If there’s to be a name for our region, we needn’t look far beyond our fascinating and significant — yet somewhat obscure — history. Shortly before the Revolutionary War, the Wataugans established the first free and independent government on the North American continent at Sycamore Shoals. In 1780, as the war dragged on and moved south, frontiersmen from Sycamore Shoals mustered with their comrades from present day Southwest Virginia, marched to Kings Mountain, and routed loyalists commanded by British Major Patrick Ferguson. According to Teddy Roosevelt, those Overmountain Men fought and won the decisive battle of the Revolutionary War.
After American independence was secured, many of those same hearty, freedom loving folk established a government under Governor John Sevier on land ceded by North Carolina. They called it Franklin. There were thirteen states in the young republic, and the goal of the Franklinites was to become the fourteenth state. They also hoped that namesake Benjamin Franklin would lend his influence to the Franklin statehood movement. Official statehood, however, was never achieved, and the effort collapsed after a few years.
So, where was Franklin? Chances are if you are reading this piece, you are in what was once known as Franklin.
The precise boundaries of Franklin are somewhat murky, but included much of current-day Northeast Tennessee and territory that ultimately reverted back to North Carolina. It had a strong kinship with Southwest Virginia and may have included lands that now lie within a number of other states.
Drawing upon our heritage, and giving a nod to our past while looking toward a bright future, I submit the regional label “New Franklin.” Our region was once called Franklin by its bold settlers; New Franklin conveys the hope and determination to continue working to fulfill its promise and potential.
Appalachian Mountain Empire
Your Question of the Week on Monday, April 8 was “What should we call our region?”
I submit the name Appalachian Mountain Empire. The Appalachian Mountains are visible in just about any outdoor location you could think of in this area. And in looking at the vastness of our geography, we are an empire.
While I like Appalachian Highlands, it makes me, along with others I have spoken to, think solely of our neighbors on the North Carolina side of the Appalachians. I believe the name Appalachian Mountain Empire to be more encompassing, more descriptive, and more accurate.
Chiming in on the area name change discussion. We propose Franklin Region, which harks back to the history of the whole region, Northeast Tennessee, Western North Carolina and Southwest Virginia. In Colonial times, settlers in the area realized they were in areas considered in North Carolina, but beyond Virginia’s western claims. Though it being across the Appalachian Mountains, North Carolina had trouble protecting this western frontier. Partly in protest of this lack of protection, in 1785 a group of settlers met in Jonesborough and established a new state called Franklin, named in honor of Benjamin Franklin. Franklin did not specifically give his opinion, pro or con, of the new state. John Sevier was elected as Governor. In 1787 the Federal Constitution (Convention), ratified by the required ninth of the thirteen original states in 1788, ruled that no state could be divided without its consent. By 1788, the support for a State of Franklin had almost died out. Sevier and other leading Franklinites were brought into the government of the Washington District which was made a part of the emerging state of Tennessee, when it was admitted to the Union in 1796.
Franklin then became a 'lost state.' The new area name might also be called Franklin Highlands, since most of it is, in fact, mountainous, and since the whole area has roots going back to Scotland, home of the Scottish Highlands.