Founded: Circa 1820, Incorporated: 1869
Mayor: Jill Holland
P.O. Box 160 • McKenzie, TN 38201
731-352-2292 • Fax 731-352-5235
Web Site for the City of McKenzie
Click on any thumbnail image
below to see a detailed photo.
This beautiful gazebo enhances the downtown city park of McKenzie, neighbors and friends gather here to chat and socialize. Look at our McKenzie web site for more information on our schools and our town.
This brief history of McKenzie was compiled through the efforts of several fine folks in McKenzie that are proud of the heritage of their town and surrounding communities.
The town of McKenzie was established on lands the Chickasaw Indians used as their hunting grounds long before the settlers came to the area.
In 1785, Henry Rutherford did a survey of the area and discovered Clear Lake, a naturally formed lake which lies northeast of town and north of the present day Carroll Lake.
Much of the area around McKenzie was known as "the barrens", a large portion of land covered in tall natural grasses, so tall that a man on horseback was only visible from the shoulders up. Dogs were trained to find children that became lost in the dense grasslands.
Buffalo, wolves, bear, elk and panthers inhabited the area along with a large number of deer and turkey, these and many other critters were hunted by Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett when they visited here.
As the soil was deep, loose and lush and much of the land already open, farmers soon came. Many by way of one of the first roads known as the Natchez Trail. This much traveled path came from Waverly and followed an old buffalo trail that ran just north of Bethel College.
In 1828 Col. John D. McKenzie settled in McKenzie. Other early settlers included John M. Gilbert, R. S. Cole, Garland Snead and Stephen Pate, who may have been the first.
Garland Snead located a town in the grass lands and called it Dundas, a name it held for five (5) years. This settlement consisted of a trading post, Post Office, saloon, blacksmith shop and hotel named the Carroll House.
1859 Railroad was extended from Paris to Memphis (Memphis to Louisville Railroad) and came through the town, now known as McKenzie Station. Monroe McKenzie built a hotel named the McKenzie House facing the tracks and other businesses followed.
1862 Nathan Bedford Forrest spent Christmas in McKenzie as he raided and destroyed railroads in the area.
1867 the Nashville and Northwestern tracks were completed and crossed the existing Memphis to Louisville.
With the town now being a junction at a major intersection and just a way point along a single line. McKenzie was now an important city.
The community of Caledonia, which was a larger and more developed community, was the original site for this intersection. Overnight Caledonia moved its major building and businesses to McKenzie. Our present day Masonic Lodge still bears the name Caledonia Lodge No. 96, as it was originally established in Caledonia.
On January 22, 1869 McKenzie incorporated, the name being shortened from McKenzie Station to McKenzie.
In 1872 the McKenzie House burned and was rebuilt as a 100x100 three story brick structure, only the Peabody in Memphis and the Maxwell House in Nashville were larger. It burned in 1922.
1874 McKenzie was described as a active business point and growing. The census showed 1,000 citizens.
By now McKenzie had three churches, one foundry, a planing mill, flour mill, three cotton gins and three saloons. Also that year Bethel College moved from McLemoresville to McKenzie. The college had 170 students on its rolls.
McKenzie's downtown businesses were almost entirely destroyed by fire in 1879.
1887 McKenzie along with the rest of West Tennessee was threatened by an outbreak of Yellow Fever. People from Memphis and other communities came to McKenzie to escape the disease. Some of these who stayed in McKenzie's Hotels, already infected, died and are buried at Mt. Olivet. None of McKenzie's citizens were known to have contracted the disease.
1890 President Grover Cleveland came to town. By now the city had seven saloons and was known as a rough town. The fights and rowdy behavior was so bad Saturdays were known as "Bloody Saturday" and women didn't go to town to shop on that day. Between the years of 1869 and 1896 McKenzie reported 29 murders. All were alcohol related.
As McKenzie had few trees, many were planted and numerous streets were named for them.
This gets us to 1900, we will provide further informational history as it becomes available.
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