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The State of Franklin, Tennessee and Johnson County

As I’ve said before in this column, Tennessee and Johnson County have had a very interesting history. The question may arise as to what is behind the names Tennessee and Johnson County. Furthermore, as I consider the brave folks who attempted to form the state of Franklin only eight years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the question may be asked how and when was the state of Franklin formed and who was its namesake.
First I’ll mention a little about Tennessee. Tennessee, the 16th state admitted to the Union, became a state in 1796, only twenty years after the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The state was named after a Cherokee Indian village called Tanasi. Tanasi was also the Cherokee name for the river. Tennessee has the distinction of being the last state to secede from the Union (June 8, 1861) and the first one to be readmitted (July 24, 1866) to the Union.

Johnson County in northeast Tennessee has a rich history. It was founded January 2, 1836. The area that is now Johnson County was once Washington County of North Carolina. Later it was a part of the failed State of Franklin that lasted from 1784 to 1788. Johnson County was carved from Carter County and Carter County was once a part of Washington County. As has been recounted many times, the folks who lived in what was then northeast Carter County became tired of traveling all the way to Elizabethton, the county seat of Carter County to take care of business. Going to Elizabethton for northeastern citizens of Carter County required a difficult trip over rough terrain and raging rivers. After trying and failing to get the county seat moved closer, the Tennessee General Assembly created January 2, 1836 a new county out of Carter County. That county was named Johnson County in honor of Thomas Johnson, a highly respected citizen of what became the new county. Johnson was one of the early settlers on the Doe River.
Now I’ll devote a few words about the short-lived State of Franklin and its connection with Johnson County. The State of Franklin was first called Frankland but was soon changed to Franklin, probably to gain support of popular statesman Benjamin Franklin. John Sevier was the governor of the State of Franklin. He later became governor of Tennessee. The people of Franklin adopted a constitution in December 1784 and the business of governing the new state went forward. The State of Franklin reportedly consisted of eight counties: Greene, Sullivan, Washington, Sevier, Blount, Spencer, Caswell and Wayne.
The area that is now Johnson County was once a part of Wayne County. The county was named for General “Mad” Anthony Wayne, a hero in the Revolutionary War.
Of course there is much about the history of Tennessee, Johnson County and The State of Franklin not included in this column. But this column is presented in hopes that it will arouse an interest in the history of our state and county as well as The State of Franklin.