Memphis is located in the southwest portion of the state of Tennessee in the United States. It is the seat of Shelby County and is located just south of the intersection of the Mississippi and Wolf Rivers. Memphis covers an area of three hundred and thirteen miles and has a population of over six hundred and seventy thousand residents. This makes this city the biggest in the state and the third biggest in the Southeastern U.S. It is the nineteen largest city in the country. The area around the city, known as the Memphis Metropolitan Area, has a population of over one and a quarter million residents. This makes the metro ara of the city the second biggest in the state.
The Memphis area was first occupied by the Chickasaw Indian tribe who used the natural bluffs which overlooked the river as a settlement. European exploration of the area occured around the sixteenth century when Hernando de Soto, an explorer from Spain, visited the area. By the seventeenth century, the region saw an influx of French explorers such as Rene Robert Cavelier and Sieur de La Salle. Several forts were erected around the area of modern day Memphis, but by and large the area was unorganized and wild. In 1819, Memphis was incorporated as a city by a band of investors which included Andrew Jackson, James Winchester and John Overton. The city received its name after the Egyptian capital that was located on the River Nile.
The founders of Memphis planned the city on a rectangular grid of town squares and streets. Because of the need for labor to work in the cotton fields to support the economy of the South, Memphis would become a major slave market.
Memphis’ first landmark was a hotel built on the Mississippi river in the mid-nineteenth century and was named Gayoso House Hotel. It remained a distinguishing landmark of the city until it burned to the ground fifty-seven years after it was built. The Memphis & Charleston Railroad was built in 1857 and linked traffic from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River.
Prior to the Civil War, Memphis was an important city because of its network of railroad lines and river trade. When the war broke out in the eighteen century, it became even more important. In 1861, the state of Tennessee ceded from the United States and Memphis would become a stronghold for the Confederate Republic. This didn’t last long, however. In 1862, the Union Army traveled down the Mississippi River and seized the city. Memphis would remain under the control of Union forces for most of the war, except for a brief raid that was undertaken by Nathan Forest. The city would go on to become a major supply hub for the Union army and enjoyed a great deal of prosperity throughout the war.
After the end of the Civil War, a series of yellow fever epidemics swept the city in 1873, 1878 and 1879. This caused much devastation for the city and also caused widespread panic to spread all throughout the city. Memphis had so many residents flee its borders that it briefly lost its city charter from 1879 to 1893. During this time, Memphis made many improvements to improve the health conditions of its residents. An improved sanitation system was implemented, a potable water supply piped into the city and the draining of waterways and swamps that were the breeding grounds of mosquitos. As a result, the city once again entered into a period of prosperity and regained its charter in 1893.
Today, Memphis is a city that offers visitors a whole range of different activities and attractions. A popular attraction in the city is Sun Studio. Sun Studio is a recording studio that was founded in 1950 by Sam Phillips and is located at 706 Union Avenue. The original name of the studio was Memphis Recording Service. Alledgedly, the first rock n’ roll single was recorded there by Jackie Brenston and his band The Delta Cats. During the 1950s several prominent artists recorded there including James Cotton, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Milton, Rosco Gordon, B.B. King, Junior Parker and Rufus Thomas. Another popular attraction in the city of Memphis is Graceland.
Graceland was the home of Elvis Presley and is a large, white mansion that is situated on an almost fourteen acre tract of land. This estate was originally owned by S.E Toof, publisher of the Memphis Daily Appeal. The grounds were named after his daughter Grace. In 1939, Ruth Moore inherited the estate and had the colonial style mansion that can be seen today constructed. In 1957, Elvis Presley purchased the property for one hundred thousand dollars. He would then move into the mansion with his father Vernon Presley and his mother Gladys Presley. In August of 1977, Elvis died in the mansions bathroom. In 1982, Graceland opened its doors to the public. In 1991 it was named a National History Landmark.
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