One hundred and seventy-five years ago this week; President Mirabeau Lamar arrived in the Capitol City. The townspeople waited anxiously for their President at the “Hall of Congress.” The modest wooden structure sat on a hill; at the NW corner of what is now 8th and Colorado. The covered porch of the Capitol looked down on a large clearing of land; two blocks wide and fourteen blocks long. Tree stumps cluttered the muddy ground; that would become Congress Ave.
Lamar’s architect for his new center of government; Edwin Waller and a hand full of mounted dignitaries, met his Excellency’s entourage west of town. They were led to the unpainted capitol. As the citizens cheered; a twenty-one gun salute was fired from the town’s only cannon.
After a short public ceremony, the officials proceeded to Bullocks Hotel for the official dinner. President Lamar made a toast “there has sprung up, like the work of magic, a beautiful city, whose glory is destined to overshadow the ancient magnificence of Mexico.”
My next book, Two Trails to Taos, about the story of Fayette Smith’s capture in Austin, Texas in 1841. Why did the Comanche’s take a 9 year old boy to Taos? It was simple, it was the only place with an active slave trade. The going rate for a healthy white boy at that time was $60. I found a well-written article from Adam James Jones that I would like to share with anyone interested in this bit of southwest history.
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
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 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.