The Spectacular History Of West Tennessee

February 10, 2017

West Tennessee is one of the three major or Grand Divisions of the state of Tennessee, with the other two divisions being East and Middle Tennessee. Bordered by the Tennessee River toward the East, and the Mississippi River on the western side, West Tennessee is more sharply defined by the geographical features of the state than the other two Grand Divisions.

The states of Mississippi and Kentucky border to the north and west, respectively. A southeastern portion of the region in Hardy County is bordered by Alabama’s Lauderdale County. The boundaries of the region have been slightly expanded by the inclusion of Hardin County, which is divided by the Tennessee River. This region has 21 counties, and unlike most geographic divisions in the United States, the name has a socio-economic as well as a legal meaning.


A Brief History of West Tennessee

The territory, which now forms a major part of West Tennessee, was obtained through sequential cessions by the Chickasaw people. The purchase of the region was finalized in 1818 under a buying agreement named the Jackson Purchase. The name of the purchase was derived from Andrew Jackson, one of the officials involved in the purchase. The Jackson Purchase also included a part of the northern region of present-day Mississippi and the western region of Kentucky.

A large portion of the bought area lies in West Tennessee, but the term of the purchase is nowadays mostly used to solely denote the purchased region of Kentucky. Though historically important, the term ‘Jackson Purchase’ is a little misleading, since the entire cession of the land did not happen in one treaty. And Andrew Jackson, who was a military officer, was just one among many federal treaty commissioners who took part in the purchase.

andrew jackson

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West Tennessee’s Demographics

West Tennessee is slightly less populated and has a smaller land area compared to the East and Middle Tennessee divisions. West Tennessee has a total land surface area of 27582 km² and based on the United States Census, conducted in 2000, had a population of 1,449,802 people living in its 21 counties. The region has 13 cities, and 7 of them have a population that is higher than 10,000. The seven most populated cities are found in Shelby County. Shelby County is made of Memphis and six other major suburbs. The 13 cities in West Tennessee include Memphis, Paris, Bartlett, Millington, Collierville, Brownsville, Germantown, Union City, Dyersburg, Martin, Lakeland, and Arlington.

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Interesting Things About West Tennessee

Tourists and travel enthusiasts visiting West Tennessee can enjoy various natural areas and attractions, which include Paris Landing State Park, the beauty of the Mississippi River, channelized rivers and the legacy that is Reel Foot Lake. The West Tennessee region lies in an area with active tectonic activities, which make it vulnerable to earthquakes. In fact, some past major quakes are said to have reversed the flow of the Mississippi River briefly.

However, these earthquakes left a lasting legacy that you can enjoy watching and perhaps rowing in, and that is Reel Foot Lake. This is large and shallow body of water created by earthquakes. Channelized rivers that you could also enjoy touring include the Beech River, Big Sandy River, Forked Deer River, Obion River, Nonconnah Creek, Wolf River, and Loosahatchie River.

reel foot lake

West Tennessee also offers more than just nature attractions. The great city of Memphis, known as the ‘Home of the Blues,’ is also the birthplace for the Rock n’ Roll genre and presents various music-based attractions. These attractions include Beale Street Entertainment District, Sun Studio, Stax Museum of American Soul and Elvis Presley’s home, Graceland.

The West Tennessee Strawberry festival is also quite an attraction and the locals and visitors celebrate the strawberry industry with fireworks, parades, dances, and Strawberry Mart.


Lovers of tours and travel can reach the great West Tennessee by air, rail, or road. The region has the largest freight airport in America, which is also the second largest globally. Dyersburg and McKellar-Sipes are the regional airports. Numerous interstate highways run through West Tennessee, and the CSX, the Union Pacific, Canadian National and Norfolk Southern maintain various railroad lines that cross the region.