Port Royal, Tennessee

Port Royal, Tennessee

Port Royal is a historic unincorporated community on the border of Montgomery and Robertson counties in the U.S. state of Tennessee. It is home to Port Royal State Park. It is located at the confluence of the Red River and Sulphur Fork Creek.


Port Royal is one of the earliest and was one of the most populous settlements outside of Nashville. The first settlers who arrived there were members of the Prince family and others who were coming from the "Old 96" (now Spartanburg) district of South Carolina. This was likely in 1784. [http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/imagegallery.php?EntryID=P042 Port Royal State Historic Area] in "Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture"] Soon after the Tennessee County court held its first meeting nearby on Parsons Creek. [Beach, Ursula Smith, "Along the Warioto: A History of Montgomery Co., TN", 1964.] In 1791, the Red River Baptist Church was founded at the mouth of the Sulphur Fork Creek. This church is thought to have been the only church for nearly 200 miles during its first few years of use. This church is still active today in Adams, Tennessee. [Winters, Ralph, "Historical Sketches of Adams, Robertson County, TN and Port Royal, Montgomery County, TN", 1969]

In 1796, when the State of Tennessee was founded, five delegates from Tennessee County were selected to represent the county at the Tennessee Constitutional Convention in Knoxville. Four of the five were from the settlement that was to become Port Royal. [Winters, Ralph, "Historical Sketches of Adams, Robertson County, TN and Port Royal, Montgomery County, TN", 1969]

On October 25, 1797, the town of Port Royal was incorporated. It quickly became a thriving center of commerce for the upper Middle Tennessee and South Central Kentucky area. This was because of its strategic location at the confluence of the Red River and the Sulphur Fork Creek. These streams meander through eastern Montgomery, Robertson and Sumner counties in Tennessee, and Logan County, Kentucky and drain nearly 975 square miles. [http://www.redriverwatershed.org Red River Watershed] ]

In the fall of 1838 the Cherokee removal to Oklahoma, enforced by the Indian Removal Act of 1830, crossed the Red River at Port Royal. A letter from Elijah Hicks to Principal Chief John Ross, tells of the stay at Port Royal. [Moulton, Gary, "The Papers of Chief John Ross"] This is the only written record of this stopping place, but of the 11 detachments that were moved, it is known that eight of them followed the designated North Route that went through Port Royal. This terrible event came to be known as the Trail of Tears.

By the mid 1800s, a principal stagecoach route had been located through Port Royal. This was for a time, the main route to the west from the southeast. Newspaper articles from the mid 1800s mention Port Royal being on the "Great Road to the West".

In 1842, the Tennessee Silk Manufacturing Company and Agricultural School was opened in Port Royal to train workers in manufacturing cloth from silk that was then being produced by area farmers. At his 1843 inauguration Governor James C. Jones wore a silk suit manufactured in Port Royal. [ [http://tennesseeencyclopedia.net/imagegallery.php?EntryID=S039 Silk] in "Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture"] The silk industry failed at Port Royal really before it even got started. One of the share holders, A.D. Carden, left for Europe with all of the shareholders funds in order to purchase machinery but was never to be heard from again. [Winters, Ralph, "Historical Sketches of Adams, Robertson County, TN and Port Royal, Montgomery County, TN", 1969] Port Royal continued to thrive until after the Civil War. The end of the Civil War brought severe economic depression to the South in general and Port Royal felt the effects strongly, resulting in many business' ceasing operation. To further complicate things, the L&N Railroad had just come through Adams and Clarksville, Tennessee, and Guthrie, Kentucky, surrounding the town of Port Royal with railroad access on all sides. With such means of goods transportation available, river travel on smaller tributaries quickly became obsolete. Soon, all of the commerce and culture that the town had enjoyed for so long, moved to other towns with railroad access.

By the early 1900s, Port Royal had become a small crossroads town and in 1941, when the post office closed, Port Royal was merely a small farming community.

Noting the importance of Port Royal in the history of the State of Tennessee and the nation, the Tennessee Division of State Parks decided to acquire the land and preserve it in perpetuity. The small town is now know as Port Royal State Park. It is also an officially certified site on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail. [http://www.state.tn.us/environment/parks/PortRoyal/index.shtml Port Royal State Park website] ]

Notable residents

The 1940s all-female, integrated big band International Sweethearts of Rhythm was led by Anna Mae Winburn, who was born in Port Royal in 1913.
* James Ford - Signer of the Tennessee Constitution
* William Prince - Signer of the Tennessee Constitution
* Robert Prince - Signer of the Tennessee Constitution
* William Fort - Signer of the Tennessee Constitution

ee also

* History of Tennessee


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