If you live in the United States, you might recall that the original colonies to form a union during the 1770s, ultimately becoming our first states, numbered thirteen. You may also recall that the 14th state added to the union was Vermont (March 4, 1791). But did you know it almost wasn’t?
Once upon a time there was a state called Franklin…
Ten years ago this April I started writing my first novel set in the 18th century. The setting was North Carolina, a state I’ve visited many times, from childhood on. I’ve been sunburned beach-combing for shells on the Outer Banks… dug in a garden for arrowheads in the hills of the Uwharrie Piedmont… and had my fingers chilled by cold mountain mist on the trails of the Blue Ridge.
During the 18th century, North Carolina claimed a far more extensive territory than it does today. Several of the river valleys west of the Blue Ridge were settled before the Revolutionary War and considered themselves part of North Carolina, but those frontier settlements were far removed from the eastern political center of the state. With hundreds of miles between them—sometimes impassable mountain miles—the settlers on the frontier became frustrated with the lack of response to their needs from the North Carolina government.
By 1784 a group of these frontier citizens declared their region independent of North Carolina. They formed the State of Franklin and elected a governor (John Sevier), but they never drew enough support from outside the region for their efforts to succeed. Though it was put to a vote, the United States Congress failed to recognize Franklin. The region itself was divided, with those who clung to their identity as North Carolinians at odds with their neighbors who called themselves Franklinites.
For some four and a half years the people of the Overmountain valleys were under the jurisdiction of two governments fighting over the same territory. Understandably this led to confusion. For instance, if a couple wanted to be married, it was a good idea to do so twice, once before a North Carolina judge, once before a Franklin judge—to be sure of being legal in the end.
The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn opens in late summer of 1787, well into this unsettled situation. I thought it a fitting setting for a story about a young woman from east of the mountains and an Overmountain man who find themselves thrown together in a moment of crises with a bewildering array of paths to choose toward freedom and safety—much like the choices that confronted the people west of the Blue Ridge.
2. Answer the following question in a comment on this post: Had you heard of the
State of Franklin before? If so, when and how did you learn of it?
Be sure to leave your email address too, so you can be contacted if you are the winner.
3. Like my Facebook Author Page
and you’ll be entered twice. Let me know you did so in your comment.
Contest will run through Friday April 4 at 9:00AM Pacific time, when I’ll draw and announce the winner.
photo credits: Hatteras by Sonja/arrowheads by bobistraveling/Uwharries by Blake/Blue Ridge mountains by Patrick, courtesy Flickr creative commons
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