The Town of Smyrna has its roots in the early 19th century and began as an agrarian community. It was important during the Civil War because its railroad station lies between Nashville and Chattanooga. One of the major events of the war for the town involved the Confederate States hero Sam Davis, who, after being charged with spying, gave up his life instead of giving any information to the Union Army. He was captured November 20, 1863, and was hanged by Union forces on November 27 of that year. The Sam Davis Plantation, located on 160 acres of well-maintained farmland, is the town's most important historical site.
In 1941 during World War II, Stewart Air Force Base was established here and served as a B-17 Flying Fortress and B-24 advanced training facility. During the 1950s and 1960s, the military personnel and dependents totaled more than 10,000 persons stationed at the base. The base was scheduled for closing in 1971. Most of the property was divided among the State of Tennessee, Rutherford County, and the Metropolitan Nashville Airport Authority. On its portion, the state opened and operates a Tennessee Army National Guard base and the Tennessee Rehabilitation Center. Much of the additional land was developed as the Smyrna/Rutherford County Airport Authority in 1990.
In the early 1980s, planning began to build a Nissan Motors manufacturing plant and, in 1983, the first vehicle was produced. The plant now employs around 8,400 workers, has the production capacity of 640,000 vehicles annually, and covers an area of 5,200,000 sq ft. In 2012, Smyrna began manufacturing Nissan's electric car, the Nissan Leaf.
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