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The Forgotten State of the United States

Things to consider when studying the records of eastern Tennessee and western North Carolina.


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Resource: GenWeekly
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During the growth and infancy of out great Nation, many states were formed in the quest for independence from the colonies. One such state was the state of Franklin. Franklin was one of many Western independence movements, but is unique in that it advanced the farthest without achieving the ultimate autonomy of statehood: Congressional ratification.

The reasons behind the quest to achieve statehood were varied. In 1783, North Carolina was responsible for the settlements within the boundaries of its' Western lands which stretched from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River. North Carolina wanted to be free of the responsibility of these settlements, but the Western lands were their only asset. The state of North Carolina passed a resolution turning over control of these Western lands to the Federal Government. This angered the 5,000 or so settlers along the Cumberland River. The United States was deeply in debt following the Revolutionary War and the residents feared the land would be sold to a foreign country in return for the money to resolve the debt. The voters made their feelings known at election time shifting the balance of power in North Carolina's Legislature. However, in the face of increasing tensions between the Indians and the settlers, the residents of Washington, Sullivan, Hawkins (then Spencer), and Greene Counties of North Carolina decided to form their own government. The residents felt that their distance from the state capitol made a timely response from the Government in the event of an Indian attack impossible. They named their new state Franklin, in honor of Benjamin Franklin and proclaimed the capitol Greenville.

The young state seemed doomed from the beginning. Leaders were divided on the development of a constitution. One man rose in favor among the Franklinites, John Sevier had a charismatic personality and had established his abilities as a leader in the Indian Wars. In 1785, Sevier was appointed Governor to the state of Franklin. A request was formulated to Congress for admission as the 14th state of the Union.

Sevier met with leaders of the Cherokee Nation in 1785 to form a treaty. The Indians felt that they had rightful claim to the lands of Franklin. The Indians agreed to let the current settlers remain on the land, however the Franklinites saw things differently and soon new settlers began moving in. This added to already strained tensions. Congress rejected the new state's request for Union admission and division among the leaders increased.

Tensions among the Cherokee deteriorated to warfare. By 1787, a large number of residents called for a return to North Carolina jurisdiction. A North Carolina sheriff decided to seize some of the property of Sevier for back taxes. The Governor responded by leading an army against John Tipton, the man responsible for the seizure. The skirmish, known as the Battle of Franklin, was brief and indecisive.

The internal strife in Franklin would soon tear it asunder. Sevier attempted to engage the Spanish Governor in New Orleans in annexation. Sevier was arrested for treason and taken to Morganton to await trial. Sevier was rescued by an armed band of loyal followers. In 1789, Franklin leaders swore allegiance to North Carolina. In 1796, the counties that made up Franklin were absorbed by Tennessee when its' statehood was ratified.

Genealogists studying the east Tennessee or western North Carolina areas should keep in mind that records may be found in Greene County, Tennessee, or Washington County, North Carolina. A few early Tennessee records may also be found at the North Carolina State Archives. Other records should be sought at the county seat of the origination county.

Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.

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