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Each week on the Junior Curators blog, we travel back in time to a different place in Tennessee history. Stories may be about a famous person, place or event from Tennessee’s past. They will include things like priceless artifacts, pictures, videos, and even some games. Be sure to better understand the story by answering the questions at the end of each post.
After learning the story, be sure to share what you've learned with your parents, family, or friends. Try making your own exhibit about it, shooting a movie, or writing a story about it. Let your creativity run wild!
by Emilee Dehmer
Middle Tennessee: Geographic Center of Tennessee, Murfreesboro
There are so many cool and exciting places in Tennessee. So many, that you might not know about them all. That’s what Go See Tennessee is all about. We’re here to tell you about places we think are neat and that you might want to visit too. It might be helpful to make a “Go and See” List, and whenever you read about a place that sounds cool, write it down, to help you remember it for the future. Ready for this week’s place? Let’s go!
The center. The very point in Tennessee that is, quite literally, in the middle of it all. This next stop on our “go and see list” doesn’t have a big park, great food, or saltshakers to look at. That doesn’t make it any less important! This stop is where you can say that Tennessee was centered around you. It’s the geographic center of Tennessee!
The geographic center of Tennessee just means it is the exact middle point of the state. While this spot is just a fun place to visit today, it was a significant place almost 200 years ago. When Tennessee first became a state, it didn’t decide on a capital city right away. It moved five different times to four different cities: Knoxville, Kingston, Nashville, and Murfreesboro. Finally, in 1834 the state constitution said that the legislature had to pick a permanent site.
This is approximately where the exact center of Tennessee is located.
It was in trying to find a spot for the capital that the center was marked. The lawmakers wanted the final location to be “in sofar as is practicable, in the exact center of the State.” That means, they wanted it to be as close to the exact center of the state as possible. They chose a local math professor named James Hamilton to find that location. He used different math formulas to find it. When it came time to decide on the new capital city though, Nashville was chosen. Even though some people, like Governor James K. Polk, wanted it in Murfreesboro.
The center of Tennessee would remain just a spot on the land, until the 1970s. On June 26, 1976 a monument was placed at the center of the state. The monument is called an obelisk, which is the same shape as the Washington Monument in Washington D.C. It’s located on Old Lascasses Highway, just a short walk from the campus of Middle Tennessee State University. The monument is simply called “The Obelisk.”
Photo by Tom Gillard, 12/30/09: You can visit The Obelisk at the center of Tennessee
While it’s the center of Tennessee now, how many other territories has this spot been a part of? It was originally under control of England then passed to North Carolina. It was included in the failed attempt at the State of Franklin (which you can learn more about here-How Do You Lose A State?! The History Of The Lost State Of Franklin). Finally, it was a part of the Territory south of the River Ohio, before finally becoming the center of Tennessee. So when you go and see this, you’ll be standing on a lot of history!
Photo by Tom Gillard, 12/30/09- The plaque on the obelisk
You may not need to center your entire trip around the center of Tennessee, but it’s still a place worth going to see. You can get your picture with the obelisk and say that, just for a moment, you were the center of it all! Well, at least the center of Tennessee. And remember, the next time someone asks you to “meet me in the middle,” you can say you’ll see them in Murfreesboro!
For more information, please visit the Geographic Center of Tennessee in Murfreesboro, TN - Tennessee Vacation (tnvacation.com)
Emilee Dehmer is an Educator for the Tennessee State Museum.