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This webpage reproduces part of History of the
Lost State of Franklin

Samuel Cole Williams

published by the
Press of the Pioneers,
New York, 1933

The text is in the public domain.

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and I believe it to be free of errors.
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p. ix Preface to First Edition

The author has had his home for more than a generation in Washington County, Tennessee, which was the midland and capital county of the State of Franklin. The romantic history of that Commonwealth, unique in American history, and the history of the decades that preceded its rise and fall, have always appealed to Tennesseans, and peculiarly so to one who lives in the immediate region where the early history of the Tennessee country was made.

The collection of Tennesseana was deliberately chosen by the author as his hobby, and this in turn led to research in the leading archives and libraries of America, in intervals of leisure, and to the making of notes on the early history of his native State. On retiring from public service in 1918, an opportunity was presented to carry out an earlier conception and plan — to avail of these materials in writing three or more volumes on the early history of Tennessee; and, in so doing, to treat of that history by eras or periods.

The Franklin State epoch was chosen for development first, though the plan covers the discussion of an anterior era, under the title of The Dawn of Tennessee History. Another work of the series is Early Travels in the Tennessee Country.

It is conceived that this plan will the better permit of a detailed and definitive treatment of each period. There can be no excuse for an historical work which merely revamps and repeats what Haywood and Ramsey wrote, though the histories of those writers are now out of print. Any one who attempts to write of the early history of Tennessee will find himself debtor to both. Ramsey borrowed heavily from Haywood; but he had access to materials that his predecessor had not — documents handed down by his father, Francis A. Ramsey, Sevier, and other Franklin leaders. However, Ramsey wrote long before valuable source materials had been made accessible, in the archives of Virginia, North Carolina, and Georgia. Coming later into the field, Roosevelt in preparing his Winning of the West was enabled to draw in a measure upon such ampler stores of information which had then been assembled, and arranged for consultation by historical students.

p. x The purpose of the author has been to extend the research, to correct errors and supplement the work of these earlier writers, and to amplify even to the point of risking the lodgment of a valid criticism of over-elaboration. If explanation is necessary, it is to be found in the fact that source materials relating to Tennessee history, in the archives of that and other States, have never been collected and published. This seemed to warrant the bringing forward in text, notes or appendices of many documents which otherwise might have been summarized. The documents have been edited, in disregard of rules laid down for historical writing. This was almost compelled since Ramsey modernized the documents he set out in his text and notes; and these, having been destroyed by fire since he wrote, cannot be given in their original form. Many of these constituted essential parts of the story of The Lost State. To incorporate them as edited by Ramsey, leaving others unchanged as to spelling and syntax, would be unfair to some of the pioneers who wrote the documents and would detract from the symmetry of the volume.

It has been in purpose to treat of the State of Franklin not merely as a local movement, but to give it a broader setting: to discuss the effort to establish a new State, as the fourteenth in the Union, as a part of the movement for separation that was at that time rife on all frontiers, eastern as well as western. Franklin was without doubt the most pronounced and significant manifestation of the spirit of separation which gave deep concern to the national leaders. No other movement for separate statehood reached, even approximately, the stage attained by Franklin — that of a de facto government, waging war, negotiating treaties and functioning for a term of years in the three great departments that mark an American State, the legislative, executive, and judicial.

The author has endeavored to make the volume one of value to those interested in genealogical research. He has put on the printed page the names of minor participants in the struggle, for or against separate statehood. Of the leaders, a fuller account is given. For some of these, even, this is a rescue of their names and deeds from near-oblivion. Aid in this effort has been received from contributions made from time to time to local newspapers by such writers as Doctor George F. Mellen and Selden Nelson, of Knoxville, A. B. Wilson, of Greeneville, and the late John S. Mathes, of Jonesborough. The author's thanks are due also to Dr. Edmund C. Burnett, p. xiof the department of historical research of the Carnegie Institution, and to Mr. W. W. DeRenne, of "Wormsloe," Savannah, Georgia, owner of the invaluable DeRenne Collection, for kindnesses shown while the volume was in preparation.

Samuel C. Williams

Emory University
Atlanta, Georgia
January 15, 1924

p. xvii Introduction

The reward of the historian lies in the unearthing of facts important in the past life of his people and in interpreting these findings in their proper proportions and settings. Judge Samuel C. Williams enjoys the satisfaction of having drawn from the mists of the past the dim and barely distinct outlines of a Commonwealth which flourished in the western part of the State of North Carolina in pioneer days. He has exercised his careful judgment and mature consideration of material to draw from little known sources the many details which make up a clear picture of the community of settlers who aspired to establish the fourteenth state of the Union.

With the patience and thoroughness which belong alone to the competent scholar, he has pieced together bits of material collected during years of searching through forgotten records. He has utilized his intimate knowledge of the men and the events connected with the life of the Southwest and of Tennessee to interpret these facts clearly and impartially. The student of the period and the section looks to this work with complete confidence in its thoroughness, integrity, and accuracy. These qualities make another edition of this book highly gratifying.

The State of Franklin presented the most striking example of those separatist movements common on the frontier in the early days of the nation. The sectionalism which existed between the East and the West has never thoroughly been studied or sufficiently presented by the interpreters of American history. The spirit of independence displayed by the frontiersmen asserted itself in this movement by the men on the western waters. Their grievances against the mother State, their fear of continued domination, the subordination of their interests to those of the eastern part of North Carolina, their apparent abandonment by that government, and their resentment against real and fancied wrongs led them to embark upon a new experiment in self-government. They believed it to be the only hope of maintaining their liberty. Jealousy and discord among its citizens contributed to its decline and failure, but in its inception it had given great promise of success and had p. xviiiexpressed the independence of the West against political and economic subserviency. Judge Williams has given to those interested in a study of the period a clear picture of this State. In reality, he has discovered again the Lost State of Franklin.

Carl S. Driver

Vanderbilt University
March 30, 1933

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