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Fort Assumption was a French fortification constructed in 1739 on the fourth Chickasaw Bluff on the Mississippi River by Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne, Sieur de Bienville's French army.

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Seeking their freedom, many slaves turned to the Underground Railroad to escape to the free states of the North, and the Memphis home of Jacob Burkle was a way-station on their route to freedom.

The Gayoso House Hotel was built overlooking the Mississippi River in 1842 and became a Memphis landmark; it stood until 1899, where it burned down.

When Europeans first encountered them, the Chickasaw were living in villages in what is now Mississippi, with a smaller number in the area of Savannah Town, South Carolina.

Twentieth-century scholar Patricia Galloway says that the Chickasaw may have been migrants to the area from the west and may not have been descendants of the pre-historic Mississippian culture."These people (the choctaw) are the only nation from whom I could learn any idea of a traditional account of a first origin; and that is their coming out of a hole in the ground, which they shew between their nation and the Chickasaws; they tell us also that their neighbou rs were surprised at seeing a people rise at once out of the earth." By the 1680s, French explorers led by René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle built Fort Prudhomme in the vicinity, the first European settlement in what would become Memphis, predating English settlements in East Tennessee by more than 70 years.

The cotton economy of the antebellum South depended on the forced labor of hundreds of thousands of African-American slaves, and Memphis became a major slave market.