Covington is a city in central Tipton County, Tennessee. Covington is the largest city and county seat of, Tipton County. Covington is located in one of just five counties of West Tennessee that are located along the Mississippi River, thus it is in extreme western Tennessee. The city's population was 9,038 at the time of the 2010 U.S. Census.
Cannon in front of the Nature Center & Veteran's Memorial in Covington. Marker in the background shows Nathan Bedford Forrest's last speech. (2007)
The Covington area was originally inhabited by Native Americans of various tribes. The nearby Mississippi River was used for much north-south trade by the American Indians.
Since Tipton County is one of the five counties of the State of Tennessee that is located along the Mississippi River, this area was first explored by white people during the noted expedition of the French Canadians Jacques Marquette and Louis Joliet in 1673. This expedition went down the Mississippi from Wisconsin to the mouth of the Arkansas River, and then back upriver to Lake Michigan. That river mouth is along the present border between Arkansas and Mississippi. Also, the fine details of the route of the land expedition of the Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto are not known, but it is likely that de Soto and his men passed near here circa 1541.
During the 18th century, because this entire area consists of flatlands with long, hot summers, and adequate rainfall, the Covington area and the rest of West Tennessee grew to become the location of large plantations for growing huge crops of cotton (and a few foodcrops). Hence African slaves were brought to Western Tennessee early in its history, and West Tennessee was the nexus of slavery in Tennessee, since most of the rest of the state had relatively few slaves.
During the Civil War, one of the primary objectives of the Union Army and Union Navy was to split the Confederate States in two along the Mississippi River. The Confederate Army resisted this, but still the counties of Tennessee and northeastern Arkansas, including Tipton County, were among the early ones to be overrun and held by the Union Army. Thus, the war in the Covington area ended early.
Starting in the 1870's, Covington and its surroundings began to receive the benefits of the new technologies that were being invented and then extended across the middle of the United States: the railroad, telegraph, household electric power, a municipal pure water supply, the paving of the town's streets, and the provision of natural gas.
The Memphis and Paducah Railroad completed its tracks to Covington in July 1873. Next, the first telegraph line between Memphis and Covington was completed in 1882. In 1894, electric power came to Covington for the first time.
A municipal water system began providing the residents of Covington with pure drinking water beginning in 1898. In 1922, the paving of the streets began in Covington, and beginning in 1929, a natural gas company has operated to provide cooking gas and wintertime heating to homes and business in Covington. The time that telephone service in Covington originated is not known.
Following the invention of the automobile, during the 1910's and 1920's the United States began to construct more and more intercity paved highways in various regions of the county. These developed into the U.S. Numbered Highway System, and U.S. Route 51 was established. This highway connects Memphis and points south, via Covington and Cairo, Illinois, with Chicago. Thus, Covington became a small town along a major north-south highway of commerce and travel.
In the South Main Historic District in Covington, about 50 houses from the late 19th century and the early 20th century are still standing.
Covington is located in the Memphis, Tennessee Metropolitan Area, and it is located on U.S. Route 51, a major north-south highway connecting Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, and Illinois.
Covington is situated on the southeastern edge of the New Madrid Seismic Zone, an area judged by geologists to have a high risk of earthquakes in the future.
Tipton County Museum
The Tipton County Museum is located in Covington. Amongst other things, this museum houses displays and exhibits from the county's history during the War Between the States. Mountings of local animal species are kept there, and fragments of mastodon bone show something about its natural history. Adjacent to the museum, there is a 20 acre park with a 0.5 miles (805 m) walking trail. Natural woodland and a man-made wetland give habitat to a few of the smaller local species such as turtles and birds.
The Veterans Memorial in front of the museum commemorates the soldiers from the county who lost their lives in wars. This museum is closed on Sundays and Mondays, and admission to the museum and to the park is free.
Covington Public Schools are part of Tipton County Schools. The Tipton County School District has eight elementary schools, five middle schools and four high schools.
Schools located in Covington include:
Austin Peay Elementary School
Crestview Elementary School
Covington Integrated Arts Academy
Crestview Middle School
Covington High School
Tipton County Alternative Learning Center
Dr. William E. Bibb is the Director of Schools.
Notable people of Covington
Tony Delk, American pro basketball player
The Hall-of-Fame composer and musician Isaac Hayes was born here
The actress Leigh Snowden named her granddaughter Covington, in honor of this town
Augustus Hill Garland, 11th Governor of Arkansas and Attorney General of the United States
Tipton County Museum