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Jonesborough is centrally located in present day Washington County, in the far eastern corner of Tennessee.[1] Washington County was once a vast area encompassing land that “stretched grandly from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River,” originally designated as the “Washington District” of North Carolina’s Provisional Congress in 1777.[2] The original 42,244 square miles it encompassed would later become the state of Tennessee.

In the years leading up to the Revolutionary War, there were only two small communities in the county, both located on the extreme northeastern borders at the confluence of the Watauga, Holston, and Nolichucky Rivers. Loosely organized as The Watauga Association, “they duly elected representatives and sent them in 1776 to North Carolina with a petition requesting that state to govern the area,” which was done in 1777 when Washington County was designated. An earlier petition for admission to the state of Virginia had also been ignored.[3]

Ownership of land in this region was, however, hotly “contested by territorial governments, Indians, royal grantees or their heirs, land speculators, and immigrants.”[4] With original claims stretching back to Virginia in 1609, the area overlapped with grants made by a Carolina colonial grant issued in 1629. Finally, in 1783, Lord John Carteret, later Earl of Granville, “claimed his ancestor’s interest in a Carolina Grant” and secured legal title to about two-thirds of the area.[5] Many of these sections were then sold to purchasers. Confusion continued, however, as “both Virginia and North Carolina were hard-pressed to deal with claims by the Indians, whose rights during the interim had been ignored by officials who had been awarded land grants,” and there was still no clear survey showing the line of demarcation between the territories.[6]

Notes:

[1] Note that the spelling has varied over the years, with “Jonesborough” and “Jonesboro” being used interchangeably until 1983, when the former, original spelling was formally adopted.

[2] History of Washington County, Tennessee, 1988 compiled by the Watauga Association of Genealogists – Upper East Tennessee, MC31040, McClung Collection, ETHC, 7.

[3] Ibid., 7, 15.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

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