A Brief History of Sevier County’s Namesake – John Sevier


Sevier County is a wonderful place to live, work, play, and enjoy the beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains at any time of year. However, some people may wonder – How did Sevier County get to be named Sevier County? For that answer, you have to go back to the very founding of the State of Tennessee itself, and back even to the founding of our country, where an individual by the name of John Sevier would help to shape not just the County that bears his name today, but the State of Tennessee, as well. What results is a very fascinating story from history, and a story that is worth telling, to be sure!

John Sevier was born in Rockingham County, Virginia, near the town of New Market, Virginia, on September 23, 1745, and was the oldest of seven children. His father, Valentine “The Immigrant” Sevier, was descended from French Huguenots, who had fled France to England, and his father had come to the colonies in 1740, eventually settling in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia. Not much else is known about young John Sevier’s early life, except that his family were prosperous farmers in the Shenandoah, and eventually married in 1761 to Sarah Hawkins.

By time of the American Revolution, Sevier and his family had moved to a farm on Watauga River, near present-day Elizabethton, TN. At the time, the area where Sevier lived was a part of the colony of North Carolina, where the Watauga settlements were located, was made into the Washington District of North Carolina. In doing so, Sevier would be named as a representative to the Provincial Congress of North Carolina. By 1776, Sevier had also been named a lieutenant colonel of the North Carolina militia and was originally assigned to protect the frontier settlements.

During the Revolution, Sevier would fight in many engagements, but remained largely in the South. Sevier’s most well-known battle came at the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780, where the colonists were victorious against a force of British and loyalist soldiers at Kings Mountain, NC, just north of nearby, present-day Spartanburg, SC, and west-southwest of present-day Charlotte, NC. After the Revolution, having been promoted all the way to brigadier general, Sevier would become involved in a very interesting part of early American history – the short-lived State of Franklin.

In June 1784, the new State of North Carolina ceded its lands west of Appalachian Mountains to the federal government, after pressure from the Continental Congress. However, the new Congress did not act immediately regarding these lands, so a power vacuum resulted in what is now Tennessee. In August 1784, Sevier served as President of a convention held in Jonesborough, TN to establish a new state, and in March 1785, the new State of Franklin, named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, was born, with Sevier serving as its new Governor.

However, a new problem arose for the State of Franklin right away – North Carolina had decided to rescind its cession of lands west of the Appalachians, and re-imposed its authority over what was now the State of Franklin. After about 4 1/2 years of essentially having two state governments – Franklin and North Carolina – governing what is now East Tennessee, the State of Franklin ceased, and North Carolina re-assumed the area. Sevier, in the meantime, had re-declared his allegiance to North Carolina in 1789, was elected to the North Carolina State Senate, and helped negotiate a new cession, which led to the creation of the Southwest Territory, becoming modern-day Tennessee.

Sevier would later go on to serve as Tennessee’s first Governor, serving an initial three two-year terms from 1796-1801, and then three more two-year terms from 1803-1809. He held was later elected to the Tennessee State Senate, and then as a U.S. Representative to Congress from the state’s 2nd District. Sevier was actually offered a command in the army by President James Madison during the War of 1812, but Sevier would decline, despite his staunch support of the war. Sevier would later die in 1815 in the new Alabama Territory, and was buried along the Tallapoosa River. In 1889, his remains would be re-interred on the Knox County Courthouse lawn in downtown Knoxville.

John Sevier remains a prominent fixture in East Tennessee lore to this day. Many monuments, schools, civic groups, and much more bear his name, including Sevier County itself. Many locations throughout East Tennessee still tell of Sevier’s life and times, including his home sites.

With such an interesting and compelling history of Sevier County’s namesake, it is no wonder why the Great Smoky Mountains region remains an area full of history, culture, and vitality, from its very inception to the present day. Millions come to our area every year, and do so to experience the majesty and wonder of this area for themselves, experiencing this area’s unique history and culture. Why not see what else the Great Smoky Mountains can do for you? Please feel free to browse our Featured Properties, and see what The Jason White Team can do for you and your home ownership dreams today!


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The Jason White Team
Century 21 Four Seasons Realty, Inc.
1441 Wiley Oakley Drive
Gatlinburg, TN 37738
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