On this day in WNC history: Western North Carolina is a large region, comprising twenty-three counties. But did you know it was once even larger? On this day in 1776, the North Carolina Provincial Council received a petition from the residents of the Watauga Association asking for annexation into North Carolina.

In 1772, settlers in what are now Washington and Carter counties in Tennessee negotiated a lease with the Cherokees for ten years on lands far west of the Proclamation Line of 1763. They established a semi-autonomous government known as the Watauga Association, though, like most colonists, viewed themselves as British subjects. By the time of the American Revolution in 1775, they expressed loyalty to the united colonies, and formed a committee of safety to handle wartime functions. At this point, the Cherokees allied with the British and launched an unsuccessful multi-pronged attack on the Watauga settlement in July, 1776 after settlers refused to vacate Cherokee lands.

Under these circumstances, the Wataugans first asked Virginia to incorporate them, but with no success, they turned to their eastern neighbors. They noted the slanders often lodged against them as being a lawless mob, but sought to demonstrate their success in organizing a functional government in their petition. They also addressed their ability to raise a capable fighting force to “act in the common cause on the sea shore.” Signers included John Carter, John Sevier, and several members of the Crockett family. This new Washington district sent representatives to the Provincial Congress in November, 1776, and was accepted into North Carolina as Washington County in 1777. Washington County became part of the short-lived State of Franklin in 1784, but reverted back to North Carolina. In 1790, it became part of the incorporated Southwest Territory, and finally became part of Tennessee in 1796.

Washington District Map, J.D. Lewis, Carolana.com

“Petition from inhabitants of the Washington District concerning the annexation of the district to North Carolina,” NC Colonial and State Records, V10

Reconstructed Fort Watauga at Sycamore Shoals State Park, courtesy Brian Stansberry