|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 distinct and persistent an outflow of Franklin's
inhabitants westward, particularly after the opening of the
wilderness road to the Cumberland Settlements.
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 and to make a fit foundation for a democratic
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 skillful
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 preempted 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 wove. 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 clothing 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
mothers 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
and 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
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 of 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. McAdoo,
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. Patterson, 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. Caruthers, 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,
John 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. 0. Shelby, C. S. A., and
Jacob Tipton, brigadier-generals; Alex. P. Stewart,
Religious Leaders: David Nelson, Presbyterian, author of
Cause and Cure of Infidelity; John Rankin, Presbyterian,
antislavery leader; John W. Doak, Presbyterian; E. E. Hoss,
bishop of the Methodist Episcopal church, South; Elbert F.
Business: C. M. McGhee, Hugh T. Inman, S. M. Inman, Robert
Lowry, capitalists; W. C. Patterson, 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,
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, 6,97o; Sevier, 3,619.
Why Sevier county should appear in such tabulation is not
apparent; the reestablishment of the county was not effected
until 1794. Week's Tennessee's Population, Tennessee Historical
Magazine, II, 243. 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 179o, 26,519 inhabitants of English extraction as
against 3,574 of Scotch-Irish extraction. A Century of
Population Growth, iv. 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 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 Country 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, RI 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 Gouveneur Morris, that
"the busy haunts of men, not the remote wilderness, is the
proper school of political talents."