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The Great State of Franklin

As a form of review I often throw a couple dozen vocabulary words up on the board and ask students to write the words down in column one and in column two identify the word by the historical era it best belongs to. Students need to be able to explain to me, to the class, or to a partner why they wrote down the particular historical unit as their answer. Depending on the capabilities of the group or the needs of certain students I might also list all of the unit names we had discussed up to that point as a memory jogger.
For example, if I wrote the word Constitution on the board I would expect my students to correctly identify the historical unit as “Building a New Nation” while the vocabulary word potlatch would match up with “Native Americans.”

Let’s see how well you do…..the units are Native Americans, Exploration, Colonization, French and Indian War, American Revolution, and Forming a New Nation. The vocabulary words are circumnavigate, liberty, artisan, origin story, Ohio River Valley, and James Madison.

Commence to matching them up.

So, how did you match them up?

Here’s the best way….Native Americans/origin story, Exploration/circumnavigate, Colonization/artisan, French and Indian War/Ohio River Valley, American Revolution/liberty, James Madison/Forming a New Nation.

What about the word secession?

Which unit of history would it best go with?

The Civil War…right?

What if I changed the direction for the activity from which is the best unit to match the word up with to which historical period or unit is the earliest time period the word could fit?

If “that” was my direction then the Civil War would NOT be correct.

Nope….in fact the time period right after the American Revolution would be the correct historical time period.


Ever hear of the state of Franklin? Yep, it existed.

In April, 1784 the state of North Carolina gave the new United States government control of 29 million acres between the Mississippi River and the Allegheny Mountains (Appalachian) due to the extreme amount of debt the new nation found itself under.

This action, however, did not please many of the inhabitants of the area who did not want to suddenly find themselves as Spanish or French colonists should the Confederation government of the U.S. decide to sell the territory for debt relief. Apparently the legislature of North Carolina also became a bit wary as to what the national government would do with the land, so they took their offer off the table.

By August, 1784 the people living in this area had had it with the uncertainty of their fate. Were they citizens of North Carolina? Were they citizens of a new colony? The people declared they were free from North Carolina, and on May 16, 1785, a delegation asked the U.S. Congress for statehood. Their proposed name was Frankland.

Under the Articles of Confederation that governed this nation at the time a two-thirds majority of states had to vote in favor of statehood….they fell short with just seven states voting in favor.
Frankland’s leaders even opted to change the name to Franklin, after Benjamin Franklin, in hopes that members of the confederation congress would go for that, and the fact that the U.S. government did not officially declare them a state did not deter them.

A constitution was adopted, a government was seated at Greeneville, and John Sevier was elected governor. The “state”, however, could never support itself and since it was not officially recognized by the U.S. government, and because it ignored the fact that North Carolina controlled the territory, Franklin could not benefit from any military assistance.

North Carolina troops finally moved in when Franklin’s “government” refused to accept North Carolina’s offer to waive back taxes. One battle ensued at Colonel Tipton’s farm in present day Johnson City, Tennessee.

After failing to garner a loan from Spain (which is ironic since so many citizens had not wanted to be beholden to the French or the Spanish), John Sevier finally turned himself into North Carolina authorities in February, 1788. His only punishment was to declare an oath of allegiance to North Carolina.

All differences between the state of North Carolina and the want-to-be state of Franklin were forgotten by the citizens of the territory when Native Americans began to heavily attack the white Franklin settlements in March, 1788. The citizens of Franklin were more than ready to declare they were in fact North Carolinians.

By 1790, the territory that had once claimed to be the state of Franklin was ceded by the government of North Carolina once more to the national government where it would become part of the Southwest Territory…..and would later become part of Tennessee where it remains today.

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