Archive for the ‘Lieutenant Colonel John Blair’ 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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When the Revolutionary War began in 1776, tensions between settlers, Indians, and the British had been running high for more than a decade. In July of 1776, John Sevier was in charge of building Fort Lee at Nolichucky when fleeing settlers warned of an impending attack by Cherokee Indians.[12] Sevier went on to serve in the war with a man by the name of John Blair II—the father of John Blair III, who owned Sarah as a child. Both Sevier and Blair served as prominent members of the early government of Washington County.

Sevier was also a prominent member of the Washington County Militia, serving as Lieutenant-Colonel. John Blair II served in several campaigns against the Indians during this time. Both men served at the Battle of King’s Mountain, “the battle for which they are best known…and which represents the most concerted effort of all the citizenry” of Washington and Sullivan Counties.[13] Taking place in 1780, approximately 225 British and 30 Americans were killed in a battle, with another 180 and 60 wounded, respectively. Prisoners numbered more than 800 on the British side, most of which were sent to Virginia, where seven accompanying Tories were hung. According to historians on both sides of the war, “the Battle of King’s Mountain was the turning point for the American Revolution in the South.”[14]

It is common misperception that Washington County land grants were awarded to Revolutionary War soldiers; in reality, all lands were purchased in order to finance North Carolina’s war debts. In 1783, the sale of lands was authorized at a price of ten pounds specie certificates per one hundred acres, and land warrants for service were issued in sections of as little as 640 acres for privates, up to 7,200 for lieutenant colonels and chaplains, and 12,000 for brigadier generals.[15]

At this time, in the aftermath of the war, the federal government was struggling to pay of war debts as well; Congress had “voted to pay itself and the civil servants, but left the Continental army unpaid.”[16] George Washington averted anarchy among his troops by “talking his men into accepting land warrants as pay,” and demanding cession of lands from certain of the former colonies.[17] North Carolina ignored this order until April 1784, at which time “the Assembly voted 52 to 43 to cede all lands west of the Appalachian mountain watershed to the federal government…with the stipulation that if Congress did not accept the territory and notify the state within one year, the act was void.”[18]


[12] History of Washington County, Tennessee, 1988, 15 – 16.

[13] Ibid., 18 – 19.

[14] Ibid., 19.

[15] Ibid., 20.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ibid.

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