Many folks in Northeast Tennessee know the story of Franklin, America’s 14th state, and how it budded, blossomed, and withered, all in the period of four years. (If you don’t know the story, read it here.)
But did you ever hear about the betrayal, hostages, and bloody front-yard battles that sealed its demise? Yep, turns out “Franklin” had its share of back-stabbin’, brain-washin’, and bayonettin’…and that’s just the beginning.
Go back to 1784. The Congress of the Confederation was in debt after the Revolutionary War, and the state of North Carolina decided they’d “donate” 29,000 acres to help the cause. Problem was, that land (the future “Northeast Tennessee”) was already spoken for, by The Wataugans. Needless to say, they didn’t appreciate their frontier property being sold out from under them.
And they certainly didn’t like the idea of Congress selling that land to France or Spain to pay off that debt.
Since they were already in a revolutionizing mood, and deeming that “North Carolina can’t sell what North Carolina doesn’t own,” they formed a new state (Franklin), chose a capital city (Jonesborough), and elected a new leader (John Sevier).
But not everybody in town wanted to go against the newly-formed federal government. In fact, many of the settlers remained allegiant to North Carolina, and saw Sevier and the Franklinians as treasonous and un-patriotic. One of those people was Col. John Tipton, who controlled the North Carolina militia in the area. And after hearing all he could stand about the “State of Franklin,” he sneaked onto Sevier’s property, took some slaves hostage, and took them back to his own house.
Sevier, none too happy, brought the Franklin militia to Tipton’s house, and demanded his slaves returned. Tipton refused. Shots were fired. And a nasty battle broke out between Franklin and North Carolina right there in Tipton’s front yard! Turns out Carolina was too big, and too strong, and the Franklin militia (as well as the state itself) suffered a fatal wound. But it gave way to the creation of a new state, named after “Tanasi” a Native American word for “meeting place.”
Now, I’ve taken great liberty in paraphrasing this story, but you can hear the whole thing, complete with historical remnants, artifacts, and battlegrounds, at the Tipton-Haynes Historic Site. (Yes, the house is still standing!) It traces Northeast Tennessee through the Revolution, Reconstruction, and right on up through modern-day. It’s a great place to visit if you’re a history buff, a heritage aficionado, or just a fan of a really good story.