Murfreesboro was once the state capitol?

Jackson statue and Tennessee State Capitol by night. Nashville, Tennessee, USA

by Tennessee Ledger Staff

Murfreesboro was once the Tennessee State Capitol

During the year of 1811, the Tennessee General Assembly appointed a committee to help decide a new location for the Rutherford County seat. Murfreesboro was named as the state capitol of Tennessee from 1818 until 1826. The population of the ‘Boro was estimated to have 950 residents. The Tennessee state capital was moved to the middle of the State as the population moved to the middle and western grand divisions of Tennessee. The city of Murfreesboro was named for Revolutionary War hero Colonel Hardy Murfree. The site chosen was 60 acres of land belonging to Captain William Lytle. The city of Murfreesboro is home to both the center of population of Tennessee and the geographic center of Tennessee.


Naming of Murfreesboro

The General Assembly named the new town Cannonsburgh, honoring Newton Cannon, who was a young politician in Williamson County. About a month later upon Captain Lytle’s request, the name was changed to Murfreesboro. The naming was in honor of the memory of Lytle’s friend, Colonel Hardy Murfree. In 1817, Murfreesboro was recognized as an official city by the State Legislature and, in 1818, was named the capital of Tennessee because of its central location. Later, Nashville was the capital of Tennessee twice. The first time was from 1812-1817. In 1826, Nashville became the permanent capital of the State of Tennessee. Upon the arrival of the Grand Old Opry in 1925, Nashville would become known as Music City USA.


The Boro’s Early Years

The City of Murfreesboro in its early years was one of the most prominent cites in the state. The city was mainly an agricultural community growing crops of corn, cotton, and tobacco being the main crops. By 1853, the City of Murfreesboro would be home to three colleges and several academies. It was called “The Athens of Tennessee” by a visiting religious reporter.

During and after the civil war, Murfreesboro endured much hardship. It would not be until the early 1900’s before the city would recover.


In 1911, Middle Tennessee State Normal School, for the training of teachers, was opened in Murfreesboro, joining Tennessee College for Women, which had opened in 1907. Today, Middle Tennessee State University is the home of 23,000, or more, students and has the highest undergraduate enrollment in the state.

Pre and Post World War II

Just up the road in Smyrna only 14 miles northwest of Murfreesboro the United States War Department ordered the construction of a Bombardment Air Base on December 22, 1941 which would become known as Sewart Air Force Base.

Postcard of former Sewart Air Force Base in Smyrna,Tn.

The announcement came shortly after the US had entered World War 11. A tract of land 23 miles southeast of Nashville consisting of 3,325 acres located off US Route 70 (Hwy 41/Murfreesboro Road) would take 6000 laborers to construct 200 buildings and an airfield to accommodate the training needs of the Army Air Force. The base construction was a significant investment in Rutherford County

After WWII, the City of Murfreesboro and Rutherford County began to change from an agricultural economy to industrial and manufacturing base economy. The industrial growth has been steady ever since, contributing to a stable economy and much growth. In the past decade, the city’s population has increased 53.2% from 44,922 in 1990 to 68,816 in 2000. In 2018, census estimates showed a population of 141,344.

Other Tennessee cities who have had the honor of being the state capitols are Knoxville.
Knoxville was the capital of the Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio from 1792 until 1796. Knoxville served as the capital of Tennessee on two occasions, the first time from 1796 until 1812 and then a second time from 1817 to 1818. Knoxville was named for Henry Knox, the Secretary of War.

Kingston, Tennessee was the capital of Tennessee for one day! On September 21, 1807, the Tennessee General Assembly convened in Kingston that day due to an agreement with the Cherokee, who had been told that if the Cherokee Nation ceded the land that is now Roane County, Kingston would become the capital of Tennessee. Before the Indians realized that they had been tricked, the capital was moved back to Knoxville.