The Mitchell County Historical Society presents Footsteps for Freedom: The Road to Kings Mountain. These articles will highlight our role in what Thomas Jefferson declared was “the turning point of the American Revolution,” – the Battle of Kings Mountain.
In 1763, there were 13 fledgling British colonies along the North American coastline. Before the French and Indian War, which lasted from 1754-1763, the British had generally left the colonists alone. However, after fighting and winning the French and Indian War in America and several other wars in Europe, the British were greatly in debt. Thus, the British Parliament changed the way that they governed their American colonies. Now the colonists were going to have to pay heavier taxes.
The colonists were obviously angry that the British began passing laws without providing any colonial representation in the process. “No taxation without representation,” remember? The British tightened the reins on their American colonies in other ways as well. King George III and Parliament drew a line along the crest of the Appalachian Mountains, down through the colonies from Maine to Georgia. This line was known at the time as the “watershed” line. All the water east of the line flowed into the Atlantic Ocean; all the water to the west of the line flowed into the Gulf of Mexico. Today we call that line the Eastern Continental Divide.
The king declared no American colonist should settle to the west of that line and any who had should move back east. This was so the British would not have to provide resources to protect colonists beyond the line, and the land to the west (which they had won from the French in the war) would be set aside for Native Americans. The area where Mitchell County is today would have been on the western side of the Proclamation line in the area reserved for Native Americans.
Many North Carolinians ignored the British proclamation. Some, such as Daniel Boone, explored lands all the way into Tennessee and Kentucky. For many years hardy settlers who craved “elbow room” sought those lands beyond the mountains and moved their families there. One such place was the Watauga Settlement, south of the Holston River, on the Watauga and Nolichucky Rivers in the colony of North Carolina.
There were three main settlements in the area, known as Watauga, Carter’s Valley, and Nolichucky.The Watauga Settlement was the first community established on North Carolina’s western frontier and holds the distinction of being perhaps the first American settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains. What about the Native Americans that lived there? These early settlers bought or leased land from the Cherokee. When the Watauga Settlement became Washington County, NC, in 1778, a wagon road was built across the mountains into this settlement, ignoring the Proclamation of 1763. According to Jason Deyton, “vast hordes of emigrants, including a future president of the United States, were to pass over it on their way to the west. It was the road, in part or least, over which John Sevier and his men were to pass on their way to King’s Mountain in 1780.” The story continues…