Port Royal, Tennessee
Port Royal is an unincorporated community on the border of Montgomery and Robertson counties, Tennessee. It is home to Port Royal State Park and 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. Soon after the Tennessee County court held its first meeting nearby on Parsons Creek. 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 (320 km) during its first few years of use. This church is still active today in Adams, Tennessee.
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.
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, due to 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.
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. This is the only written record of this stopping place, but of the eleven detachments that were moved, it is known that eight of them followed the designated North Route that went through Port Royal. This event came to be known as the Trail of Tears.
By the mid-19th century, 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-19th century 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. The silk industry failed at Port Royal really before it even got started. One of the shareholders, A.D. Carden, left for Europe with all of the shareholders funds in order to purchase machinery but was never heard from again.
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 businesses ceasing operation. To further complicate things, the L&N Railroad had just come through Adams and Clarksville, 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 20th century, 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 known as Port Royal State Park. It is also an officially certified site on the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail.
- Port Royal State Historic Area in Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture
- Beach, Ursula Smith, Along the Warioto: A History of Montgomery Co., TN, 1964.
- Winters, Ralph, Historical Sketches of Adams, Robertson County, TN and Port Royal, Montgomery County, TN, 1969
- Red River Watershed
- Moulton, Gary, The Papers of Chief John Ross
- Port Royal State Park website
- Silk in Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture