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Historical nuggets

Markers recognize state’s rich hidden history
By Glen Liford, Editor 1/21/2022


This Tennessee historical marker on Main Street in Clinton highlights the town’s important role in the pearl industry from 1895 to 1936. Tennessee was among the top six states in marketing pearls, and Clinton was one of three Tennessee towns acknowledged as centers of the thriving industry within the state.
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s you travel Tennessee highways and backroads, there’s always something new to discover. You never know what might be waiting around the next curve or over the next hill. Our state is diverse and offers more than its share of majestic views, scenic beauty, and many roadside oddities. For years, I've enjoyed spotting the distinctive Tennessee historical markers that are scattered from Memphis to Mountain City. I like to stop and read them if I have time, and many have served as the catalyst for more in-depth stories.

These markers have been installed by the Tennessee Historical Commission since 1946. There are now more than 2,000 of them across the state to commemorate important moments — some widely known, others more obscure — in our state’s history. Some recognize historically significant churches, cemeteries, and towns. Others memorialize war heroes, politicians, and plain folk. They’re devoted to recognizing our shared experiences, and these historical nuggets are both entertaining and educational. 

Here are just a few notables that offer surprising glimpses of little-known historical facts:

• Find Marker 3A166 near Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro and you will learn about the Geographic Center of Tennessee, which is actually about a ½ mile northeast of the marker on Old Lascassas Road and is designated by an obelisk placed by the Rutherford County Historical Society.

• Marker 1B19 near Rogersville was placed to note the burial spot of pioneer Hezekiah Hamblen who arrived in the area in 1788 and died in 1855. He was a surveyor who became a prominent magistrate. Hamblen County was named for him.

• Marker 1F18 at Tellico Plains commemorates the tiny town’s history in gold mining. Gold was discovered at Coker Creek in 1831.

• In Jackson, you can find Marker 4D60, which honors Monroe Dunaway Anderson, known as the “father” of the Texas Medical Center in Houston, Texas. Anderson was born in Madison County and educated in the Jackson City Schools and nearby Union University.

• Marker 1A69 near Bristol recognizes the Jonesboro Turnpike where it crosses the highway. The thoroughfare was originally a branch of the Great War and Trading Path and became an important route from Virginia to the West. It is said Andrew Jackson traveled it on his way to Washington, D.C. for his first inauguration. 

Only a few new markers are placed each year, according to the Tennessee Historical Commission website. However, a small number markers — around 20 per year — are funded by sponsors. You can find more information about the program at

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