Once part of the Chickasaw Indians’ hunting grounds, West Tennessee was opened for settlement in 1818. Early residents of the Jackson area set aside 30 acres for a city along the banks of the once-navigable Forked Deer River in 1822. They named their city Alexandria – in honor of A.R. Alexander, whose home served as the meeting site of the first county court. Later that year, the town was renamed “Jackson” in honor of war hero and future U.S. President Andrew Jackson.
One of Jackson’s earliest famous residents was Davy Crockett, the area’s U.S. Congressman. In one of his last speeches in the area, after losing his bid for re-election, Crockett left West Tennessee for Texas. Leaving was a fatal decision on Crockett’s part; he died defending the Alamo.
Another famous resident was train engineer Casey Jones, who heroically stayed with his train and died in a wreck outside Vaughan, Mississippi. Casey’s house is now a popular tourist attraction in the Casey Jones Village, just south of Interstate 40 at U.S. 45 Bypass.
Railroads have been an important part of Jackson’s growth: At one time, five railroad presidents lived here. For most of Jackson’s history, the economy also depended on the surrounding rich farmland.
The richness of Jackson’s history is found in its neighborhoods and buildings. East Main Street, with its many Victorian period homes, and Northwood, developed after World War I as Jackson’s first “subdivision,” are on the National Register of Historic Places. Other sites on the National Register include the restored Carnegie Library, now a cultural arts center; Lane College, which opened in 1882 as a high school for African Americans; and the Bemis community, a cotton mill town developed in the early 1900’s.