north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program



Marker Text:

     North Carolina and Tennessee share a close bond because pioneers from North Carolina were among the earliest settlers in one of America’s first territorial expansion projects. Settled by English and American-born colonists before 1770, Tennessee first saw Europeans explorers in 1541 when Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto traversed the region in his quest for gold. De Soto and subsequent Spanish explorers spread disease through much of the Native American population. The decimation notwithstanding, the Cherokee expanded their influence and controlled most of the region by the time English and French trappers arrived. Fur traders were among the first to visit the area “over the mountains” and their industry grew to such a degree that nearly it wiped out the area’s native animal population.

     Tennessee lands slowly were filled with pioneers who broke through the barrier of the Blue Ridge. By 1770, there were four distinct communities in eastern sections of the future state. These and other pioneers pushed farther westward and, by the Revolutionary War, the area was well populated and regional militia, called the Over-Mountain men, assisted with the crucial victory at the Battle of King’s Mountain in South Carolina. Following the Revolution, lands in Tennessee were granted to North Carolina’s veterans as payment for their service during the war. At the same time, residents made an attempt to create a separate state. The result was the short-lived State of Franklin, governed by John Sevier (1745-1815), one of the first white settlers in the area.

     In 1789 North Carolina ceded its western lands, known as Tennessee county, to the federal government and the area was named Territory of the United States, South of the River Ohio. In 1796, Tennessee became the sixteenth state. The capital of the territory was established at an outpost founded in 1786, first called White’s Fort but renamed Knoxville in 1791. John Sevier again was elected governor and served the new state through six terms, successfully negotiating with Indians and encouraging settlement in the new state before serving in both the state Senate and Congress.

     As the new state grew and threats of Native American violence diminished, the new state prospered. Tennessee’s population tripled in the decade surrounding its statehood. More speculators followed and, by 1810, the population had increased 250%. The development of Tennessee was dictated by land speculators who flooded the region to trade with Indians for large tracts of land as well as by existing borders of western North Carolina counties. Questions of land ownership along the border were not as heated between the two states as could be found between North Carolina and other states and in 1821 the two states sponsored a survey of a mutual dividing line without incident.

William Powell, North Carolina Through Four Centuries (1989)
Marvin Skaggs, North Carolina Boundary Disputes Involving Her Southern Line (1941)
David Corbitt,The Formation of the North Carolina Counties, 1663-1943 (1950)
Tennessee State Historian, "Tennessee Heritage":
Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture:
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north carolina highway historical marker program

John Sevier, first governor of Tennessee. Image from the Library of Congress.

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources