Watauga Petition and Its Signers

Watauga Petition and Its Signers
~ 1776 ~

typed into html from J. G. M. Ramsey's Annals of Tennessee, pp. 134-138, by Sandra (Nipper) Ratledge for my website "Tennessee Ties" only; not to be copied and uploaded on any other websites, blogs, or attached to family trees

[Introduction by Sandra (Nipper) Ratledge: Some of the first white frontiersmen forging into Cherokee Indian Territory came from Virginia and North Carolina. They brought along their families in covered wagons across a gap in the sloping mountains and into the North Carolina wilderness, now called Tennessee. The name of this gap echoed in campfire conversations, as familiar a word as the sounds of creaking wheels burdened by heavily laden wagons. Over the Cumberland Gap, these adventurers blazed a trail and settled together for protection along the Watauga River. Thus, they named their new home "The Watauga Settlement." These rugged risk-takers were farmers, carpenters, lumberjacks, sawyers, millwrights, millers, tanners, blacksmiths, coopers, and wheelwrights. All were known as the "Wataugans."

Two such hale and hearty pioneers were my ancestors, namely Christopher Columbus Cunningham, Sr. and Isaac Wilson, Sr. Both were signers of the Watauga Petition to the state of North Carolina. By 1796, the survivors -- not only of the perilous trek, but also of Indian raids, bear and bobcat attacks, and the changing seasons -- became the first Tennesseans. Part of this website is devoted to preserving their memory. This is their story].

To the Hon. the Provincial Council of North Carolina:

The humble petition of the inhabitants of Washington District, including the River Wataugah, Nonachuckie, &c., in committee assembled, Humbly Sheweth, that about six years ago, Col. 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 too inconveniently situated to move back, and feeling an unwillingness to lose 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 proceeded to make a purchase of the lands, reserving those in our possession in sufficient tracts for our own use, 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, 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 differences 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 on 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 proportion of the Continental expense.

Finding ourselves on the Frontiers, and being apprehensive that, for the want of a proper legislature, we might become a shelter for such as endeavored to defraud their creditors; considering also the necessity for 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 to reference,) otherways we dismissed their suit, lest we should in any way intrude on the legislature of the colonies. In short, we have endeavoured so strictly to do justice, that we had 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 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 an extract of our proceedings, since our settling on Wataugah, Nonachuckie, &c., in regard to our civil affairs. We have shown you the 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 casues of our forming a committee, and the legality of its election; the same of our court and proceedings, and our reasons for petitioning in regard to our Legislature.

We will now proceed 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 you,) you will then readily judge that there was occasion for them in another place, where we daily expected an 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, till 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 judgment. We pray your mature and deliberate consideration in our behalf, that you may annex us to your Province, (whether as County, district, or other division,) in such manner as may 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 may 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, Chm. Jacob Brown
Charles Robertson Wm. Been
James Robertson John Jones
Zach Isbell George Rusel
John Sevier Jacob Womack
Jas. Smith Robert Lucas

The above signers are the Members in Committee assembled.
Wm. Tatham, Clerk, P. T.

[Note from Sandra Ratledge - For your research convenience, I have taken the liberty to alphabetize the petition's list of signers below and typed them into columns, left to right. Names in orange text and underlined are navigable links to family records with more data. Consult the above listed resource if desiring the original order in which names were signed.]

John BarleyAbraham CoxAndrew Greear, jun.Joseph LuskeElijah Robertson
Joshua Barten, sen.Edward CoxJoseph GreearCharles McCartneyJulius Robertson
Henry Bates, jun.John Cox, jr.Andw. GreerJoseph McCartneyMark Robertson
Henry Bates, jun.John I. CoxJos. GrimesJohn McCormickJohn Robinson
Wm. BatesWm. CoxJohn HaileJaob Mitchell (X mark)Ossa Rose
Hugh BlairDavid CrocketGe. HarttMark MitchellRobert Sevier
Joud Bostin, sen.William CrocketMatt. HawkinsJohn MooreValentine Sevier
Lew. Bowyer, DAChristopher CunninghamDavid HickeyDan'l MorrisAdam Sherrell
William BrokeesChristopher Cunningham, sen.Michael HiderGideon MorrisSamuel Sherrell, Junr.
John BrownJohn DavisOldham HightowerGroves MorrisSamuel Sherrell, Ser.
Jos. BrownThos. DedmonAbednago HixShadrach MorrisEmanuel Shote
Jos. BrownWill'm DodAmbrose HodgeRobert MoselyHenry Siler
Job BumperRice DuncanEdward HopsonTeeter NaveThomas Simpson
Joseph ButlerJohn Dunham (X mark)Joshua HoughtonJohn NeaveJonathan Tipton
Frederick CalvitJoseph DunhamThomas HoughtonWilliam NewberryFrederick Vaughn
Joseph CalvitJas. EaseleyDavid HughesRichard NortonJno. Waddell
Landon CarterJames EasleyTho's HughesWm. OverallJarret Williams
John ChukinbeardRichard FletcherGeorge HutsonElias PeblerIsaac Wilson
William ClarkDrury GoodanLewis JonesWilliam ReevesIsaac Wilson
James CooperAllexander GreearJohn KingWilliam RobersonJacob Womack

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