American Revolutionary War

State of Franklin or North Carolina

The introductory article concerning this topic portrayed a brief description about the State of Franklin. The prelude, equipped with details about the onset of the political movements, also provided light to the characters. These individuals and their actions were the important elements in carrying out the statehood requirements during the early years of the new nation. The opening article also gave a description of relations between North Carolina legislature and the region known today as the eastern counties of Tennessee. This chapter will now begin to enhance and bring to light the actual components that led to the initial plea of succession and address the question why the majority populace agreed to separate from North Carolina. Each and every view of this time period has within itself two sides of judgement. While governing a people, facts are passed down with legal agreements, documents and much more enabling us to recreate a factual timeline of history for future generations. During the process of governing a people, emotions with opinions encouraged by a popular or a local moral greatly enhances every ending result. History thrives on both of these viewpoints.

After the American Revolutionary War, the local tribes of the Cherokee did not acknowledge defeat. In fact, they were still receiving supplies and corresponding with Great Britain and Spain. Hostilities grew among the frontier settlements as attacks were frequent with little assistance from North Carolina or the new nation as a whole. The great distance separating these early communities were enhanced by the mountains themselves. Their peaks reaching upwards proclaimed the division loudly with the deprivation of economic development, military aid and respectful recognition. From the beginning of settlement, these early pioneers viewed themselves as alone, dependent on only themselves or close neighbors and friends. This setting of the time period allows you to focus on the details just after the American Revolutionary War, where many of these families fought at King’s Mountain and Battle of Cowpens. Freedom was the priority and Fair Recognition of their Existence followed.

Each state was required to absorb the cost of the war and these costs were attributed to the actual size of these early states. North Carolina boundaries were huge and it’s not surprising that a plan was quickly formulated so the state could generate revenue and help offset this debt. The sale of state lands were suspended in 1781 and upon reopening the transactions, many felt that the process would be moving much too slow to meet the criteria. With this being said, North Carolina legislators originated a bill in 1783 which is known as the Land Grab Act. All unclaimed lands within the state lines would be made available for purchase. The price was set at £10 per hundred acres or in other words, $5.00 per hundred acres. Buyers were required to register their purchase at a special land office which was located in present day Hillsborough, NC. No one could purchase above 5,000 acres, but no one was to take responsibility of this and many errors and fictitious claims were filed. This special office was only opened for 7 months beginning on October 20, 1783. Land speculators were sent out to the western regions months prior to opening the land office and selecting the best tracts of fertile soil. Actual surveyors were also present well before the public announcement that the land office would be opened. Many NC legislators purchased land and the end result embarked with over four million acres claimed, three million to various NC legislators and one million to families, etc.

By the summer of 1783, North Carolina quickly approved an act of cession which transferred the state’s western lands to the Federal Government. Congress was allowed one year to consider this offer and all land entries made under NC law were to remain valid. This particular act of cession affected much more than land laws. It also eliminated the cost and the responsibility of the inhabitants of the “troublesome” western counties. The cession also allowed the expansion of the state treasury funds by reducing the required fund rate previously assigned for North Carolina in order to render the national debt. Legislators publicly proclaimed the division stating, “the offscourings of the earth” and the “fugitives from justice” will never be the duty of leadership under North Carolina again. An unknown legislator proclaimed, “we will be rid of them at any rate.” Many elected legislators were land owners of profitable lands and a louder political voice accompanied their footsteps.

Photo Courtesy of Western North Carolina University

Meanwhile, while life continues along the frontier, families are struggling with various Native American attacks, securing their properties and enduring the feelings of a state that has practically disowned them. The emotions of these people were expressed among themselves at gatherings. It quickly grew from discussions to an “act” of their own. The stage is being set for a convention and residents of Washington, Sullivan and Greene counties met in Jonesborough during August of 1784. It is stated that a debate was not needed nor was it recorded. In fact all in attendance agreed to call a constitutional convention before the end of the year. During this time, various North Carolina legislators were set on proclaiming the actions of other legislators and their opposition of their actions with the Land Grab Act. These certain legislators were also against the dismissal of the western counties. Soon, enough support was generated to repeal the cession act, but the upcoming elections swayed the majority and the supporters of the cession act soon controlled the assembly once again.

By this time, the people of these western counties gave birth to the State of Franklin and the schemes of the speculators were suddenly threatened. The claims that were recorded at the “special land office” were vague, poorly identified, incomplete and many were completely false. Congress was bound by the terms of the cession to recognize them as valid entries, but this didn’t comply with the Franklin government. Most understood the proposed new state would reject these entries in order to create more revenue for it’s own debt. And, as the old saying goes, North Carolina quickly changed it’s tune and began publicly denouncinig the proposed state and miraclous began organzing by acknowledging Washington county as a separate district in honor of George Washington. This action allowed the citizens to their own superior court and eliminated the need to journey across the mountains. The new district was also equipped with a brigade of militia. The commanding general would have the ability to call up troops in regards to frontier attacks.

Who would hold this power of Commander? No other than John Sevier who also held the power of president of the general convention for Franklin. It was obvious that North Carolina was attempting to destroy any thoughts of a new state and the proof of this can be found in naming Sevier as the Brigadier General. Known for his leadership skills, North Carolina felt that naming him would surely end any future progress of Franklin. When the mixture of politics, money and personal greed hampers elective officials as in this case, it can be easily seen how under estimating previous actions and words greatly affected the people of eastern Tennessee. The measures that North Carolina was not willing to take by appropriately recognizing the needs of these far western settlements and the continuation of slaughtering them with words and lack of respect continued to divide Franklin and North Carolina.

Join Piedmont Trails as the next chapter begins to understand the people of the area and how their feelings were taken into consideration with the next events. History and Genealogy can be found all around us.

Take in the Scenery and Enjoy Your Journey !!

Sources:

  • History of Washington County, Tennessee Complied and Edited by Joyce and W. Eugene Cox published by the Washington County Historical Association, Inc Jonesborough, Tennessee
  • From Frontier to Plantation in Tennessee by Thomas Perkins Abernethy published by The University of North Carolina Press, 1932
  • Annals of Tennessee by J.G.M. Ramsey published by The Overmountain Press, 1999
  • The Lost State of Franklin by Samuel Cole Williams published by The Overmountain Press, 1993
  • The Territorial Papers of The United States edited by Clarence E. Carter 28vols published by Government Printing Office, Washington D.C.

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