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General State History

Ten thousand years ago, Tennessee was inhabited by Native American people of various tribes. The first white man known to have come to Tennessee was the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto in 1540. Sometime after de Soto's explorations, the native population diminished and the area was largely used as a hunting ground by the Choctaw, Cherokee, Shawnee and Chickasaw. The first permanent white settler was William Bean, who in 1769, built a cabin on the Watauga River in northeast Tennessee. The first constitution ever written by white men in America was drafted in 1772 by the Watauga Association at Sycamore Shoals near Elizabethton, Tennessee. It was patterned after the constitution of the Iroquois League of Nations, a "federal" system of government developed 200 years earlier for five eastern Native American tribes.

In 1779, Jonesborough became the first chartered town in what is now Tennessee. Also, by 1779, white longhunters were pushing into Middle Tennessee with settlers following their trails. They built forts in what are now Davidson, Robertson and Sumner counties. By 1810, a thriving population was centered in and around Fort Nashboro -- soon to be called Nashville -- and people continued to immigrate along the Cumberland River, the Tennessee River and the Natchez Trace until they spread to the Mississippi River.

Tennessee settlers played a vital part in winning the American Revolutionary War. The "Overmountain Men" helped to defeat the British at the Battle of King's Mountain, a victory which proved to be a major turning point in the war.

Tennessee was at first part of North Carolina, and then was known briefly as the State of Franklin. It later became part of the "U.S. Territory South of the River Ohio," and finally was admitted to the Union as the State of Tennessee, the 16th state, on June 1, 1796.

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