Raleigh History

Raleigh has a rich history.

The Raleigh of Days Gone By Tapp's Hole About 1816, a North Carolinian named Tapp settled in the Raleigh area. He built a cabin on the bluff above the Wolf River while the Chickasaw Indians still held the land. There was a narrow ravine in the bluff with a spring at one end, which became known as Tapp's Hole. Tapp was a hunter, and he would lie in wait at the end of the ravine for deer returning from the spring. The topography of the area has changed over the years, so the exact location of Tapp's Hole is lost in history, but area scholars think it was near the Wolf River Bridge on Jackson Avenue. How Raleigh Got Its Name A settlement named Sanderlin's Bluff was organized near Tapp's Hole. Wilson Sanderlin and James Freeman had purchased the first land titles available from the government. In 1825 the community covered about 50 acres. It was named Raleigh by Joseph Graham, who had come from Raleigh, North Carolina. County Seat Years Graham persuaded a state commission to choose Raleigh as the site for the Shelby County seat. Lots were sold in the Raleigh area to provide money for the construction of countybuildings near the present jntersection of Austin Peay Highway and Stage Road. In 1829 the County Court moved to Raleigh from Memphis. By 1835, Raleigh had a two-story brick courthouse, a building finer than the one where the court had met in Memphis. Soon, the Court Square was fenced and a brick jail was built. The courthouse was torn down about 1867, and the bricks were used for a courthouse in Bartlett, but the jail stood more than 100 years later. The Raleigh Jail The jail, complete with dungeon, was located on Stage Road. It was deserted for many years after the county seat moved back to Memphis after the Civil War. In 1908, Mr. and Mrs. John T Willins bought the property and remodeled the jail into a home, which they named the Echoes. They lived there until Mr. Willins' death in 1964. Later the lot was zoned commercial, and the house was torn down. The Miracle of the Springs Long before the Civil War, Raleigh was on the way to becoming one of the South's most famous resorts. Wagon trains traveling to the Southwest frequently passed through the area. According to folklore, a family from Virginia on the way to Texas stopped at Raleigh because their baby was very sick. They camped along the cool springs that gurgled throughout the hills overlooking the Wolf River. They gave the feverish child spring water to drink, and within hours, the baby's health improved greatly. The family moved on, spreading the word about the miracle at Raleigh Springs. Bottled Water and a Trendy Spa Dr. David Coleman built the first spa in Raleigh in 1842 after discovering mineral springs coming from Tapp's Hole. It was fashionable for the wealthy to spend several weeks in the summer vacationing in the area. There were several names given to the individual springs: Baby, Beach, Box, Freestone and Marble Springs. In 1866 a St. Louis chemist analyzed the spring water and found that the water contained carbonic acid, iron, and sodium, calcium, magnesium and potassium chlorides. The springs fell out of favor for a while after it was discovered that it was more convenient to buy mineral prescriptions at the local drug store. However, Raleigh Springs water was bottled and sold in Memphis drug stores as recently as 1905, as a treatment for babies with colitis. The Raleigh Inn In the 1890's a tobacco millionaire named B. I. Duke built the Raleigh Inn near the springs. The Inn was located on what is now known as James Road. The hotel was the site of many elegant parties, including a legendary all-day dance. The building is believed to have had as many as 94 rooms. By the early part of this century, the inn lost popularity and was sold. The building became a girls' school and later a sanitarium. It burned in 1912. Pauline Reese, a long-time Raleigh resident who lived in the area when the sanitarium burned, said the glow from the flames could be seen for miles around the night of the fire. The next morning, neighborhood residents awoke to find a dusting of cold ashes covering their lawns. The Wolf River Beach A bathing beach on Wolf River was the only trace of resort life left at Raleigh after the hotel went out of business. The Wolf River was much cleaner in those days. And at one time it was navigable. Freight was carried from Memphis and Raleigh up the river to Rossville and LaGrange. But as the hillsides of West Tennessee were cleared, silt washed into the Wolf, clogging the waterway and making navigation impossible. In "Raleigh Springs," which was published by Mid-South Title Company, Inc. in 1961, author Paul R. Copock reported that dredging of the Wolf was authorized to make the river navigable again, but the project was cancelled before it was begun. The Raleigh Streetcar The Memphis and Raleigh Railroad offered suburban passenger service in the 1870's. 1 round trip ticket to Memphis was 80 cents, and there was scheduled service three times a day. The Raleigh Cemetery The Raleigh Cemetery, located on Raleigh LaGrange Road, is one of the oldest cemeteries in the Mid-South that has been maintained by recent generations. Many of the area's earliest settlers are buried there. The Growth of Raleigh The last of the springs dried up when the County sank wells in the area in the 1950's, but the growth of Raleigh was just beginning. By the late 1960's and 70's Raleigh had become one of the busiest suburban areas of Memphis. The community was annexed by its larger neighbor January 1, 1973.