The Settlement of the Town of Collierville

The Chickasaw Indians and Explorers


The Town of Collierville has been transformed many times on its journey from a small settlement to the thriving community it is today. The land that makes up the town was originally used by Native Americans, then charted by French and Spanish explorers, and finally settled by hardy pioneers.

Collierville was built on land used as a hunting ground by the Chickasaw Nation. In order to preserve the wild game they hunted, the Chickasaw Tribe did not live on the land. However, a small community did live on "the fourth bluff" known as Memphis today. The Chickasaw also frequented the bustling market of "Ackia," near Tupelo, Mississippi.[1]

desoto_picture.jpg
Figure 1: De Soto discovers the Mississippi.
The first explorers to be in what is now Collierville could possibly have been either Hernando De Soto, the Spanish explorer who discovered the Mississippi River in 1541, or Robert Cavelier Sieur de la Salle, the French explorer who claimed Mississippi for his country. Both explorers are known to have been in the Shelby County area.[2] It is commonly thought that Hernando De Soto, guided by the Chickasaw, discovered the Mississippi River at the present day site of Memphis.[3] In her book, Collierville, Tennessee Her People and Neighbors, author Clarene Russell credits La Salle with naming the Wolf River after his Native American friend, Mayot. In La Salle’s native French tongue, the river was called “Rivei’ere a’ Mayot.” This was later shortened to Margot, which in French translates to Wolf. [4]



Treaties

wichester.jpg
Figure 2: James Winchester

Slowly, treaties between the white settlers and the Chickasaw Indians began to open the land for settlement. In 1818, the Chickasaw Cession Treaty was negotiated, moving the tribe to land south of the Tennessee state line. General James Winchester surveyed the resulting border known as the Winchester State Line. Today, this line is Poplar Avenue.[5]
The Treaty was finally ratified on January 7, 1819. It declared the Indians would receive $20,000 annually for fifteen years to compensate their relocation.[6]

shelby_picture.jpg
Figure 3: Isaac Shelby
In 1819, the settlers became interested in forming a county. Since Isaac Shelby, the former Kentucky governor and a Revolutionary War veteran, was an important negotiator in the Chickasaw Cession Treaty, the new county was named “Shelby” in his honor.[7] On November 24,1819, Shelby County was officially established.[8] Over the course of the next decade, the land north of the Winchester State Line was quickly settled through land grants. The original settlement of Collierville came to be developed east of what is now Poplar Avenue and Mount Pleasant Road.[9]

A later treaty was arranged in 1832 between the Chickasaw Tribe and the settlers. The Native American tribe had grown unhappy with the arrangements made in the previous treaty. They planned to move west in hope of finding both land free of white settlers and a place where wild game was still plentiful. This new treaty declared that land would be allocated to Chickasaw families based on the number of members in their family. Each acre of land would be sold for a minimum of $3.00. The Chickasaw Tribe received the money when a member’s property was sold. Collierville is located on the land that was allocated to members of the Chickasaw tribe named Tush-Hi-an-tubby and She-kah.[10] Today, the Collierville Town Square stands on what was once She-kah’s land (section number six).

Kim3.JPG
Figure 4: Map of land grants and Chickasaw lands in Civil District 10. Plat Book 2, Page 9.


Ideal location
Both the Chickasaw Indians and the settlers coveted the land and its appealing location. Water was crucial to an early settlement’s success. The Collierville area was fortunate enough to have two such sources, the Wolf River and Nonconnah Creek. The settlers were wise in building the community on a high ridge between two rivers where flood waters could not reach. Being nestled between the two rivers provided Collierville with an excellent means of transportation, particularly the Wolf River as a tributary of the Mississippi.
Additionally, Collierville is a part of what is known today as The Wolf River Water Shed, 46,000 acres of extremely fertile land.[11] Rich soil was another important attribute of the land for its early inhabitants. Fertile ground ensures good crops, which in turn promises food on the table and possibly a source of income.

Accessible roadways were critical to both the Native Americans and pioneers. Chickasaw trails originally carved by the buffalo were used by the early settlers, and often are the routes we still use today. For example, the Chickasaw frequently used a trail to travel from “the fourth bluff” (the city of Memphis) to “Ackia,” (Tupelo, Mississippi). Today, part of the trail has evolved into Poplar Avenue. As explained in Collierville, Tennessee Her People and Neighbors:



trailmap.jpg
Figure 5: A map depicting the Chickasaw trail from "the fourth bluff" to "Ackia."
“The trail began at the mouth of the Wolf River and ran to the present Gayoso Bayou to Alabama Avenue and Poplar Avenue. It traveled east on Old Poplar Pike through or near the towns of White Station (now the city of Memphis), Germantown, Forest Hill, Bailey Station, and Collierville. There it crossed over into the state of Missisippi along Holly Springs Road. (Mt. Pleasant Rd.), passing through or near the towns of Mount Pleasant, Slayden, Atway, Hudsonville, Salem, Ashland, Ripley, Dumas and Blue Springs. Early settlers used this same trail when journeying to Memphis. Traveling west on Highway 57/72 to Old Poplar Pike, the route remains virtually the same” (Russell, 32).

Having roadways that were already well established helped the population and commerce of the Collierville area to thrive and influenced our modern road system today.

The neighboring city of Memphis also contributed to the growth of the Collierville area. A salt lick located in Memphis, south of what is now Raines Road and about a mile east of what is now Lamar/Highway 78, provided both the Chickasaw and the settlers with a valuable resource.[12] Salt was vital to their diets, useful in flavoring their meals, and also helped to preserve the game they hunted to feed their families. Memphis provided the settlers with convenient access to supplies, communication, and other necessities. Although Memphis was still growing in the early 1800’s, it was already quite a bustling commercial community. As Memphis continued to expand both its size and population, Collierville did as well. Having Memphis near the early settlement helped it to flourish into a bustling trade center, rather than become “a ghost town” as so many other settlements of the time.[13]


Early Development

Much of Collierville’s successful development hinged on the town's important location on the stagecoach route. In the mid-eighteen hundreds, the Collierville area became a major stagecoach stop. Collierville served as a junction for the cities of Somerville, Moscow, LaGrange, Holly Springs, Raleigh, and Memphis.[14]

MyPicture.jpg
Figure 6: Talley Station today.
In 1851, William W. Talley built a log cabin to serve as a stagecoach stop. The stop was located on Byhalia and South Rowlett where the Delta Beverage/Pepsi Cola Bottling Company is now located. Today the log building can be seen at the Collierville Square.[15] In her book, The History of Collierville, Elizabeth B. Parr recounts a family’s travels by the stagecoach route. According to Parr, the Cannon family traveled the stagecoach route in their own carriage from Marshall County, Mississippi to Memphis (approximately 30 miles). The trip took almost one week.[16]

It is not surprising that the settlers began desiring a faster mode of transportation. In December of 1835, the LaGrange-Memphis Railroad was chartered to travel through the Collierville area. Work for the project began in 1838; however, only the roadbed was laid when the company went bankrupt. before the track was actually laid in Collierville. [17] Ultimately, the railroad did not actually come to Collierville until October 1852 when the Memphis-Charleston Railroad resumed the construction. [18]

Commerce in the Collierville area began growing rapidly after more people had convenient access to the area. In the 1840’s, Collierville was home to “the largest nursery in this part of the country.”[19] Robert B. Koen owned the tree nursery which was located on what is now Poplar Avenue. Koen’s Nursery proudly claimed 75,000 apple, pear, almond and experimental fruit trees.[20]
View an ad 1847 for Koen's Nursery.

By 1848, Collierville could boast of two stores, owned by S.B. Buford and by J.B.Williford.[21] Mr. Buford's store was a leather and saddle shop,[22] while Mr. Williford's store was a popular location for community and political meetings.[23] Although, there was no church in Collierville, two churches had been established on the town’s outskirts.[24] In 1835, a Baptist Church, known as Shiloh, was founded on the east side of the Fayette County line.[25] Also, Old Salem Presbyterian Church, built in 1844, was located three miles south of Collierville on Byhalia Road.[26] By 1848, there were enough men living in the Collierville area to organize a lodge. On September 16, the Collierville Lodge, Number 152 was formed.[27]

Early settlers also knew the importance of education. The first record of a “common” or public school (a school supported by state funding) footnote in Collierville was founded in 1842. [28] School was held in a log cabin.[29] Collierville was also the home of many private schools. Before the Civil War forced several to close, at least eight private academies and colleges had operated in Collierville.[30]


Collierville receives her name.

One of the most influential settlers in the area was a Profession named Jesse R. Collier. Collier was originally from Montgomery, Tennessee.[31]
Census.jpg
Figure 7: Jesse Collier's name on the 1840 Shelby County Census.
Records show him moving his family so frequently that it is thought he may have been a land speculator.[32] Local lore tells that the Town of Collierville was named by the railroad conductors who would greet Jesse Collier by yelling out "Howdy, Mr. Collierville!" as the trains passed through town.[33] Yet, Jesse's name can only be found on the 1840 Shelby County census. Neither he nor his family were in the area in 1852, when the railroad finally reached Collierville.[34] Jesse's name first appeared in the area in the mid-1830's when he purchased 150 acres of land from Solomon Williams located on the Winchester state line. In 1836, Jesse sold his land by placing an announcement in the Memphis Enquirer advertising the “Town of Collier for sale.” Collier's add states that “The lots in the town of Collier in Shelby County, Tenn. will be offered for sale on the 29th of October, 1836. It lies 24 miles from Memphis, 26 from La Grange, on the Memphis and Lagrange Railroad and within one mile of the corner of four counties- Fayette and Shelby, Tenn. and Marshall and De Soto, MS-it is a high and salubrious situation and well watered.” [35] The lots were sold and the Town of Collier was born. In 1837, the post office moved from Fayette County to the "Town of Collier." It is likely that this is when the name became "Collierville."[36] The growing town was sometimes called Colliersville, and due to boundary disputes was frequently referred to as Collierville, Mississippi.[37]
View Jesse Collier's ad selling the "Town of Collier"


The Tennessee/Mississippi state line, or the Winchester State Line, had been a point of controversy since the survey was performed in 1818. The line was meant to follow the 35th degree of north latitude, however, many settlers felt it was ran incorrectly. Both the state of Tennessee and the state of Mississippi felt a survey would put Memphis and Collierville in their own state. At various times, both states pursued resolving the issue but with no satisfactory result. Finally, after four separate surveys, a compromise was reached in 1837. Surveyors from both Mississippi and Tennessee ran a survey according to the correct 35th degree of north latitude, rather than the line General Winchester presumed to be the 35th degree north latitude. Both states accepted the results. Memphis and Collierville were on the Tennessee side and thus Tennessee gained nearly 9,298 acres of land.[38]


By 1850, Collierville, Tennessee was a flourishing settlement. The citizens became interested in incorporating their town. On June 28, 1850 the petition to incorporate Collierville was accepted. Richard Ramsey was elected to be the first mayor.[39] The Town of Collierville continued to prosper through the 1850’s, greatly spurred on by the addition of the Memphis-Charleston railroad.


Next Chapter: The Railroad Rolls Into Collierville train.jpg






A special thank you to Mrs. Clarene Russell and Ms. Elizabeth Parr for their assistance in this project, and the wealth of research and knowledge they have shared.

Compiled by Kimberly Liles Ison

Figure Sources:
1. "De Soto Discovers the Mississippi," The Project Gutenberg EBook of Discoverers and Explorers, July 22, 2007, http;www.gutenberg.org/files/22116/22116-h/22116-h.htm, Apr.9, 2009.
2. "James Winchester," Tennessee Portrait Project, Tn State Library and Archives, c.1810, http://www.tnportraits.org/30261-winchester.htm, Apr. 9, 2009.
3. "Isaac Shelby, The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Battle of New Orleans, June 5, 2008, http://222.gutenberg.org/files/25699/25699-h/25699-h.htm, Apr. 9. 2009.
4. "Land grants and chickasaw land sin civil District 10," Map. Collierville, Tennessee Her People and Neighbors, The Collierville Chamber of Commerce, Collierville Tennessee, 1995.
5. "Map of Chickasaw trail from "the fourth bluff" to "Ackia," Map. Google Maps. http://maps.google.com/maps?hl+en&tab+wi, Aug. 10, 2010.
6. "Talley, Station," Personal photograph by author. Apr. 17, 2009.
7. "1840 Shelby County Tennessee Census." Ancestry Library, http://csontent.ancestrylibrary.com/Brows/print_u.aspx?dbid=8057&iid=TNM704_530-0133, Feb. 13, 2009.
8. "Olde Steamer 2." Clip Art Collection. http://ribbonrail.com/art/oldstream/tr4.gif, Oct. 20, 2009.
  1. ^
    Russell, Clarene Pinkston, Collierville, Tennessee Her People and Neighbors, The Collierville Chamber of Commerce, Collierville, Tennessee, 1995, p. 9.
  2. ^
    Ibid, p. 11.
  3. ^ The Goodspeed Publishing Company, Goodspeed's History of Hamilton, Knox and Shelby Counties of Tennessee, Charles and Randy Elder Booksellers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1974, p. 798.
  4. ^
    Russell, Clarene Pinkston, Collierville, Tennessee Her People and Neighbors, The Collierville Chamber of Commerce, Collierville, Tennessee, 1995, p. 15.
  5. ^
    Ibid, p.17.
  6. ^
    Parr, Elizabeth B., The History of Collierville, Self-published, p. 1.
  7. ^
    Russell, Clarene Pinkston, Collierville, Tennessee Her People and Neighbors, The Collierville Chamber of Commerce, Collierville, Tennessee, 1995, p. 17.
  8. ^ Parr, Elizabeth B., The History of Collierville, Self-published, p. 2.
  9. ^ Ibid.
  10. ^
    Russell, Clarene Pinkston, Collierville, Tennessee Her People and Neighbors, The Collierville Chamber of Commerce, Collierville, Tennessee, 1995, p. 29.
  11. ^
    Ibid, p. 32.
  12. ^
    Ibid, p. 31.
  13. ^
    Parr, Elizabeth B., personal interview. February 11, 2009.
  14. ^
    Russell, Clarene Pinkston, Collierville, Tennessee Her People and Neighbors, The Collierville Chamber of Commerce, Collierville, Tennessee, 1995, p. 45.
  15. ^
    "Visitor Guide," The Collierville Chamber of Commerce, http://www.colliervillechamber.com/visit/see_do.htm, 11/10/09.
  16. ^ Parr, Elizabeth B., The History of Collierville, Self-published, p. 7.
  17. ^
    Ibid, p. 7.
  18. ^ Russell, Clarene Pinkston, Collierville, Tennessee Her People and Neighbors, The Collierville Chamber of Commerce, Collierville, Tennessee, 1995, p. 68.
  19. ^
    Parr, Elizabeth B., The History of Collierville, Self-published, p. 6.
  20. ^ Russell, Clarene Pinkston, Collierville, Tennessee Her People and Neighbors, The Collierville Chamber of Commerce, Collierville, Tennessee, 1995, p. 53.
  21. ^
    The Goodspeed Publishing Company, Goodspeed's History of Hamilton, Knox and Shelby Counties of Tennessee, Charles and Randy Elder Booksellers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1974, p. 913.
  22. ^ Russell, Clarene Pinkston, Collierville, Tennessee Her People and Neighbors, The Collierville Chamber of Commerce, Collierville, Tennessee, 1995, p. 332.
  23. ^ Ibid, p. 65.
  24. ^ The Goodspeed Publishing Company, Goodspeed's History of Hamilton, Knox and Shelby Counties of Tennessee, Charles and Randy Elder Booksellers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1974, p. 913.
  25. ^ Russell, Clarene Pinkston, Collierville, Tennessee Her People and Neighbors, The Collierville Chamber of Commerce, Collierville, Tennessee, 1995, p. 217.
  26. ^ Parr, Elizabeth B., The History of Collierville, Self-published, p. 5.
  27. ^ Ibid, p. 6.
  28. ^
    Russell, Clarene Pinkston, Collierville, Tennessee Her People and Neighbors, The Collierville Chamber of Commerce, Collierville, Tennessee, 1995, p.184
  29. ^ The Goodspeed Publishing Company, Goodspeed's History of Hamilton, Knox and Shelby Counties of Tennessee, Charles and Randy Elder Booksellers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1974, p. 913.
  30. ^ Russell, Clarene Pinkston, Collierville, Tennessee Her People and Neighbors, The Collierville Chamber of Commerce, Collierville, Tennessee, 1995, p.187.
  31. ^
    Ibid, p. 39.
  32. ^ Ibid.
  33. ^ Main Street Collierville, Heritage Education Program Teaching Children Our Tennessee Heritage,The Center for Historic Preservation, Middle Tennessee State University,1996 p. 3
  34. ^ Russell, Clarene Pinkston, personal interview, February 4, 2009.
  35. ^ Russell, Clarene Pinkston, Collierville, Tennessee Her People and Neighbors, The Collierville Chamber of Commerce, Collierville, Tennessee, 1995, p. 31.
  36. ^ Ibid, p. 39.
  37. ^ Ibid, p. 38.
  38. ^
    Ibid, p. 25.
  39. ^
    Ibid, p. 65.