Watauga Association – Formation of Washington District – May 1772

A semi-autonomous government had been formed much before the American Revolution for liberty by the settlers. It was called as the Watauga Association. The association was formed in now, Elizabethton, Tennessee. Though the association was active for few years its influence over trans-Appalachian region is significant. The Watauga Association laid a strong foundation for the culmination of State of Tennessee in later years.

Watauga Association - Map of the Purchased Lands along the bank of Watauga River - 1772

Watauga Association – Map of the Purchased Lands along the bank of Watauga River – 1772

Watauga Association – The Beginning

It was 1772 when settlers from Europe started arriving on the lands of Nolichucky, Holston and Watauga river valleys. Some of them were believed to be the regulators who escaped from the battle scene in Alamance creek. The settlers chose the Watauga river side valley as their place to live.

The settlers thought that the riverside valley of Watauga was a part of Virginia. But they were not aware that the land was in fact ruled by Cherokees. The royal court was extremely upset as they called the settlers as debtors and violators of the law. The British issued an evacuation order for the settlers.

Watauga Association – Formation of the Association

The settlers were clever. They did not leave the Watauga river valley; instead they held talks with Cherokees to lease the land for 10 years. The Cherokees approved the request and granted the land to the settlers. Settlers began to plan a ‘self government’ to defend and safeguard their territories.

Watauga Association – The Washington District

The settlers purchase the land in 1775 from Cherokees. However this did not go well with the King’s Government and a group of Cherokees. The settlers changed the name of their Association from Watauga Association to ‘Washington District’ that belongs to ‘United Colonies’. They also revised their Government’s structure and changed it to the ‘Committee of Safety’ to govern the territories.

Watauga Association - War between Cherokees and Settlers - May 1776

Watauga Association – War between Cherokees and Settlers – May 1776

In 1776 the residents of Watauga river valley filed a request called ‘Watauga petition’ to include Washington District into Virginia.  In the petition it was stated that the ‘Watauga Association was formed to protect the Watauga and Nolichucky valleys from thieves and debtors and for the purpose of carrying “Public business”. But the petition of rejected by Virginia. However the district was included by North Carolina in the same year as per the request of the Washington District.

Cherokees were supporting British and they launched a war on Watauga settlers in 1776. But the Cherokees could not win the battle and they ended up signing a treaty called Long Island treaty and gave away the land to United Colonies.

Watauga Association – The role of Watauga Association in the American Revolution

The brave Wataugans especially the men from the army joined forces to fight for liberty in American Revolution. Some of the significant events in American Revolution that saw the Wataugan army men are:

  • Battle of point pleasant , 1774
  • The Wataugan military men sent armed troops to defend Charleston, South Carolina in 1776.
  • The Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780 had many Wataugan men who fought against the supporters of Royal Government.
  • Battle of Yorktown, 1781 had a prominent Wataugan named William Tatham.

The American history considers Wataugan Association as an inspiration that has laid foundation for the formation of Cumberland Compact, Clarksville Compact and State of Franklin. However State of Franklin did not establish. There is a difference of opinion among the historians of recent years and 19th and 20th century about Watauga Association.

Today’s historians state that the settlers did not establish ‘self government’ to oppose British. But historians of 19th and 20th century stated that ‘Watauga Association’ as one of the significant factor for American Revolution for independence.

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