State of Franklin Era Documents


            Created out of the political chaos on the frontier following the American Revolution, the state of Franklin was an attempt to bring stable government to the western country claimed by North Carolina. It really only created more chaos and conflict. Organized at Jonesborough in 1785, Franklin was never recognized by the Continental Congress as a new state. However, between 1785 and 1788, it did function as a quasi-state with individual county governments, including one in Washington County. Here two rival county governments operated during this period. The one housed at the courthouse in Jonesborough operated under Franklin’s authority, while residents remaining loyal to the state government of North Carolina formed their own county government, which met until 1788 in the homes of prominent residents such as Colonel John Tipton. Public records such as deeds, marriages, wills, promissory notes, court records, and other miscellaneous records were created at the county level. Very few such documents survive from the Franklin era. The rivals destroyed one another’s records whenever they got the chance. And time loses things as well. Those records that have survived at the Washington County Courthouse are now housed in the Washington County Archives. These are the documents that have been scanned and that are now available to researchers in this digital collection.

            For more on the records of Franklin, see Ned L. Irwin’s article “The Lost Papers of the Lost State of Franklin,” Journal of East Tennessee History 69 (1997): 84-96.



            On December 14th, 1784, a constitutional convention is held at Jonesborough to establish a new state. John Sevier is convention president. Francis A. Ramsey, father of the future Tennessee historian J. G. M. Ramsey, is convention secretary. A constitution for the state is approved to be voted on by a second constitutional convention held in Greeneville on November 14, 1785. After heated debate at this meeting, the proposed “Houston Constitution”, named for its’ principal author, Reverend Samuel Houston (uncle and namesake of the later Sam Houston of Texas fame) is rejected. Sevier, as convention president, then proposes revising the North Carolina state constitution to serve as the basis for Franklin’s constitution. This is approved. John Tipton, who had supported the Jonesborough document, opposes this change and now begins his move from being a supporter of Franklin statehood to its’ most important opponent.

In 1786, Franklin’s representatives sent to Philadelphia to seek approval of the new state by the Continental Congress have this constitution printed in booklet form, under the following title: A Declaration of Rights, Also, the Constitution, or Form of Government, Agreed to, and Resolved upon, by the Representatives of the Freemen of the State of Frankland, Elected and Chosen for that Particular Purpose, in Convention Assembled at Greeneville, the 14th of November, 1785. Francis Bailey, the printer of this Franklin Constitution, is official printer for the Continental Congress at the time.

The version found here is a digital copy of the original booklet. Click on the link below to view.

Constitution of the State of Frankland

Booth, David vs. Michael Tulley

Brown, William – Bill of sale to Andrew Beard, 1790

Bullard, Joseph vs. the estate of John Carney

Canon, William vs. Jonathan Tipton

Christmas, William (bond) This document was torn and had a piece missing.

Cockrill, Chattin – indenture to Thomas Chapman – 1787

Dale (Deal), James vs. John Anderson

Denny, Alexander vs. John Waddle

Denny, Alexander vs. Robert Young, 1786. (Assault and battery), warrant for Robert Young.

Denny, Charles vs. Joseph Young

Evans, Andrew vs. Michael Tulley

Greer, Andrew, esquire vs. George Barcley – 1786

Greer, James vs. James Stinson

Haws, Jacob vs. John Hammer

Hunt, John vs. Colonel Charles Robertson

Ingram’s heirs vs. William Cocke
          This set contains a letter to Andrew Jackson and a deposition taken, written and signed by Jackson, dated February 1, 1803) This important case determined that records created under the state of Franklin (such as marriages, deeds, etc.) would be recognized as legal by the state of Tennessee.

Keen, Pilchert (bond)

Light, Jacob of South Carolina (Power of attorney assigned to James Stewart of Washington County)

Middleton, Robert vs. James Deal

Moser, Anthony (bond)

Presentments to August Court:  Smith Terrell, John James and John Clark (profanity)

Sample, Moses vs. William Richey (complaint declaration)

Scroggs, Frances and James Anderson vs. Robert Anderson (concerning the estate of John Lile)

Sevier, James vs. Colonel John Tipton, 1789. In this case, James Sevier sued Colonel John Tipton for the return of his shot pouch and rifle, taken at the Battle of Franklin.

State vs. John Sevier, son of Valentine Sevier, 1788.  This is Governor John Sevier of Franklin.  He was charged with “taking up arms against the State of North Carolina” following the collapse of the state of Franklin.

State vs. John Sevier, son of Colonel John Sevier, 1788.  Relates to his capture at John Tipton’s home during the Battle of the State of Franklin.

A list of presentments made to the August Court, 1784.

State vs. Keziah Sevier, 1787.  Keziah was charged with living with Jonathan Tipton without benefit of marriage.  She was the daughter of Charles Robertson and the widow of Robert Sevier, who died from wounds suffered at the Battle of King’s Mountain.

Taylor, David vs. John Robertson (complaint declaration)

Terrell, William (deposition)

Tipton, Jonathan (warrant)

Tully, Michael vs. Thomas Brandon

Wilson, Adam vs. Robert Anderson and Alexander Anderson

1787 Justices of the Peace appointed by the North Carolina government
          Toward the end of the State of Franklin era, the North Carolina government appointed the following as Justices of the Peace:  John Tipton, Landon Carter, Robert Love, James Montgomery, John Wyer, John Strain, Andrew Chamberlain, Andrew Taylor, Alexander Mauphett, William Pursley, Edmond Williams and Henry Nelson.  These men, most notably John Tipton, represented the “anti-Franklin” movement–men who had remained loyal to the North Carolina government and who opposed the creation of the state of Franklin.

1787Justices of the Peace -