Clarksville, Tennessee

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Downtown Clarksville

Clarksville is a city located in Montgomery County, Tennessee. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 103,455, retaining its position as Tennessee's fifth largest city. It is the county seat of Montgomery CountyTemplate:GR. Clarksville is the home of Austin Peay State University.

It was founded in 1785, and named for General George Rogers Clark, frontier fighter and Revolutionary War hero. Clarksville is home to the state's oldest newspaper, The Leaf-Chronicle, established in 1808.

The city has two nicknames, "The Queen City" and "Gateway to the New South".



Clarksville is located at 36°33'34" North, 87°21'30" West (36.559383, -87.358261)Template:GR. The elevation is 382 feet above sea level.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 247.4 km² (95.5 mi²). 245.7 km² (94.9 mi²) of it is land and 1.8 km² (0.7 mi²) of it is water. The total area is 0.71% water.

Clarksville is located on the northwest edge of the Highland Rim, which surrounds the Nashville Basin, and is 45 miles northwest of Nashville.

The main river that runs along Clarksville's main waterfront is the Cumberland River and it continues south towards Nashville. The Cumberland was very important in trade, as it transported soybeans and tobacco, particularly Type 22 dark-fired tobacco, grown in the area, which is considered the finest cigar tobacco in the world. The Red River also branches off from the Cumberland at Clarksville.

To the northwest of Clarksville, lies the Fort Campbell Military Reservation, home of the 101st Airborne. Much of Clarksville's economy can be attributed to Fort Campbell's presence. Most of Fort Campbell is in Tennessee, mostly in Montgomery and Stewart counties, however it is classified as being in Kentucky because its post office is in Kentucky.

Major roads and highways

ZIP codes

The ZIP codes used in the Clarksville area are: 37040, 37041, 37042, 37043, 37044.

Area code

Clarksville uses the area code 931.


As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there are 103,455 people, 36,969 households, and 26,950 families residing in the city. The population density is 421.1/km² (1,090.6/mi²). There are 40,041 housing units at an average density of 163.0/km² (422.1/mi²). The racial makeup of the city is 67.91% White, 23.23% African American, 0.54% Native American, 2.16% Asian, 0.25% Pacific Islander, 2.61% from other races, and 3.30% from two or more races. 6.03% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race. The census recorded 5,187 foreign-born residents in Clarksville.

There are 36,969 households out of which 41.3% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.4% are married couples living together, 13.1% have a female householder with no husband present, and 27.1% are non-families. 21.1% of all households are made up of individuals and 5.3% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.69 and the average family size is 3.12.

In the city the population is spread out with 28.8% under the age of 18, 13.6% from 18 to 24, 34.7% from 25 to 44, 15.6% from 45 to 64, and 7.3% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 29 years. For every 100 females there are 100.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 98.5 males.

The median income for a household in the city is $37,548, and the median income for a family is $41,421. Males have a median income of $29,480 versus $22,549 for females. The per capita income for the city is $16,686. 10.6% of the population and 8.4% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 13.8% of those under the age of 18 and 10.4% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.

Population in recent censuses (1960-2000)

  • 1960 - 22,021
  • 1970 - 41,687
  • 1980 - 62,721
  • 1990 - 75,494
  • 2000 - 103,455

Recent figures and projections

Clarksville was found to be the third-fastest growing city in Tennessee in the 1990s, behind Nashville and Memphis.

Clarksville is giving other Tennessee cities, including Chattanooga, a run for their money in population growth.

The estimated population by year's end will be 121,000 in the city overall and on course to overtake Chattanooga as the fourth largest city.

On July 1, 2003, Clarksville was estimated by the Census Bureau to have a population of 107,953. That figure was an increase of two percent from 2002, and an increase of 4.3 from the 2000 census.

The non-profit organization FAIR projects a population of 227,300 by the year 2025, which would be a 117 percent increase from the 2000 Census, assuming that the current population increase stands. However, it is unlikely that the city will sustain that increase that it has been growing at for the past few decades. The projection reflects what the results would be if that were to happen.

Clarksville is part of the Clarksville-Hopkinsville metropolitan statistical area.



The area around Clarksville was first surveyed by Thomas Hutchins in 1768. He identified Red Paint Hill, a rock bluff at the confluence of the Cumberland and Red Rivers, as a navigational landmark. In 1775, John Montgomery, the namesake of the county, along with Kaspar Mansker visited the area while on a hunting expedition. That same year, the land between the Ohio and the Cumberland was purchased by Richard Henderson from the Cherokee Indians for horses, guns, and alcohol. The other local tribes, such as the Creek, Shawnee, and Chickasaw claimed parts of the territory, creating conflict between the Indians and the settlers.

In 1779, James Robertson brought a group of settlers from upper East Tennessee via Daniel Boone's "Wilderness Road". Robertson would later build a iron plantation in Cumberland Furnace. A year later, in 1780, John Donelson led a group of flat boats up the Cumberland River bound for the settlement that would later be Nashville. When the boats reached Red Paint Hill, Moses Renfroe, Joseph Renfroe, and Solomon Turpin, along with their families, branched off onto the Red River. They traveled to the mouth of Parson's Creek, near Port Royal, and came ashore to settle down. However, an attack by Indians in the summer drove them back.

On January 16, 1784, John Armstrong filed notice with the Legislature of North Carolina to create the town of Clarksville. Even before it was officially designated a town, lots had been sold. After an official survey by James Sanders, Clarksville was founded by the North Carolina Legislature on December 29,1785. It was the second town to be founded in the area. Armstrong's layout for the town consisted of 12 four-acre (16,000 m²) squares built on the hill overlooking the Cumberland as to protect against floods. The primary streets (from north to south) that went east-west were named Jefferson, Washington (now College Street), Franklin, Main, and Commerce streets. North-south streets (from the river eastward) were named Water (now Riverside Drive), Spring, First, Second, and Third streets.

The tobacco trade in the area was growing larger every year and in 1789, Montgomery and Martin Armstrong persuaded lawmakers to designate Clarksville as an inspection point for tobacco. In 1790, Isacc Rowe Peterson staked a claim to Dunbar Cave, just northeast of downtown.

When Tennessee was founded as a state in 1796, the area around Clarksville and to the east was named Tennessee County. Later, Tennessee County would be broken up into modern day Montgomery and Robertson Counties, named to honor the men who first opened up the region for settlement.


As time progressed into the 19th century, Clarksville grew at a rapid pace. By 1806, the town realized the need for a educational institution, and the Rural Academy was established that year. Later, the Rural Academy would be replaced by the Mount Pleasant Academy. By 1819, the newly-established town had 22 stores, including a bakery and silversmith. In 1820, steamboats begin to navigate the Cumberland, bringing hardware, coffee, sugar, fabric, and glass. They also exported flour, tobacco, cotton, and corn to ports like New Orleans and Pittsburgh along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. Trade via land also grew as four main dirt roads were established, two to Nashville, one crossing the Red River via ferry called the Kentucky Road, and Russellville Road. In 1829, the first bridge connecting Clarksville to New Providence was built over the Red River. Nine years later, the Clarksville-Hopkinsville Turnpike was built. In 1855, Clarksville was incorporated as a city. Railroad service came to the town on October 1, 1859 in the form of the Memphis, Clarksville, & Louisville Railroad. The line would later connect with other railroads at Paris, Tennessee and Guthrie, Kentucky.

By the start of the Civil War, the combined population of the city and the county was 20,000. The area was openly for slavery, as blacks worked in the tobacco fields. In 1861, both Clarksville and Montgomery County voted unanimously to join the Confederate States of America. The proximity of the birthplace of Confederate President Jefferson Davis gave the city a strong tie to the CSA, and both sides saw the city as strategic and important. Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston set up a defense line around Clarksville expecting a land attack, however the Union sent troops and gunboats down the Cumberland, and in 1862, captured Fort Donelson, Fort Henry, and Clarksville. Between 1862 and 1865, the city would shift hands but the Union would retain control. Many slaves that had been freed gathered in Clarksville and joined the Union Army, which created all-black regiments. The remaining lived along the side of the river in shantys.

After the war, the city began Reconstruction, and in 1872, the existing railroad was purchased by the Louisville & Nashville Railroad. The city reached a high point until the Great Fire of 1878, which destroyed 15 acres (60,000 m²) of downtown Clarksville's business district, including the courthouse at that time and many other historic buildings. It was believed to have started in a Franklin Street store. After the fire, the city rebuilt and entered the 20th century with a fresh start. It was at this time that the first automobile rolled into town, drawing much excitement.

The 20th century

Another new form of entertainment soon came. In 1913, the Lillian Theater, Clarksville's first "movie house" for motion pictures, opened on Franklin Street. It sat more than 500 people. Less than two years later, in 1915, the theater burned down. It was rebuilt later that year.

As World War I raged in Europe, many locals volunteered to go, a move that would earn Tennessee the nickname "The Volunteer State". Also during this time, women's suffrage was becoming a major issue, and Clarksville women saw a need for banking independent of their husbands and fathers who were fighting. In response, the First Women's Bank of Tennessee was established in 1919 by Mrs. Frank J. Runyon.

The 1920s brought additional growth to the city. Travelwise, a bus line between Clarksville and Hopkinsville was established in 1922. 1927 saw the creation of Austin Peay Normal School, later to become Austin Peay State University. Two more theaters were added, the Majestic (with 600 seats) and the Capitol (with 900 seats) Theaters, both in 1928. John Outlaw, a local aviator, established Outlaw Field in 1929.

The largest change to the city came in 1942, as construction of Camp Campbell (now known as Fort Campbell) began. The new army base ten miles northwest of the city, and capable of holding 23,000 troops, gave an immediate boost to the population and economy of Clarksville.

In recent decades, the size of Clarksville has doubled. Communities such as New Providence and Saint Bethlehem were annexed into the city, adding to the overall population. The creation of Interstate 24 north of Saint Bethlehem made the area prime for development, and today much of the growth along U.S. Highway 79 is commercial retail. In 1954, the Clarksville Memorial Hospital was founded along Madison Street. Downtown, the Lillian was renamed the Roxy Theater, and today it still hosts plays and performances weekly.

On the morning of January 22, 1999, the downtown area of Clarksville was devastated by a F3 tornado, damaging many buildings including the county courthouse. The tornado, 880 yards wide, continued on a 4.3 mile-long path that took it up to Saint Bethlehem. No one was seriously injured in the destruction. Clarksville has since recovered, and has rebuilt much of the damage as a symbol of the city's resilience. Where one building on Franklin Street once stood has been replaced with a large mural of the historic buildings of Clarksville on the side of one that remained.

History of The County Courthouse

The first county courthouse was built from logs in 1796 by James Adams. It sat close to the riverbank on the corner of what is now present-day Riverside Drive and Washington Street. It was later replaced by a second courthouse built in 1805, and a third in 1806, with the land provided by Henry Small. The fourth courthouse was built in 1811, and the first to be built of brick. It was constructed on the east half of Public Square, with the land donated by Martin Armstrong. In 1843, yet another courthouse was built, this time on Franklin Street. It would remain standing until the Great Fire of 1878.

The sixth and current courthouse was built between Second and Third Streets, with the cornerstone laid on May 16, 1879. This particular building was designed by George W. Bunting of Indianapolis, Indiana. Five years later, the downtown area was hit by a tornado, which damaged the roof of the courthouse. The building was rebuilt. On March 12, 1900, the building was again ravaged by fire, with the upper floors gutted and the clock tower destroyed. Many citizens wanted the courthouse torn down and replaced with a safer one, but the judge refused and repaired the damage.

The courthouse was destroyed once again by the January 22, 1999 tornado. The building of another new courthouse was on the minds of locals, but in the end the courthouse was fully restored as a county office building. On the fourth anniversary of the disaster the courthouse was rededicated. In addition to the restoration of the original courthouse and plazas, a new courts center was built on its north side.

History of The City Newspaper

In 1808, The Clarksville Chronicle newspaper started publication. It was the first newspaper to be circulated in the entire state. Today, no editions exist earlier than 1811. Later, The Tobacco Leaf appeared as a result of the area's reputation as a center for tobacco growing and shipping. Early newspapers started out as four-page journals devoted to political news and advertising. Eventually they grew to become full-fledged publications that featured more news and community information, in addition to having opinion pages with political views. In 1890, The Clarksville Chronicle merged with The Tobacco Leaf, forming The Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle. In the 1970s, the city's name was dropped as the coverage area increased, shortening the title of the current newspaper to The Leaf-Chronicle.

Throughout the city's history, other newspapers such as The New Herald (an African-American newspaper), The Clarksville-Jeffersonian, and The Clarksville Star competed with The Clarksville Leaf-Chronicle, but they are all now defunct.

In December, 1995, The Leaf-Chronicle became part of the Gannett Newspaper Division.

The offices of The Leaf-Chronicle were severely damaged in the January 22,1999 tornado however the paper was still released the following day, after publisher F. Gene Washer took editors and reporters into his home to gather news and use the Kentucky New Era's printing press in Hopkinsville. The Saturday edition of The Leaf Chronicle was a complete newspaper that featured eight pages of tornado coverage. Within four days the staff was able to print from the downtown newspaper press, only slightly damaged. The departments worked out of a empty grocery store for eight months, until the main offices were rebuilt and reopened in the fall of 1999.

Notable Clarksvillians

Other Notables who have called Clarksville Home

Colleges and Universities

Clarksville-Montgomery County School System

There are a total of 30 schools in the school system, made up of six high schools, six middle schools, 17 elementary schools, and one magnet school for K-5. The system serves roughly 26,000 students.


Major Industrial Employers


Clarksville is served commercially by Nashville International Airport but also has a small airport, Outlaw Field, located 10 miles north of downtown. Outlaw Field, accommodates nearly 40,000 private and corporate flights a year, and is also home to a pilot training school and a few small aircraft companies. It has two asphalt runways, one 6,000 by 100 feet and the other 4,004 by 100 feet.


In the June 2004 issue of Money, Clarksville was listed as one of the top five cities with a population of under 250,000 that would attract creative class jobs over the next 10 years. [1] ( The city has also received good rankings in various categories in Forbes Magazine (90th Best City for Business and Careers, May 2001), Entrepreneur Magazine (No. 1 small city in the South), Money (57th Best Place to Live, July 1996), Golf Digest (America's 11th Best City for Public Golf, July 1998), Reader's Digest (38th Family-Friendly City, April 1997), and National Civic League (a 2002 All America City Finalist).

Others can be located at the city's website (

External links


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