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Map of Tennessee highlighting West Tennessee.png

West Tennessee is one of the three Grand Divisions of the State of Tennessee. Of the three, it is the one that is most sharply defined geographically. Its boundaries are the Mississippi River on the west and the Tennessee River on the east. This region's boundaries have been expanded slightly to include all of Hardin County, which is bisected by the Tennessee River.

Unlike the geographic divisions of most American states, the term West Tennessee has a legal as well as a socio-economic meaning. West Tennessee, East Tennessee, and Middle Tennessee are Tennessee's three Grand Divisions. According to the State Constitution, no more than two of Tennessee Supreme Court's five Justices can be residents of any one Grand Division, and the Supreme Court rotates meeting in courthouses in each of the three divisions. The State Supreme Court building for West Tennessee is in Jackson, Tennessee. Similar rules apply to certain other State Commissions and Boards, as well, to prevent them from showing any geographical biases.

West Tennessee also corresponds to telephone company Area Codes. Until the year 2001, West Tennessee, including all of Hardin County, was in the Area Code 901. After a large amount of population growth necessatated two Area Codes for West Tennessee, Memphis and its northern and eastern suburbs retained the 901 Area Code, with the remainder of West Tennessee being placed into Area Code 731.

West Tennessee is by slight amounts less populous and smaller in land area than the other two Grand Divisions. At the time of the 2000 U.S. Census West Tennessee had 1,499,802 inhabitants living in its 21 counties, and these have a combined land area of approx. 27,582 kmĀ² (10,650 square mi). West Tennessee's population was about 26.4 percent of the state's total, and its land area is about 25.8 percent of the state's land area. West Tennessee's population density was about 140 persons per square mile (54.4 persons per square kilometer) at the time of the 2000 United States Census.



While the region of Tennessee west of the Tennessee River was technically part of Tennessee at its statehood in 1796, it did not come under definitive American control until it was obtained in a series of cessions by the Chickasaw Indians in 1818, an acquisition known as the Jackson Purchase, named for Andrew Jackson, one of the officials involved. The purchase also included the westmost area of Kentucky as well as a part of northern Mississippi. Although the vast majority of the purchases lie in Tennessee, the term "Jackson Purchase" is used today mostly to refer solely to the Kentuckian portion of the acquisition. This term is also somewhat misleading. Jackson, a military officer at the time, was one of several Federal treaty commissioners. He did not personally negotiate the whole land cession, nor was it done in a single treaty, nor was the land purchased for a fair price.

Cities and landmarks

By far the largest city in West Tennessee, and tied for the most populous in the state (in practical terms), is the City of Memphis, Tennessee. Outside the greater Memphis area, the West Tennessee region is mostly agricultural and residential. Most of the West Tennessee region lies geologically within the Mississippi embayment.

Among the region's smaller cities and towns (not including the Memphis suburban area), the more prominent ones are Jackson and Dyersburg, the only ones having populations over 15,000 people. (Only Jackson has a Federally-recognized Standard Metropolitan Statistical Area.)

The principal public universities in West Tennessee are the University of Memphis and the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, which has state medical, dental, nursing, and pharmacy schools, as well as a graduate program in health sciences. Also, there is the much smaller and less-prominent University of Tennessee at Martin; and Jackson State Community College.

When it comes to private institutions of higher education, there is Christian Brothers University and Rhodes College in Memphis. Jackson, Tennessee is the home of Lambuth University, Union University, and Lane College. A few other private institutions of higher education lie in other areas of West Tennessee, such as Bethel College and Freed-Hardeman University.


West Tennessee is distinct from Middle and East Tennessee in that African-Americans make up a large percent of its population Image:New 2000 black percent.gif.


The entire West Tennessee region, especially the area closest to the Mississippi River, lies in a zone of fairly-high estimated risk for earthquakes. This area is at the edge of the New Madrid Seismic Zone. In 1811 and 1812, three of the largest quakes in American history hit this region back when it had few European settlers. By some reports, the earthquakes briefly reversed the flow of the Mississippi River. A lasting legacy of the earthquakes is the Reelfoot Lake, a large but shallow body of water in northwestern Tennessee that was created by the earthquakes.

External links


Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From Wikitravel

Western Tennessee is a region of Tennessee.

  • Memphis - First city of the blues and the home of rock 'n' roll.
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