

1925
The present Peabody Hotel opens to the public. Tom Lee rescues 32 people when the excursion boat M.E. Norman capsizes in the Mississippi River.

1928
The Orpheum Theatre opens; replaced Grand Opera House.

1937
The Mississippi River Great Flood devastates huge area; thousands of homeless brought to Memphis.

1939
City purchases the local utility company and renames it Memphis Light, Gas & Water Division.

1942
The Naval Air Station at Millington is built.

1943
The Army (now Defense) Depot and the Mallory Air Force Depot built.

1948
Construction on the Memphis Harbor project begins.

1950s
Memphis named the country's quietest, cleanest and safest city on several occasions.

1951
Tri-State Defender, local black newspaper, begins publication.

1952
Kemmons Wilson opens his first Holiday Inn on Summer Ave.

1954
E.H. Crump, Memphis political leader for 45 years, dies. Elvis Presley gives his first concert in Memphis.

1958
Stax Records, creator of the "Memphis Sound," organized.

1960s
Federal court decisions end segregation in the city's public libraries, schools, parks and recreation facilities.

1968
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. assassinated Apri1 4 at the Lorraine Motel while in Memphis to support the Sanitation Workers' strike.

1972
Federal Express Corporation organized.

1973
Busing begins in order to bring about full integration of schools.

1976
Benjamin L. Hooks elected executive director of the NAACP. Victorian Village named historic district.

1977
Elvis Presley dies at Graceland on August 16.

1982
Mud Island Park and River Walk open.

1983
Redeveloped Beale Street opens as a tourist attraction. Jesse H. Turner becomes first black to serve as chairman of the Shelby County Board of Commissioners.

1986
Lighting of the Hernando DeSoto Bridge features 2,000 lights in a giant M.

1987
Ramesses the Great initiates the Wonders Series.

1990
World War II Memphis Belle moved to Mud Island.

1991
Dr. W.W. Herenton elected city's first black mayor. National Civil Rights Museum, Memphis Pyramid open.

1993
Downtown trolley begins operation.
1997
Wonders Titanic exhibit draws largest attendance in series.
2000
AutoZone Park Redbirds Stadium opens downtown.
2001
New Central Library opens in November at 3030 Poplar Avenue.
2003
July 22, straight-line gale force winds cause heavy damage to the city.


© Compiled 2003 by the staff of the History Department



Memphis Facts

  • Founded: 1819
  • Incorporated: 1826
  • Altitude:
    Airport -- 331 feet above sea level
    Mississippi River -- 188 feet above sea level.
  • Area/Location:
    340 square miles as of 8/03
    35.10' North by 90.00' West at Madison and Front
  • Official City Flower: Crape Myrtle
  • Official City Tree: Dogwood
  • Government: Mayor and City Council
  • Climate:
    Temperature (Fahrenheit degrees):
    Average annual 61.9
    January average 41.2
    July average 81.2
    Record High 108 on July 13, 1980
    Record Low -13 on Dec. 24, 1963
    Precipitation
    Average annual rainfall 48.6 inches
  • Bridges -- Dates opened:
    Frisco May 12, 1892
    Harahan July 14, 1916
    Memphis & Arkansas Dec. 17, 1949
    Hernando De Soto Aug. 2, 1973
  • Buildings - Tallest:


    100 North Main
    430 ft., 37 stories
    Commerce Square
    396 ft., 31 stories
    Sterick Building
    365 ft., 31 stories
    Clark Tower
    365 ft., 32 stories
    Morgan Keegan Tower
    341 ft., 23 stories
  • Largest Colleges & Universities:

    Christian Brothers University
    founded 1871
    LeMoyne-Owen College
    founded 1871
    University of Memphis
    founded 1912
    Rhodes College
    founded 1848
    Shelby State Community College
    founded 1972
    State Technical Institute
    founded 1968
    University of Tennessee College of Medicine
    founded 1911
  • Government:
    Mayor and Council form established in 1966.
  • Population:
    1820 364
    1830 663
    1840 1,799
    1850 8,841
    1860 22,623
    1870 40,226
    1880 33,592
    1890 64,495
    1900 102,320
    1910 131,105
    1920 162,351
    1930 253,140
    1940 292,942
    1950 396,000
    1960 497,524
    1970 623,530
    1980 646,356
    1990 610,337
    2000 650,100

© Compiled 2003 by the staff of the History Department



Shelby County

  • Established: 1819
  • Area: 755 square miles
  • Government:
    Mayor and Board of Commissioners (established in 1974)
  • Incorporated Cities:

    Arlington
    Bartlett
    Collierville
    Germantown
    Lakeland
    Memphis
    Millington

     

  • Total County Population:
    1940 358,250
    1950 482,393
    1960 627,019
    1970 722,041
    1980 772,523
    1990 815,161
    2000 897,472

© Compiled 2003 by the staff of the History  Department