The population of Franklin was composed almost wholly of emigrants from Virginia and North Carolina. Each of those States contributed approximately equal parts. The Virginian element slightly preponderated in the earlier years of settlement when the Holston-Watauga region was believed to be within the bounds of that Commonwealth, and later migrations did not bring the Carolinians to a predominance. Two things conduced to this result: The trough-like Appalachian Valley gave direction to migration from the north toward the southwest. The current flowed as did the streams that had their sources in Virginia. It was easier to follow the great longitudinal valley to the southwest than to cross the mountain ranges and come out on the west, or for Carolinians to make the long detour through Flour Gap and the lower counties of Virginia.
Moreover, the location on the waters of the Cumberland river of the reservation of bounty lands for North Carolina's revolutionary soldiers caused a large stream of settlers to flow past the borders of Franklin.
The population of the State in 1788 was, at lowest reckoning, 25,000 souls. Brissot de Warville, the French traveler, thus fixes it in round numbers. He did not visit Franklin but reached the Shenandoah Valley and evidently based his estimate on information gained while there. The people of that Valley were in close touch with those of Franklin.
The estimate of Major Elholm (in the Greeneville Convention of 1787) was 30,000 inhabitants, and 9,000 free citizens, and this finds strong corroboration in the figures given by Imlay who wrote about four years later.1
The population of 1790 was, however, only 28,650 as ascertained by a loosely taken census. During the two intervening years there had been a steady drift of settlers into the region, but quite as p276distinct and persistent an outflow of Franklin's inhabitants westward, particularly after the opening of the wilderness road to the Cumberland Statements.
The twenty-five thousand inhabitants were distributed among the counties of Franklin approximately as follows: Sullivan, 4,300; Washington, 4,500; Wayne, 1,700; Greene, 4,200; Caswell, 2,700; Spencer, 3,700; Sevier, 2,400; and Blount, 1,500.2
Several racial stocks were represented, but the principal strains were the English and the Scotch-Irish. Over-emphasis has been given to the weight of the Scotch-Irish element, both as to numbers and to influence. It did not preponderate in either regard.3 A fairer statement is, that those who were of Scotch-Irish extraction exercised an influence out of proportion to their numbers. This was due in part to their sturdiness and restless energy, and quite as much, to the superior educational advantages many of them had enjoyed. Intermingled with these were families of Irish, of German, of Huguenot and of Welsh stock. The Germans were few in comparison with their numbers in the same region a generation later, and they furnished few leaders. The Welsh in the Shelbys, Conways, Evanses and Williamses, and most of all the Huguenots, in the Seviers, Vincents and Amis, were the most prolific of leaders, their total numbers considered.
The coincidence of these varied racial stocks naturally resulted in a cross-fertilization — a blending that tended to strength and symmetry p277and to make a fit foundation for a democratic commonwealth.
They had come into the great valley as the result of individual initiative and enterprise; theirs was not even a community migration. They had come, too, of choice. They were not sent out as colonists — projectiles across intervening space — by skilful promoters or speculators intent upon winning a principality for themselves under the guise of colonizing the West.
They had not come full-handed; cheap land was the attraction, and homes for selves and the oncoming generation was the goal of the typical settler. The economic structure was essentially agricultural. There was almost no servant or tenant class; land was too cheap or easily preëmpted for even those of lowly birth to be content to serve. Cheap land promoted individualism and economic equality, which along with an innate spirit of independence generated an intense democracy. Early marriage was the rule; frequently the groom was not of age, and the bride was burdened by not more than the weight of sixteen years. Large families resulted, and thus was supplied the manpower for tilling the fields. The owners of the larger farms in the fertile valleys were also holders of slaves. Negro slavery had been in existence in the region from the days of the Watauga Association, and by 1788 the number owned in the State of Franklin was around fifteen hundred.4
The women of the period were accustomed to the performance of many forms of labor. Young girls, of the average family, gave some assistance in the fields, such as the dropping of seed corn, and the gathering of flax which they later hatchelled, spun and move. No small part of woman's domestic service was that rendered at the loom and dye‑pot, and with the needle. They slaved to make p278clothing for the slaves as well as for members of their immediate families. The care of the vegetable gardens and of the dairying and the poultry also fell to their lot, as did also the making of sugar from maple sap. A high order of managerial skill, therefore, marked the womanhood of Franklin. This, transmitted to their offspring, in some measure accounts for the executive ability demonstrated by so many of the sons of this border people.
Hemmed in by the Alleghanies on the east and by the Cumberland mountains on the west — between the hot lowlands of Carolina and the further Mississippi Valley — the region had a bracing climate. The mean altitude was •about fourteen hundred feet above sea level; the mean temperature •about sixty degrees. The diseases most common were rheumatism, agues and fevers. Smallpox was the dreaded scourge. Tuberculosis was almost unknown. So healthy were the inhabitants that from the first settlement of the country to 1788, not a single trained physician had settled in the district. One of its inhabitants is quoted by Winterbotham as writing: "Our physicians are a fine climate; healthy, robust of his and fathers; a plain and plentiful diet, and enough exercise. There is not a regularly bred physician residing in the whole district."
Schools were few, especially so among the inhabitants out on the fringe of settlement. In the older neighborhoods, the instruction given was elementary, except that afforded by the academies of Doak and other parsons. In the upper section of the State as early as 1784, the young people enjoyed the privilege of instruction in a dancing-school conducted in Sullivan county by Captain Barrett,5 a young English officer who had served under the King's standard in the War of the Revolution.
The percentage of illiteracy was large. Ramsey and Roosevelt underestimate it. The people, speaking in the large, had few opportunities for an education, either in their old home communities or in the new. They were in close conflict with the forces of Nature, and the old Dame was not in one of her gentler moods. Elemental rawness and crudity appeared in the background and in the foreground. The tranquillity of pastoral scenes — of peaceful herds and flocks p279and well-filled granaries and barns — was not for them an inherited environment. Even the boundless forest was an enemy to be attacked with axe while the redman was held back with rifle. A self-reliant and purposeful, if not a cultured, race of men was developed.
It would be a matter of surprise if under such conditions and among so many stout-hearted men, there should not be a few raw‑hearted ones. Every sector of the frontier, whether at the Northwest or at the Southwest, produced a clearly marked type, the Indian hater, such as James Hubbard and John Kirk. Usually he was a man who had suffered agony of soul in the blotting out of loved ones at the hands of the savages. That agony hardened into a spirit of revenge that bordered on monomania. He struck in retaliation at times so blindly and fiercely as to bring mischief upon his own race.
Another factor that made for the virility of this people of the backcountry was the comparative youthfulness the settlers. Very few old folk and few past middle age removed to that region. A new country was peopled by hardy, buoyant and enterprising youth. No one placidly looked forward to the enjoyment of a patrimony, except it be one to the creation of which his own hands contributed. A beautiful valley and the almost boundless West lay before them, beckoning all to adventure themselves. The thing most worthy of remark is the far reach and wide range of the vision and plans of the people of Franklin, and the projective power that gave them and their descendants a very considerable mastery of men and measures throughout the generations that have followed.
It may be doubted whether any other population of twenty-five thousand souls at any time in American history has produced more men of force and influence.6 The records made by the leaders of Franklin themselves, is elsewhere noted. One president of the United States, Andrew Jackson, and two governors, McMinn and Roane, appear on the petition for separation. What of their descendants? Taking into account only those who bore or bear the surname of their paternal ancestor of Franklin days, among the descendants are found:
Cabinet members: D. M. Key, postmaster-general; Wm. G. p280McAdoo, secretary of the treasury; Isaac Shelby, secretary of war (declined); John H. Reagan, postmaster-general, C. S. A.
Diplomats: A. H. Sevier, minister to Mexico, and James Williams, minister to Turkey.
Senators; Hugh L. White, Spencer Jarnagin, Hopkins L. Turney, David T. Parson, David M. Key, E. W. Carmack, Robert L. Taylor and J. B. Frazier, of Tennessee; David Barton and John B. Henderson, of Missouri; John Tipton, of Indiana; Ambrose H. Sevier and James Henderson Berry, of Arkansas; John H. Reagan, of Texas; Wm. Kelly, of Alabama; John Martin, of Kansas; Jeter C. Pritchard, of North Carolina, and Landon C. Haynes, C. S. A.
Governors: Wm. B. Campbell, Robert L. Carruthers, Robert L. Taylor, Peter Turney, James B. Frazier, John I. Cox and Alfred A. Taylor, of Tennessee; Elias N. Conway, James Sevier Conway and James H. Berry, of Arkansas; Austin A. King, of Missouri; Wm. L. Sharkey, of Mississippi; Isaac Shelby, of Kentucky; Joshua L. Martin, of Alabama; Mathew Talbot and Nathaniel E. Harris, of Georgia.
Supreme Judges: Hugh L. White (also candidate for the presidency), Wm. B. Reese, Jacob Peck, Robert L. Caruthers, A. O. W. Totten, Samuel Milligan, James W. Deaderick, Thomas A. R. Nelson, Peter Turney, Robert McFarland, D. L. Snodgrass, William K. McAlister and N. L. Bachman, of Tennessee; Edward Cross, Wm. Conway and Elbert H. English, of Arkansas; Harry Cage and Wm. L. Sharkey, of Mississippi, and Anthony Bledsoe Shelby, of the Republic of Texas.
Federal Judges: D. M. Key, James H. Peck, D. D. Shelby, Edward Cross, Jeter C. Pritchard, Samuel Milligan (Court of Claims), R. M. Barton (U. S. Labor Board).
Members of Congress: Adam R. Alexander, Josiah M. Anderson, John Blair, Reese B. Brabson, Samuel Bunch, Brookins Campbell, Thos. J. Campbell, Wm. B. Campbell, E. W. Carmack, R. L. Caruthers, Wm. B. Carter, John Cocke, W. M. Cocke, David Crockett, John W. Crockett, John H. Crozier, Wm. Fitzgerald, A. E. Garrett, L. C. Houck, John C. Houck, Abram McClellan, William McFarland, O. B. Lovett, Thomas A. R. Nelson, John Rhea, Samuel A. Smith, Charles E. Snodgrass, Henry C. Snodgrass, James Standifer, Wm. Stone, Nathaniel G. Taylor, Robert L. Taylor, A. A. Taylor, J. M. Thornburg, John Trimble, Isaac Thomas and Hopkins L. Turney, of Tennessee; David Hubbard, p281John McKee, Joshua L. Martin, John M. Martin and Wm. R. W. Cobb, of Alabama; A. H. Sevier, Edward Cross and Henry W. Conway, of Arkansas; Campbell P. Berry, of California; Andrew Humphreys, of Indiana; Wm. D. Vincent, of Kansas; Vincent Boering, of Kentucky; G. W. Anderson, Samuel Caruthers and Austin A. King, of Missouri; Harry Cage, of Mississippi; John H. Reagan, of Texas; and Arthur S. Colyar, C. S. A., of Tennessee.
Army and Navy: David Farragut, admiral; Samuel P. Carter, rear-admiral (also brigadier-general); Valentine Sevier Nelson, commodore; John Cocke, major-general of militia; Nathaniel Taylor, brigadier-general; Julius C. Robertson, brigadier-general; Robert Patterson, J. O. Shelby, C. S. A., and Jacob Tipton, brigadier-generals; Alex. P. Stewart, major-general, C. S. A.
Religious Leaders: David Nelson, Presbyterian, author of Cause and Cure of Infidelity; John Rankin, Presbyterian, anti-slavery leader; John W. Doak, Presbyterian; E. E. Hoss, bishop of the Methodist Episcopal church, South; Elbert F. Sevier, Methodist.
Business; C. M. McGhee, Hugh T. Inman, S. M. Inman, Robert Lowry, capitalists; W. C. Parson, president Pennsylvania Railroad; Wm. R. Shelby, railroad president; Samuel B. Cunningham, railroad president; Samuel Tate, railroad president.
General Sam Houston, of Tennessee and Texas, and General Edmund P. Gaines, came with their parents into the region shortly after the collapse of the Franklin government. They grew to manhood alongside the sons of the Franklin leaders, among whom, from an early day, had been the relatives of Houston.
The forcefulness of the Franks and their sons manifested itself most of all in the earlier days when political conditions in the Southwest were in the formative stage and new States were being created. They furnished the first governors for Tennessee, Kentucky and Arkansas, and first senators in Congress from Tennessee, Arkansas, Missouri and Indiana.
1 Winterbotham's View, III, 171. See also Ramsey, 544.
2 The distribution as of 1790 among the counties of the Territory South of the Ohio River which had been in the bounds of the Franklin State is thus given by Stephen B. Weeks who doubtless had access to the census returns: Sullivan, 4,447; Washington, 5,872; Greene, 7,741; Hawkins, 6,970; Sevier, 3,619. Why Sevier county should appear in such tabulation is not apparent; the reëstablishment of the county was not effected until 1794. Tennessee's Population, Tennessee Historical Magazine, II, . A proper reckoning of the population in the period of 1780‑1790 must have in consideration the fact that the increase in the inhabitants of Tennessee in the decade of 1790‑1800 was 195.9 per centum — greater by far than the growth registered by the nation as a whole.
3 Rossiter, an expert of the Census Bureau, estimates that there were in the bounds of what is now Tennessee, in 1790, 26,519 inhabitants of English extraction as against 3,574 of Scotch-Irish extraction. A Century of Population Growth, 121. He applies the proportions found in North Carolina in the same year, but this was an incorrect basis. The more populous tidewater sections of Virginia and North Carolina sent comparatively few representatives, and the Scotch-Irish of the piedmont and valley regions of those States did contribute largely to the peopling of Tennessee.
4 Rossiter, in his A Century of Population Growth, 1790‑1900, 132, 133, states that the number of slaves in the Southwest Territory in 1790 was 3,417, and that by 1800 they had increased to 13,584. While the soil and the crops in the Cumberland County made slave labor more profitable there than in the higher altitudes of the eastern parts, it is believed that 1,500 slaves in Franklin in 1788 is not an under-estimate. A negro, belonging to William Evans, was executed by hanging under the authority of the State of Franklin. The owner petitioned the first General Assembly of the Southwest Territory for redress by way of compensation. Journal of House of Representatives, 10. The claim was disallowed. Ib., 15. In 1786 the average price of land in North Carolina was two dollars per acre, while it might be purchased on the Tennessee river west of the mountains for a shilling and six pence per acre. Watson, Men and Times of the Revolution, 292.
5 Ellett, Pioneer Women of the West, 162. Probably Captain Samuel T. Barret, of the 37th Regiment, born June 22, 1761. Another school teacher whose name and service are preserved was Humphrey Hogan who taught at King's Mill, Reedy Creek, Sullivan County. Wm. L. Lovely, of the Virginia forces in the Revolution is said to have been another.
6 Disproving the assertion of Gouverneur Morris, that "the busy haunts of men, not the remote wilderness, is the proper school of political talents."
Images with borders lead to more information.
Lost State of Franklin
History of Tennessee
History of North Carolina
A page or image on this site is in the public domain ONLY
Page updated: 3 Aug 13