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Welcome to the official podcast of The Nashville Retrospect, the monthly newspaper devoted to stories from Nashville's past. Editor and host Allen Forkum interviews local historians and people who experienced the city’s history firsthand. He also investigates audio artifacts from area archives and relates fascinating articles from old Nashville newspapers.

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Jul 31, 2018

Nashville today attracts thousands of new residents every month, but over 200 years ago, people risked their very lives to move here. Host Allen Forkum (editor of The Nashville Retrospect newspaper) interviews historian Paul Clements about the first settlers to arrive in the Nashville area in the late 1700s. Led by James Robertson, the settlers not only endured a treacherous journey, but after arriving they also faced an ever-present threat of attack from Native-American groups trying to drive the settlers from their hunting grounds. (Note: This episode contains graphic descriptions of violence. Segment begins at 03:50)

This postcard image, from the mural in the west lunette of the nave of the Kentucky State Capitol, depicts representatives from the Transylvania Land Company and Cherokee Indians negotiating the Transylvania Purchase in 1775. James Robertson attended the meeting, along with Richard Henderson and Daniel Boone. Some of the land acquired would be the future home of the Cumberland Settlements and Nashville. (Image: Mike Slate)

General James Robertson (1742–1814) as depicted by Henry Benbridge (1744–1812). (Image: Tennessee State Library and Archives)

This mural, located in offices of the Tennessee State Capitol, depicts the Battle of the Bluff, which occurred on April 2, 1781. Legend holds that Charlotte Robertson, James Robertson’s wife, let dogs out of Bluff Station (later know as Fort Nashborough) to drive off attacking Creek Indians.

Also in Episode 05, hear Elvis Presley’s speech to the Tennessee Legislature at the State Capitol on March 8, 1961. School-skipping teenagers in the galleries screamed as a gavel was banged to bring the crowd to order. Elvis received a round of applause after declaring that he would never leave his adopted home of Tennessee. (Segment begins at 48:00)

Excerpt from the original caption in the March 8, 1961, Nashville Banner: “Gov. Buford Ellington introduces singer-actor Elvis Presley to the State Legislature this morning amid applause from the packed house. … The artist, who drove up from Memphis for the appearance, was named a colonel on the governor’s staff and in reply said: ‘This recognition is the greatest honor I’ve ever received.’ … He’ll be returning here this weekend for a RCA Victor recording session.” (Image: Tennessee State Library and Archives, photo by Don Foster)

Original caption from the March 9, 1961, Nashville Tennessean: “Ann Ellington and Elvis share a private joke at the entrance to the governor’s mansion after his tumultuous reception at the Capitol. Shorty before, Gov. Buford Ellington said, ‘You’re a great man.’ And Elvis rode off—with Ann.” (Image: Tennessee State Library and Archives, photo by Gerald Holly)

The blue vinyl disc above features the audio recording of Elvis’s appearance before the state legislature in 1961. A machine like the one pictured below was used to make the recording. Both items are archived at the Tennessee State Library and Archives.

And finally, Allen Forkum briefly reviews some of the stories in the August 2018 issue of The Nashville Retrospect, including: the rediscovery of a mystery tunnel on Capitol Hill in 1961; old swimming pools of Nashville, such as Cascade Plunge and Centennial Park (story by Tom Henderson); the city of Nashville’s purchase of slaves in 1830 (story by Bill Carey); and a road rage incident in 1884. (Segment begins at 01:30)



A list of articles relating to this episode contained in back issues of The Nashville Retrospect (back issue can be ordered by clicking here):

• “Our Frontier Heritage and Why It Matters” by Paul Clements, The Nashville Retrospect, October 2010

• “James Robertson” by Paul Clements, a 25-part series, The Nashville Retrospect, from September 2014 to September 2016

• “Richard Henderson” by Paul Clements, a 3-part series, The Nashville Retrospect, from December 2017 to February 2018

• “Colonel John Donelson” by Paul Clements, a 4-part series, The Nashville Retrospect, from May 2014 to July 2014

• “Prehistory Life and Death in the Cumberland River Region” by Paul Clements; The Nashville Retrospect, July 2013

• “Indian Village Uncovered In Granny White Area,” Nashville Banner, June 8, 1973, (The Nashville Retrospect, June 2017)

• See the August 2018 issue of The Nashville Retrospect for other stories referenced on this episode.


Other related articles:

• “Elvis Does Free Shot For Assembly,” Nashville Banner, March 8, 1961

• “Elvis Still Wows Womenfolks," Nashville Tennessean, March 9, 1961


Links relating to this episode:

“James Robertson” by Terry Weeks

“Transylvania Purchase” by Michael Toomey

“John Donelson” by Anne-Leslie Owens

“French Lick” by Anita S. Goodstein

“Cumberland Compact” by Kenneth Fieth

“Frontier Stations” by Walter T. Durham

Fort Nashborough

Native History Association

Native American Indian Association of Tennessee

Gray Audograph

Werthan Lofts

Music City Center


Audio: Excerpts from “Elvis Presley, March 8, 1961,” an audio recording by the Tennessee Library and Archives

Music: “Near You” by Francis Craig and His Orchestra (Bullet, 1947); “Quiet Outro” by ROZKOL (2018); “Covered Wagon Days” by Ted Weems and His Orchestra; and “The Buffalo Rag” by Vess L. Ossman