Notes for Gov. John Sevier
The name of John Sevier is almost synonymous with the early history of Tennessee. In 1771, hundreds of residents of western North Carolina took part in what was called the Regulator Insurrection, refusing to pay British taxes. After their defeat, they fled across the Allegheny mountains into the area that is now eastern Tennessee, but which was then Cherokee lands, not part of any British colony. They negotiated a ten-year lease with the Cherokees for the land they occupied, and drew up a compact of government called the Watauga Association (after the Watauga River, which together with the Holston River formed the boundaries of the area.) John Sevier made visits to the Watauga settlement in 1771 and 1772, and liked what he found there, especially the spirit of self-government. Four years before the Declaration of Independence, the Watauga settlers were declaring their own independence by moving beyond the reach of British authority.
In 1773, Sevier moved to the Watauga settlement along with his father, brothers, wife and children. The following year he served as a captain in Lord Dunmore’s War against the Indians.
When the United States declared independence, the Watauga settlers recognized their common cause with the Revolution, and petitioned to become part of the state of North Carolina, joining it in 1776 as Washington District, and in 1777 as Washington Co. Since before that date it was not part of any colony, I have listed family events taking place there in 1773 through 1775 as being in “Watauga Settlement, now Tennessee”.
During the American Revolution John Sevier was a hero of the Battle of King’s Mountain in 1780, and in the next year served under Gen. Francis Marion against the British in the Carolinas and Georgia. In 1784 he took part in the revolt of the western counties of North Carolina that led to the formation of the short-lived state of Franklin, and served as its governor. Congress, however, refused to recognize the new state’s petition to join the Union, and within four years the state had collapsed. Sevier was declared a traitor by the state of North Carolina, and fled to the mountains. In 1789, with the support of friends in the East, he was pardoned, elected to the North Carolina senate, and in 1789-1791 served in the U. S. House of Representatives.
In 1790, North Carolina ceded its western territory to the federal government. In 1796 the region was admitted as the state of Tennessee, with John Sevier as its first governor. He served for three consecutive two-year terms (1796-1801), the maximum allowed by the Tennessee constitution, and after one term “on the bench”, he served for three more terms (1803-1809). After retiring from the governorship he was elected again to the U. S. House of Representatives, where he served until his death. He died near Fort Decatur, Georgia while serving as a commissioner to determine the boundary of Creek lands in Georgia.85
John Sevier had 18 children, nine by his first wife Sarah Hawkins, and nine more by his second wife, Catherine Sherrill, known as “Bonny Kate.”
For more information about John Sevier and his descendants, see Joe Payne’s web site.83
Among other things, it includes extensive quotes from Lyman Draper’s “King’s Mountain and Its Heroes”.