Jackson is a city in and the county seat of Madison County, Tennessee. The total population was 65,211 at the 2010 census. Jackson is the primary city of the Jackson, Tennessee metropolitan area, which is included in the Jackson-Humboldt, Tennessee Combined Statistical Area. Jackson is Madison County's, largest city. Jackson is home to the Tennessee Supreme Court's courthouse for West Tennessee.
European-American settlement of Jackson began along the Forked Deer River before 1820. Originally named Alexandria, the city was renamed in 1822 to honor General Andrew Jackson, a hero of the War of 1812. He was later elected as President of the United States.
The City of Jackson was founded by an act of the Tennessee General Assembly, passed in 1821, entitled an "act to establish a seat of justice for Henry, Carroll, Henderson and Madison Counties." The act required of land to be deeded to the commissioners. The commissioners chosen by the Legislature were Sterling Brewer and James Fentress. The places considered for the seat of justice were Alexandria, Golden’s Station, and Jackson. The larger portion of the settlers at that time were living on Cotton Grove Road, and as Jackson was closer to them than either of the other settlements, the city was looked upon as the more suitable site for the seat of justice.
The Tennessee Supreme Court is required to meet in Jackson because at the time of the second Tennessee State Constitution in 1834, Memphis had not yet developed and Jackson was the most significant city in West Tennessee at the time.
Between December 11, 1862 and January 1, 1863, an engagement at Jackson occurred during Confederate Brigadier General Nathan Bedford Forrest's expedition into West Tennessee. Forrest wished to disrupt the rail supply line to Ulysses S. Grant's army, campaigning down the Mississippi Central Railroad. If Forrest destroyed the Mobile & Ohio Railroad running south from Columbus, Kentucky through Jackson, Grant would have to curtail or halt his operations altogether.
Forrest's 2,100-man cavalry brigade crossed the Tennessee River on December 17. Grant ordered a soldier concentration at Jackson under Brigadier General Jeremiah C. Sullivan and sent a cavalry force under Colonel Robert G. Ingersoll. Forrest's soldiers destroyed the Union cavalry in Lexington, Tennessee on December 18. As Forrest continued his advance the following day, Sullivan ordered Colonel Adolph Englemann to take a small force northeast of Jackson.
At Old Salem Cemetery, acting on the defensive, Englemann's two infantry regiments repulsed a Confederate mounted attack, then withdrew a mile closer to the city. The fight amounted to no more than a feint and show of force intended to hold Jackson's Union defenders in position, while two mounted columns destroyed railroad track to both the north and south of the town, then returned. Forrest withdrew from the Jackson area to attack Trenton and Humboldt after this mission was accomplished.
Before 1989, Jackson had a city commission government consisting of a mayor and two commissioners; however, as a result of a lawsuit which declared that at-large elections served to dilute the voting power of the city's African-American residents, the city switched to election by districts. The dissolution of the former government also created the need for an elected city school board since the mayor and commissioners had formerly served in that capacity. In 1990, the city school system consolidated with the Madison County school system.
Between 1999 and 2008, several violent tornadoes struck large portions of the city including the downtown area, which was devastated in May 2003 by an F4 tornado. Parts of the Union University campus were damaged in November 2002, and many dormitories at the campus were demolished in a storm in February 2008. The McKellar-Sipes Regional Airport was also severely damaged in January 1999. The 1999 storm resulted in eleven fatalities, while the 2003 storm resulted in eight fatalities. The 1999 tornado also damaged the Riverside Cemetery, where 40 known Confederate soldiers, 140 unknowns, and many families of the founders of Jackson are buried. The cemetery's acres of old trees and many of the statues, monuments, and graves were damaged during the tornado.
On May 1, 2010 a severe thunderstorm hit Jackson causing 13 inches of rain. This rain caused a flood to destroy many homes and streets.
Jackson developed rapidly just prior to the Civil War as a railroad junction and maintenance shop for several early railroads, including the Mississippi Central, the Tennessee Central and the Mobile and Ohio lines.
The first was the Mobile and Ohio Railroad, which began in October, 1849 in Mobile, Alabama. The line first entered Jackson in 1851. These tracks were completely destroyed during the Civil War. The line merged with the Gulf, Mobile and Northern Railroad in 1940 to become the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad. The second railroad to enter Jackson was the Mississippi Central & Tennessee. In 1873, the line was contracted and later controlled by the Illinois Central Railroad.
On December 29, 1886, the Tennessee Midland Railway received a charter to build a railroad from Memphis, Tennessee to the Virginia state line. The line from Memphis to Jackson was completed on June 1, 1888. In 1893, the Tennessee Midland went into receivership and was sold at foreclosure to the L&N Railroad. Around 1968 the remainder of the Tennessee Midland was abandoned east of Cordova with the exception of some track in Jackson, Tennessee. That track is now used to deliver goods to Jackson's east and west industrial parks.
The Tennessee Midland Railway Company line from Memphis to Jackson was the forerunner of the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis Railway. This line was often referred to as the “NC” by locals. Like all other railroads to enter Jackson, it was built with funds subscribed by citizens and investors of Jackson. The first passenger train to enter Jackson from Memphis was on June 1, 1888. The highly profitable railroad was merged into the Louisville and Nashville Railroad following WWII. After only a few years, the L&N was merged into and is now part of CSX Transportation.
A charter was granted by the State of Tennessee on August 16, 1910 and construction began on July l, 1911. The first sector extended from Jackson to the station of Tigrett and by April 20, 1912, of the line were ready for operations. On June 16 the remaining sector was set into service, connecting Dyersburg, Tennessee with Jackson. When the line began operations in 1912 it had as its president Isaac B. Tigrett, a prominent young banker of Jackson. The road immediately became an important local thoroughfare, moving much of the produce of the region to market in Jackson and Dyersburg. The Birmingham and Northwestern Railway Company had 4 locomotives, 5 passenger cars, and 92 freight cars. When Isaac B. Tigrett became President of the GM&N in 1920, he ceased to direct the affairs of the Birmingham and Northwestern Railroad Company. After he became president of the GM&O, the railroad was purchased merged to become the Dyersburg branch.
During the 1930s through the 1960s one could board fifteen regularly scheduled passenger trains at the two depots in Jackson. The names of some of those trains were The Rebel, Gulf Coast Rebel, The Sunchaser, The Floridian, The Seminole, The City of Memphis, and The City of Miami. Without change of train, one could travel to Memphis, Nashville, Meridian, Montgomery, Mobile, Birmingham, Jacksonville, Daytona, Orlando, Miami, Centralia, Champaign-Urbana, Springfield, Chicago, St. Louis, and New Orleans.