Part One: Settlement to Statehood 1769-1796
Although there were many trappers, traders and hunters through Upper East Tennessee in the sixteen and early seventeen hundreds, there was no permanent settlement until 1769.
Credit for being the first permanent white settler is generally given to William Bean who settled on the Watauga River with his wife, Lydia, in 1769. The Beans were joined by several Pittsylvania County, Virginia neighbors and relatives — Hardeman, Russell, Chisholm and Gray.
By this time the Cherokees had ousted other Native Americans from East Tennessee and used the upper area for hunting expeditions and war. When southern and northern Native Americans fought each other, they followed the “Great Path” from Long Island in the Holston River (present day Kingsport, Sullivan County) through what is now Hawkins County to the Nolichucky River. There was a dry weather cut off which left Long Island, went up Horse Creek and down Lick Creek to the Nolichucky. When Colonel William Christian marched against the Cherokees in 1776 he used this path; afterwards it was known as Christian’s War Trace.
By 1772, there were four main settlements in what is now Tennessee: 1. Carter’s Valley (now Hawkins County) was named for a trader, John Carter, who later moved to the Watauga Settlement where he was prominent in its affairs. 2. North-of-Holston (now Sullivan County) was settled by those who came down the valley from Virginia and thought themselves to be in Virginia. In fact, both of these settlements were governed by Virginia until 1779. 3. Watauga (fort at Sycamore Shoals in present day Carter County and settlement in both Washington and Carter) was settled by Virginians and North Carolinians. The Bean and Robertson groups were part of this. 4. Jacob Brown brought some settlers and established a trading post on the Nolichucky River. He was a gunsmith and blacksmith, skills which made him very valuable to the Native Americans out hunting or fighting, as they had not developed these skills.
The Treaty of Lochabar in October 1770 had made the North-of-Holston settlement legitimate, but those south of the Holston River were clearly on Native American lands. These settlers were not able to get title to the land because they were located on part of Lord Granville’s grant, and that land office had closed; they were under the jurisdiction of North Carolina, not Virginia, and North Carolina had forbidden settlement over the mountains. A treaty in 1772 between Virginia and the Cherokees made the Holston the official south border of Virginia. Alexander Cameron, the British agent sent to the Cherokees, ordered the settlers below the Holston to move off the land. Those on the Nolichucky left their homes and went to Watauga, where the settlers refused to leave. Fortunately for the settlers there were good relations with the Cherokees who interceded on their behalf and they were allowed to remain.
These “good relations” didn’t last for long and by 1774 several confrontations had occurred between the settlers and the Cherokees. They were showing resentment about the incursions onto their land. ……………what will happen next ? Read about it NOW in “Trouble On The Horizon”
History of Washington County Tennessee 1988, Watauga Association of Genealogists ~ Northeast Tennessee, 1988, Walsworth Publishing Co., Inc. Print