Archive for the ‘John Sevier’ Category

Among the first Justices of the Peace elected in Washington County was John Blair, who also served as a Lieutenant Colonel under John Sevier in 1791 against the Cherokee, Chickamauga, Creek, Choctaw, and Chickasaw. Early in September 1793, “troops from Washington District under Colonel John Blair reinforced General John Sevier’s troops in the battle of Etowah,” in what marked Sevier’s last act of military service.[22]

John Blair II accepted a large land grant in Washington County, where he continued to live until his death in 1819. He served on the Tennessee State Legislature and remained active in local politics. In 1812, he erected a massive brick mansion on the outskirts of Embreeville, near the Bumpass Cove mines. It was there, near Jonesborough, where his family was raised. His oldest son, John Blair III, was born there in 1790 and remained in Washington County throughout his life, dying there in 1863 in the midst of the Civil War. John Blair III was the owner of a slave girl named Sarah, born on this property in the latter months of 1852.[23]


[22] History of Washington County, Tennessee, 1988, 24.

[23] Census records indicate that Sarah was born on the John Blair III plantation in Jonesborough. She was still living there in 1860, when she appears on the census as an eight year old.

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The residents of Washington County were left without any formal protection or support from any official government—state or federal—as rumors swirled regarding the act of cession. To remedy this problem, delegates from Washington County met at the courthouse in Jonesborough on August 23, 1784 and voted to establish the independent State of Franklin, with John Sevier elected president. In November, North Carolina chose to repeal the April cession act and formed the Washington County militia into a formal brigade with John Sevier serving as brigadier general.

The State of Franklin once again petitioned North Carolina for recognition and protection, with Sevier delivering a full report to the Assembly in early 1785. Legislators replied “by suggesting to North Carolina that the United States was just as entitled as they to the land which had been ‘conquered by our own joint efforts,’” and unanimously supported separation. Sevier then petitioned the Continental Congress for statehood; “when the votes were counted, Franklin missed being the fourteenth state by one vote.”[19] Franklin continued to function independently, however, even making treaties with the Indians to open land on the French Broad River. Conflict over the formal structure of government and adoption of a state constitution, however, hindered the government from running smoothly, and rivalry with North Carolina continued unabated. As one historian notes, “both governments imposed taxes, but most citizens chose to pay neither.”[20]

Colonel John Tipton, elected to the North Carolina Senate in August of 1786, blamed Sevier and the State of Franklin for the troubles eliciting tax revenues from citizens, and in 1788 issued a warrant for seizure of Sevier’s stock and slaves to pay for unpaid North Carolina taxes. The seizure was successful, but on discovering it, Sevier quickly mustered a militia of 150 loyal supporters and set up camp a mile from Tipton’s home. A stand-off ensued for several days before Sevier’s forces retreated to Jonesborough and Tipton returned the property. When Samuel Johnson took over as governor of North Carolina several months later, he issued a warrant for Sevier’s arrest on the charge of high treason. Loyal supporters effected an escape, but in 1789 Sevier took an oath of allegiance to North Carolina and was in August elected to the state senate, made retroactive to 1784; “in other words, it was as if Franklin had never existed, and he had held that post the entire time.”[21]

The State of Franklin was officially dissolved in 1788, and Tennessee organized with the final execution of cession formalized on February 25, 1790. In May of that year, Congress officially established a territorial government called “Territory of the United States South of the River Ohio,” which included all of East and Middle Tennessee. Though Sevier was interested in the position, the first governor was William Blount.


[19] History of Washington County, Tennessee, 1988, 20.

[20] Ibid.

[21] Ibid., 21 – 23.

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