John Sevier

Militia Commander and Tennessee Governor

Biography

Painting of John SevierJohn Sevier (pronounced “severe”) was born in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and was married by 16. He supported his family the usual frontier ways: furs, farming, land, and a tavern. The family moved to what now is Tennessee (then part of North Carolina) in the 1770s, and he was elected to the N.C. Provincial Congress. He fought Native Americans immediately prior to the Revolution. In 1776 he was named lieutenant colonel in the Washington District Militia, which he led four years later as part of the Overmountain Campaign resulting in victory at King’s Mountain, S.C. His wife died a few months before. Later he married a woman he had caught, literally, after she rescued herself from a Cherokee attack and climbed into Fort Watauga. Much of his war action was against Loyalists and the Cherokees, including a raid across the mountains in 1781 that destroyed Tuckaseegee and five other villages. Sevier was among western county leaders who jumped the gun in 1784 by forming a new state before Congress had approved it! Their declaration of a State of Franklin was met with vehement resistance from the N.C. government and led to violence. Sevier was elected governor, but the state effectively ended when his term did four years later, due to a lack of support by area citizens. Arrested for treason, he was never tried and swore renewed allegiance to N.C. He was elected to the General Assembly and named brigadier general of the militia. Sevier was involved in organizing the State of Tennessee and elected its first governor. In his later years he was elected to the U.S. Senate and House. Given his frontier history, perhaps it is fitting he died on a mission at age 70 to set a boundary with the Creek Nation in what now is Alabama. His remains were later moved to a memorial in Knoxville, Tenn.

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