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Seeking their freedom, many slaves turned to the Underground Railroad to escape to the free states of the North, and the Memphis home of Jacob Burkle was a way-station on their route to freedom.The Gayoso House Hotel was built overlooking the Mississippi River in 1842 and became a Memphis landmark; it stood until 1899, where it burned down.
During the 1960s the city was at the center of civil rights actions, with a major strike by city sanitation workers in 1968.In 1796, the site became the westernmost point of the newly admitted "state" of Tennessee in the newly independent United States.However, West Tennessee was at that time occupied and historically controlled by the Chickasaw tribe, owned by possession and tribal rights.Approximately 800 CE to 1600 CE, the Mississippi River Delta was populated by tribes of the Mississippian culture, a mound-building Native American people who had developed in the late Woodland Indian period.The Tipton Phase people were a local expression of the Mississippian culture.When Europeans first encountered them, the Chickasaw were living in villages in what is now Mississippi, with a smaller number in the area of Savannah Town, South Carolina.
Twentieth-century scholar Patricia Galloway says that the Chickasaw may have been migrants to the area from the west and may not have been descendants of the pre-historic Mississippian culture."These people (the choctaw) are the only nation from whom I could learn any idea of a traditional account of a first origin; and that is their coming out of a hole in the ground, which they shew between their nation and the Chickasaws; they tell us also that their neighbou rs were surprised at seeing a people rise at once out of the earth." By the 1680s, French explorers led by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle built Fort Prudhomme in the vicinity, the first European settlement in what would become Memphis, predating English settlements in East Tennessee by more than 70 years.The city was named after the ancient capital of Egypt on the Nile River.The founders planned for a large city to be built on the site and laid out a plan featuring a regular grid of streets interrupted by four town squares, to be named Exchange, Market, Court, and Auction.The Chickasaw Indian tribe emerged about the 17th century, or migrated into the area.The earliest European exploration may have encountered remnants of the Mississippian culture by Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto.In 1857 the Memphis & Charleston Railroad was completed, linking an Atlantic Ocean port and one on the Mississippi River.