Jackson is the county seat of Madison County, Tennessee. Located 70 miles east of Memphis, it has long been associated with the large city in trade. Its total population was 65,211 at the 2010 census and 67,265 in the 2012 Census estimate.
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. It is home to the Tennessee Supreme Court's courthouse for West Tennessee, as Jackson was the major city in the west when the court was established in 1834.
In the antebellum era, Jackson was the market city for an agricultural area based on cultivation of cotton, the major commodity crop. Beginning in 1851, the city became a hub of railroad systems ultimately connecting to major markets in the north and south, as well as east and west. This was key to its development, attracting trade and many workers on the railroads in the late 19th century with the construction of railroads after the American Civil War. Through the 1960s, the city was served by 15 passenger trains daily, but industry restructuring reduced such service and caused the loss of jobs. The economy has adjusted to new businesses, with major manufacturing in the area.
This area was occupied by the historic Chickasaw people at the time of European encounter. They were pushed out by European-American settlers under various treaties.
European-American settlement of Jackson began along the Forked Deer River before 1820, primarily by migrants arriving from eastern areas of the Upper South, such as Virginia and Kentucky. 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 determined to be the more suitable site for the seat of justice.
At the time of the second Tennessee State Constitution in 1834, when the Tennessee Supreme Court was established, Memphis had not yet developed. The county seat of Jackson was the most significant city in West Tennessee and this was designated as a site for the State Supreme Court in this part of the state.
The city of Jackson did not establish public elections until 1837, with a Board of Aldermen elected at-large. From 1854 to 1915, Jackson had a Board of Alderman of eight members elected from four districts, each with two members. No free people of color or any blacks were allowed to vote in the state until after passage of constitutional amendments following the Civil War.
This area was developed for agricultural purposes, especially cotton plantations for producing the chief commodity crop of the Mississippi Valley and Deep South. Cotton plantations were dependent on the labor of African-American slaves and many were brought into the area as it was developed. As county seat, Jackson was a trading town and retail center for surrounding agricultural areas.
Civil War through 19th century
In 1862 Tennessee came under the control of Union forces and was occupied for the duration of the war. 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, which was 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 command defeated 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 Confederate 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.
With the emancipation of slaves and passage of US constitutional amendments, Jackson's freedmen and formerly free people of color began to participate in the political system. But in the late 19th century, the white-dominated state legislature passed several laws that made voter registration and voting more difficult, including payment of a poll tax, and resulted in reducing voting by many blacks and poor whites.