Watauga Association and Washington District
Washington County, TN, originally came under the jurisdiction of North Carolina. In 1772 settlers living south of the Holston River, on the Watauga and Nolichucky Rivers, within the boundaries of the North Carolina colony, organized the Watauga Association, giving America its first written constitution. In 1775 the Wataugans changed their name to “Washington District.” The main settlements in the Washington District were Watauga, Carter’s Valley, and Nolichucky.
The settlers petitioned for annexation with North Carolina. In 1777 the North Carolina legislature changed the name of Washington District to Washington County, NC. Included within the boundaries of the county was most of present-day Tennessee.
As Washington County, NC and the mother county of Tennessee, Washington County gave rise to Sullivan County, 1779; Greene County, 1783. After statehood, Washington County gave rise to Carter County, 1796. Southern portions of Washington and Carter counties formed Unicoi County in 1875.
State of Franklin
In 1784, North Carolina ceded its western (overmountain) lands to the United States to pay its part of the Revolutionary War debts with the provision that a new state would be formed from these new lands. The same men who formed the Watauga Association did not wait for the formation of the new state. They formed the State of Frankland (Franklin) and chose John Sevier as governor.
Both the State of Franklin and North Carolina’s Washington County claimed the overmountain country and both had functional governments that issued marriage licenses, probate wills and deeds. North Carolina appointed Col. John Tipton as senator. The Battle of the Lost State of Franklin in 1788 at Tipton’s farm was the death knell for the State of Franklin.
North Carolina ceded the state’s western lands to the federal government in 1790, forming the “Territory of the Unites States, South of the River Ohio” (Southwest Territory). The area included all of that which became the state of Tennessee. President George Washington appointed William Blount as governor. Blount lived with the William Cobb family at Rocky Mount (in Sullivan County near the Washington County line) for a short time before moving to Knoxville. Census taken in 1795 indicated a population of 77,262. A vote for statehood was taken and the State of Tennessee was admitted into the Union by the U.S. Legislature on June 1, 1796.
Because of boundary changes, researchers need to be mindful of these changes and other neighboring counties when looking for ancestors.