State of Franklin
& Davidson County, Tennessee
The State of Franklin was set up in 1784 out of the westerly portion of the colonial state of North Carolina. Shortly after the War of Independence the original colonies were asked to pay for the war efforts and create a country with a sound financial policy. Since the taxing the population was difficult and cash was in short supply North Carolina ceded the western portion of the state to the federal coffers. Before the Congress could accept the offer North Carolina withdrew the offer. The citizens of the region decided that federal rule in the meantime was probably a good idea since North Carolina as a state had given this remote region little support in its fight with the Indians or protection from criminal refugees. They saw other benefits as an independent state in terms of taxation, representation and an understanding attitude toward local problems. Representatives of the North Carolina counties of Sullivan, Washington, Greene, and Davidson accepted the offer of cessation to federal territory. The state of Franklin existed for only four years to finally merge with the new state of Tennessee.
This region is centered geographically around the valleys created by the Holston and Clinch Rivers in the Cumberland and Appalachian mountains. This rugged territory was a refuge for the frontier type before and shortly after the War of Independence. It includes the towns of Knoxville, Bristol, and Greenville, Tennessee. Near Greenville is the birth place of Davy Crockett with Bristol on the Virginia border as one of the gateway cities into the western territory.
A convention of delegates (except for Davidson County that sent none) met on August 23, 1784 and after intense debate they declared these western counties independent of North Carolina on a unanimous vote. The statehood vote, however, was by no means unanimous with John Tipton leading a minority position.
Several names were offered for the new state. The name Frankland was proposed since it was translatable as "the Land of the Free," however, Franklin was decided upon perhaps for gaining the favor of Benjamin Franklin. John Sevier was elected Governor. The convention set the salary of the governor at two hundred pounds per annum, the supreme judges at one hundred and fifty pounds per annum. There were some interesting regulations created in the new constitution. One set the prices for goods traded and another to set the standard for office holders. Office holders could not be any person "if he were immoral, a Sabbath breaker, a clergyman, a doctor or a lawyer."
Unfortunately Benjamin Franklin was not terribly supportive of his namesake state. When solicited by John Sevier for help Franklin wrote,
North Carolina regains control of the region in 1788 by pardoning its leaders. Sevier eventually learns through all these travails, the manners and fallacies of government. He is elected as a Senator in North Carolina. In 1789 North Carolina ceded again the region in the west and Franklin became part of Eastern Tennessee in 1796. John Sevier becomes the first Governor of the new state of Tennessee.
Several of my relatives were here during all the governmental changes and show up in documents in all three borderings states due to the changing perimeters. Look for the names of Abraham Grubb, Stoffel(or Stophel), Varnell, and Weathers. They do not show up in the history books and tended to be the very quintessential of the frontiersman or mountain men, staying by the themselves and maintaining their independent lives against natural and unnatural adversity.
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permission of Cheryl and Elroy Christenson. Copyright
Elroy Christenson 1998-2016.