TRAILS OF TIME – Watauga Petition
Petition to North Carolina – July 5, 1776
To the Hon. the Provincial Council of North Carolina:
The humble petition of the inhabitants of the Washington District, including the River Wataugah, Nonachuckie, &c., in committee assembled, Humbly Showeth, that about six years ago, Colonel Donelson, (in behalf of the Colony of Virginia), held a Treaty with the Cherokee Indians, in order to purchase the lands of the Western Frontiers; in consequence of which Treaty, many of your petitioners settled on the lands of the Wataugah, &c., expecting to be within the Virginia line, and consequently hold their lands by their improvements as first settlers; but to their great disappointment, when the line was run they were (contrary to their expectation) left out; finding themselves thus disappointed, and being to inconveniently situated to move back, and feeling an unwillingness to loose the labour bestowed on their plantations, they applied to the Cherokee Indians, and leased the land for a term of ten years, before the expiration of which term, it appeared that many persons of distinction were actually making purchases forever; thus yielding a precedent, (supposing many of them, who were gentlemen of the law, to be better judges of the constitution than we were,) and considering the bad consequences it must be attended with, should the reversion be purchased out of our hands, we next preceded to make a purchase of the lands, reserving those in our possession in sufficient tracts for our own uses, and resolving to dispose of the remainder for the good of the community. This purchase was made and the lands acknowledged to us and our heirs forever, in an open treaty, in Wataugah Old Fields; a deed being obtained from the Chiefs of the said Cherokee nation, for themselves and their whole nation, conveying a fee simple right to the said lands, to us and our heirs forever, which deed was for and in consideration of the sum of two thousand pounds sterling (paid to them in goods,) for which consideration they acknowledged themselves fully satisfied, contented and paid; and agreed for themselves and their whole nation, their heirs, &c., forever to resign, warrant and defend the said lands to us, and our heirs, &c., against themselves, their heirs, &c.
The purchase was no sooner made, than we were alarmed by the reports of the present unhappy situation between Great Britain and America, on which report, (taking the new united colonies for our guide,) we proceeded to choose a committee, which was done unanimously by the consent of the people. This committee (willing to become a party in the present unhappy contest) resolved (which is now in our records) to adhere strictly to the rules and orders of the Continental Congress, and in open committee acknowledged themselves indebted to the united colonies their full portion of the Continental expense.
Finding ourselves on the Frontiers, and being apprehensive that, for the want of a proper legislature, we might become shelter for such as endeavored to defraud their creditors; considering also the necessity of recording Deeds, Wills, and doing other public business, we, by consent of the people, formed a court for the purposes above mentioned, taking (by desire of our constituents) the Virginia laws for our guide, so near as the situation of affairs would admit; this was intended for ourselves, and was done by the consent of every individual, but wherever we had to deal with people out of our district, we have ruled them to bail, to abide by our determinations, (which was, in fact, leaving the matter of reference,) otherways we dismissed their suit, lest we should in any way intrude on the legislature of the colonies. In short, we have endeavored so strictly to do justice, that we have admitted common proof against ourselves, on accounts, &c., from the colonies, without pretending a right to require the Colony Seal.
We therefore trust that we shall be considered as we deserve, and not, as we have (no doubt) been many times, represented, as a lawless mob. It is for this very reason we can assure you that we petition; we now again repeat it, that it is for want of proper authority to try and punish felons, we can only mention to you murderers, horse thieves and robbers and are sorry to say that some of them have escaped us for want of proper authority. We trust, however, that this will not long be the case; and we again and again repeat it, that it is for this reason we petition to this Honorable Assembly.
Above we have given you and extract of our proceedings, since our settling on Wataugah, Nolachuckie, &c., in regard to our civil affairs. We have shown you th causes of our first settling and the disappointments we have met with, the reason of our lease and of our purchase, the manner in which we purchased, and how we hold of the Indians in fee simple; the causes of our forming a committee, and legality of its election; and same of our court and proceedings, and our reasons for petitioning in regard to our Legislature.
We will now porceed to give you some account of our military establishments, which were chosen agreeable to the rules established by convention, and officers appointed by the committee. This being done we thought it proper to raise a company on the District service, as our proportion, to act in the common cause on the sea shore. A Company of fine riflemen were accordingly enlisted, and put under Captain James Robertson, and were actually embodied, when we received sundry letters and depositions, (copies of which we now enclose to you,) you will readily judge that there was occasion for them in another place, where we daily expected attack. We therefore thought proper to station them on our Frontiers, in defence of the common cause, at the expense and risque of our own private fortunes, til farther public orders, which we flatter ourselves will give no offence. We have enclosed you sundry proceedings at the station where our men now remain.
We shall now submit the whole to your candid and impartial judgement. We pray your mature and deliberate consideration in our behalf, that you man annex us to your Province, (whether as County, district, or other division,) in such manner as my enable us to share in the glorious cause of Liberty; enforce our laws under authority, and in every respect become the best members of society; and for ourselves and constituents we hope, we many venture to assure you, that we shall adhere strictly to your determinations, and that nothing will be lacking or any thing neglected, that may add weight (in the civil or military establishments) to the glorious cause in which we are now struggling, or contribute to the welfare of our own or ages yet to come.
That you may strictly examine every part of this our Petition, and delay no time in annexing us to your Province, in such a manner as your wisdom shall direct, is the hearty prayer of those who, for themselves and constituents, as in duty bound, shall ever pray.
John Carter, Chn Zach Isbell Jacob Brown George Rusel Charles Robertson John Sevier Wm. Bean Jacob Womack James Robertson Jas. Smith John Jones Robert Lucas
The above signers are members in Committee assembled.
Wm. Tatham, Clerk, P.T.
Jocob Womack James Easley John I. Cox Joud.Bostin, sen. Joseph Dunham John Haile John Cox, jr. Henry Bates, jun. Rice Duncan Elijah Robertson Abraham Cox Will'm Dod Edward Hopson William Clark Emanuel Shote Groves Morris Lew. Bowyer John Dunham Thomas Houghton Wm. Bates Joseph Buller Wm. Overall Joseph Luske Robert Mosely Andw. Greer Matt. Hawkins William Reeves Ge. Hartt Jaob Mitchell John Brown David Hughes Isaac Wilson Gideon Morris Jos. Brown Landon Carter Jno. Waddell Shadrach Morris Job Bumper John McCormick Jarret Williams William Crocket Isaac Wilson David Crocket Oldham Hightower Thomas Dedmon Richard Norton Edward Cox Abednago Hix David Hickey George Hutson Tho's Hughes Charles McCartney Mark Mitchell Thomas Simpson Wm. Roberson Frederick Vaughn Hugh Blair Valentine Sevier Henry Siler Jos. McCartney Elias Pebler Jonathan Tipton Frederick Calvit Mark Robertson Jos. Brown Robert Sevier John Moore Joseph Calvit John Neave Drury Goodan Wm. Newberry Joshua Houghton John Robinson Richard Fletcher Adam Sherrell John Chukinbeard Chris. Cunningham Alexander Greear Sam. Sherrell,jr James Cooper Jas. Easley Joseph Greear Sam. Sherrell,Sr William Brokees Ambrose Hodge Andrew Greear,jr Ossa Rose Julius Robertson Dan'l Morris Teeter Nave Henry Bates,jr John King Wm. Cox Lewis Jones Jos. Grimes Michael Hider Crs.Cunningham,sr John Davis Joshua Barten,sr John Barley