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Rocks laden with fossils found throughout the state of Tennessee have given proof that in the distant past, the state was covered with shallow, warm seas. Fossils of dinosaurs and plants and remains of giant sloths, mammoths and mastodons have also been found in areas in west and middle Tennessee.
Spanish explorer, Hernando de Soto became the first white man to visit the region in 1540. England and France had both claimed Tennessee by the late 1600's. But, the land was ceded to England in the Treaty of Paris in 1763 and became part of the North Carolina colony. William Bean became the first white settler in 1769 when he built a cabin along the Watauga River.
Jonesborough, the first chartered town was established in 1779. Tennessee joined the Union as the 16th state on June 1, 1796. And, by 1810, Fort Nashboro, present day Nashville, had become a thriving town. In the mid 1800's the population quickly grew as settlers flooded the state to grow tobacco, corn and cotton.
Although still a leader in the production of tobacco, the state is mainly industrial. Oak Ridge National Laboratories, an atomic energy plant built in 1941, helped in developing the atomic bomb that ended World War II. Along with manufacturing, tourism and other businesses, a multi-billion dollar country music industry contributes greatly to the economy.
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