In April of this year, WTHS member Don Hassell brought to our attention the fact that there is no officially designated date to mark–much less celebrate–the founding of the City of Memphis. In his own research Don discovered that the first sale of city lots was registered on May 22, 1819, which is as good a date as any other (and better than most of the alternatives) for the founding of our world-famous city.  Due to the press of time, we (Don Hassell, Executive Director Carol Perel, and I) decided to ask the city and county authorities for a statement of official recognition, which is long overdue.

County Mayor Mark Luttrell and his staff acted quickly to devise–with our input–the Proclamation below.  While large-scale recognition and celebration are not possible this year, we have every reason to believe that in 2018 and 2019, and every year following, proper notice of this important anniversary will begin, and grow over time.

The WTHS is grateful to Don for pushing this idea, and to Mayor Luttrell for quickly recognizing the important opportunity we have to acknowledge our founding in the future.

Edwin Frank, WTHS President

Shelby County Government


By the Mayor

Whereas, high on the Fourth Chickasaw Bluff, Hernando de Soto’s expedition arrived in May of 1541 on native Chickasaw land; two hundred years later, the Spanish would found Fort San Fernando at the convergence of the Wolf River and the mighty Mississippi River; and

Whereas, the five thousand acres on the bluff were recognized as Chickasaw territory, although held by North Carolinian grant by John Rice in 1783; the land was later purchased in 1794 from Rice’s heirs by John Overton, who sold half to Andrew Jackson, who in turn sold half of his share to James Winchester; and

Whereas, in 1818 via the Treaty of Old Town, the United States purchased this land that includes Memphis today, making the three founders the legal owners; they named the new town after the once-splendid city of Memphis, the ancient Egyptian capital and the first recorded land sale was of “Lot 53” on May 22nd, 1819 sets the formal date of founding in the record books; and

Whereas, Memphis’ was not a certainty, yet within twenty years this rowdy little river town called Memphis blossomed. Despite the unpredictable social, cultural, and economic challenges it has faced, the City of Memphis has persisted for 198 years since its founding, and with a population of over 650,000 it has become an international city of acclaim for its global businesses, musical heritage, and rich culture.

Now, Therefore, I, Mark H. Luttrell, Jr., Mayor of Shelby County, Tennessee, do hereby proclaim this day of May 22nd, 2017 in honor of

City of Memphis’ 198th Anniversary

and I call upon all citizens to recognize the largest municipality of Shelby County and all of its rich history.

In witness whereof, I have 
hereunto set my hand and
   caused the seal of Shelby 
County to be affixed this
22nd day of May of 2017.
                                                               Mark H. Luttrell, Jr.
                                                               Mayor of Shelby County