State of Franklin – Part Two

Two votes in the Continental Congress prevented Franklin from becoming the fourteenth state in the Union. The State of Franklin existed from 1784-1789 in a parallel government with North Carolina. Those that favored breaking from North Carolina were called Franklinites, those that didn’t were Anti’s. The issue divided westerners who had fought side-by-side during the revolution for independence.

The North Carolina Assembly voted in 1780 to cede western lands over the mountain to the federal government to settle the state’s war debt. The western settlers were left to fight hostile Indians on their own. They quickly formed the State of Franklin for protection, after being abandoned by North Carolina and the federal government. Only in desperation did they approach Spain for help. Many scholars have suggested Franklinites were treasonous by doing so. The Republic of Texas used a similar ploy many years later to become the twenty-eighth state in the Union. Amazing how history repeats itself.

During a heavy snowfall, open rebellion broke out between the Franklinites, led by John Sevier and the Anti’s by John Tipton. Two killed and several men were injured. The fighting was for naught as the North Carolina Assembly elected John Sevier as a delegate to reconsider ratification of the Federal Constitution. Western North Carolina became the Southwest Territory and in 1796, Tennessee was admitted to the Union as the sixteenth state.

The Franklin Constitution signed at Jonesborough, Tennessee on 17 December 1784; Section 31, stated “No clergymen or preacher of the gospel could hold public office.” The next Section 32, went into great detail that “No person that did not believe in God could hold public office.” I found those sections interesting.

Read more about the Franklinites in Book 2, Adam’s Daughters and Book 3, Children of the Revolution.

  John Sevier, President of Franklin


State of Franklin

The State of Franklin Road that runs through Johnson City, Jonesborough, and Greeneville, Tennessee is not named for a band, as many young people assume. Men fought and died to establish the State of Franklin shortly after the American Revolution.

Some historians think the leaders of Franklin, specifically John Sevier were conspiring with Spain and Britain to gain control of the Mississippi, which was the western border of their state. Benjamin Franklin had no part in the state that bore his name. He loathed what the Franklinites were trying to do. However, he may have influenced them by saying “Whoever controlled the Mississippi River would eventually control the continent.”

The government of Franklin had a constitution and a monetary system established before the U.S. federal government. George Washington was concerned enough about their activities to send a special agent to the State of Franklin. Lieutenant John Armstrong arrived in the spring of 1788 and interviewed the leaders of Sullivan, Washington, and Greene Counties that represented most of Franklin.

Book 2 of the Westward Sagas, Adam’s Daughters and Book 3, Children of the Revolution tells the story of Armstrong’s visit to the State of Franklin and his report to George Washington. I will share more of my research on next week’s blog.

Capitol of the State of Franklin

Andrew Jackson

Andrew Jackson was a twenty year old attorney when he and Judge John McNairy rode into Jonesborough in the spring of 1788. Andrew passed the bar exam in Washington County and started a law practice to supplement his meager salary as state prosecutor for North Carolina. Some residents considered themselves citizens of the State of Franklin, others North Carolina. As an Attorney, he did well during the quagmire of legality created by the State of Franklin situation.

Andrew Jackson and Judge McNairy shared a loft with Mr. and Mrs. Christopher Taylor and their thirteen children. Two men sleeping together; one the judge the other his prosecutor would be considered a political scandal by today’s standards.

Andrew had made a name for himself in Salisbury, North Carolina where he apprenticed under lawyer Spruce Macay. Unfortunately, the reputation he made would follow him the rest of his life, regardless of his accomplishments.

In a heated moment of courtroom rage, the unknown Andrew Jackson challenged Waightstill Avery, a well-liked attorney in Jonesborough to a duel. Realizing how popular Mr. Avery was, Andrew had the opportunity to shoot Avery at point blank range; instead he raised his dueling pistol in the air and fired. The crowd applauded him, the barristers shook hands and their feud was over.

A decade later as a guest of the Chester Inn, Andrew Jackson woke to the smell of smoke, alerted the guests, and climbed on the roof of the inn to extinguish the fire. He saved the inn and the town of Jonesborough, becoming the town’s hero. Today the Chester Inn still stands as a Tennessee landmark thanks to his heroic efforts.

Chester Inn


My Dad

Malcolm Bowles was born June 24, 1912, on the family ranch located on the east side of the Pedernales River at the confluence of the Colorado River. The nearest community was Mudd, which Lake Travis covered after completion of the Marshall Ford Dam. The area is now known as Spicewood and Briarcliff.

Dad always had cows to tend. He raised cattle like his father, grandfather and three brothers, all Travis County pioneers. Yet, I never heard him referred to as a cowboy by anyone, until his funeral. I remember the neighbors seeking his guidance with calving, parasite control and fencing. He enjoyed working his herd well into his eighties.

Today, he would have been 102 years old, the eleventh year since his death. He passed away one minute after midnight, June 24, 2003. His service ended with Willie Nelson’s song “Mamma’s Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up to be Cowboys.” He is buried beside his wife of 46 years, Ida, at the Live Oak Cemetery in Manchaca, Texas.

Malcolm Bowles born 1912

Austin Lyceum

The Austin Lyceum was granted a charter on February 5, 1841, the first ever issued for a learned society in the Republic of Texas. E. Lawrence Stickney, President presided over the first meeting of the Austin Lyceum. Stickney was also Secretary to the Republic of Texas Treasury. George William Bonnell was a charter member and President Sam Houston an honorary member. The learned men of the new capitol city of the Republic of Texas started meeting in October of 1839, months before Austin was officially incorporated.

By April 1840, membership had grown to 42, mostly professional men. The meetings consisted of lectures and debates on current affairs. Membership fees and dues were assessed for the purpose of establishing a library.

On April 15, 1841, the organization abruptly surrendered its charter to the Secretary of State and dissolved the entity. All monies acquired would go to the family of Travis County Judge, James W. Smith, who had been killed by Indians on January 21, 1841. The popular Judge’s son Fayette was captured during the attack, which was his ninth birthday. Lyceum members hoped that the widow Angelina Smith might be able to ransom her son with the money. Word had been received that a boy matching Fayette’s description was seen headed toward Santa Fe with the Comanche’s.

Thanks to the Lyceum, William Smith, the brother of Judge Smith, hired Tonkawa Indians to guide him.  They made it to Santa Fe before the Comanche’s; Fayette’s uncle missed him by just days. William alerted people about his captured nephew before heading back to Austin by way of the Santa Fe Trail. A Taos merchant named John Rowland paid $60.00 silver in ransom for Fayette and returned him to his family.

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