Saturday, 1 January 2011

Nashville - a Scotch-Irish city

Nashville is the capital of the state of Tennessee, the county seat of Davidson County, and by common consent the heart of Tennessee.  It is the centre of the biggest metropolitan area in the state and the middle of Middle Tennessee.  From a tiny settlement in 1780 it has grown to become a major American city with a population of more than 600,000 people and the metropolitan area has a population of around 1.6 million.
  • James Robertson founded the city of Nashville on 1 January 1780.
  • John Donelson arrived with another party of settlers.
  • It is the county seat of Davidson County, which was created in 1783 and named after General William Lee Davidson.
  • Rev Thomas B Craighead was the founder and first president of Davidson Academy, which opened in 1785 and later became the University of Nashville.
  • Bishop Holland M McTyeire was the founder and first president of Vanderbilt University, which opened in 1875.
  • The leading boys school in Nashville is the Montgomery Bell Academy, which was founded through a legacy from Montgomery Bell.
  • There were three American presidents from Tennessee - Andrew Jackson, James Knox Polk and Andrew Johnston.
  • William Nicol was mayor of Nashville and he did more than anyone else to secure Nashville's position as the Tennessee seat of government.
  • Alexander Porter built the Riverwood Mansion, one of Nashville's finest historic treasures.
  • James Whitsitt established the First Baptist Church in Nashville.
  • James W Cowan supplied the magnificent art collection in the Parthenon.
  • Cornelius A Craig founded the National Life & Accident Insurance company in Nashville in 1901.
  • Cornelius A Craig and his son created the WSM radio station, which launched the Grand Old Opry country music show.
James Robertson, John Donelson, William Lee Davidson, Thomas B Craighead, Holland N McTyeire, Montgomery Bell, andrew Jackson, James Knox Polk, Andrew Johnson, William Nichol, Alexander Porter, James Whitsitt, James W Cowan and Cornelius A Craig - these men were all part of the Nashville story and they all had one thing in common.  They were either born in Ulster or they were the descendants of Ulster-Scots who had crossed the Atlantic to America.

Professor James G Leyburn once said that, 'in assessing the contribution of the Scotch-Irish to American life and culture, three fields stand high on the list: their influence in education, religion and politics.'  as we look at the history of Nashville we see the influence of the Scotch-Irish in these fields and in many others.

It is clear from the examples given above that there are strong historic links between Ulster and Nashville and this blog seeks to explore some of these connections.

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