Episode 2 Transcript

Map of the Proclamation Line of 1763. The land to the east of the line was open to colonization by the British. The area west of the line was closed to colonization and set aside for the Native Americans after the French and Indian War.

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In September, 1780, a ragtag group of backwoodsmen from what is today North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia assembled to begin a journey to defend their homes and belief in liberty. They met their destiny at Kings Mountain and this is their story. The Mitchell County Historical Society presents Footsteps for Freedom: The Road to Kings Mountain. Episode Two: The Royal Proclamation of 1763.

The roots of what would become the American Revolution are varied, but an oft-overlooked trigger was one of the first political acts that affected settlers in the western parts of the colonies: The Royal Proclamation of 1763 by King George the Third.

The British had just won its world spanning war with France known in America as the French and Indian War. Unfortunately, while the war gained Great Britain a tremendous empire including virtually undisputed control of all of North America north of Mexico it also plunged the country deeply into debt. The British Parliament needed to raise money to pay off its tremendous war debt and hit on a novel solution: since the American colonies benefitted from British protection from the French and the Native Americans, they would be taxed to help pay for it. This was the beginning of Parliament passing laws without the American colonies having any formal representation or say in the matter, giving rise to the cry of no taxation without representation. The colonists increasingly protested against Parliament as they put taxes on stamps, tea and various other things in the coming years.

In an effort to gain the support of Native Americans and more importantly prevent the expense of endless future wars with the tribes triggered by the land hungry colonists, King George issued his Proclamation of 1763. It invalidated land grants and prohibited English subjects from settling west of the Eastern Continental Divide, a portion of which runs along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains on Mitchell County’s southern border with McDowell County. This Proclamation intended to stop land speculators and colonists from seeking tracts in the Appalachian Mountains and further west, giving the Crown a monopoly on land purchases from Native Americans in the region.

This directly affected the future Mitchell, Avery, and Yancey Counties as virtually all of their territory lies on the Native American side of the Proclamation line and likely delayed their settlement by the colonists.  Early settler Samuel Bright who had a tract near present-day Mayland Community College was an exception. Bright established a route across the mountains into what would be Tennessee using an old Native American trail. It was named Bright’s Trace. There were also others who had settled in the Toe River Valley and westward into present-day Kentucky, Tennessee, and Virginia. Pioneering scouts such as Daniel Boone visited the area and explored lands in Tennessee and Kentucky.

There were also three settlements made in what is today East Tennessee. The first, the Watauga settlement, was most likely the first American settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains and was located near Johnson City, Tennessee. The second, Carter’s Valley, was established near Elizabethton, Tennessee and the third, the Nolichucky settlement was founded near Greeneville, Tennessee. These settlements were established with the purchase or lease of land from the Cherokee Indians, a direct violation of the Proclamation. All three of them would play vital roles in the Battle of Kings Mountain 17 years later. In 1778, a wagon road was constructed to the Watauga settlement from the piedmont of North Carolina through our area. It became Washington County, North Carolina in 1778 and still carries that name in Tennessee today.

The Proclamation also heightened tensions between the British and the colonists as they sparred over prime real estate in the region France ceded to England following the war. The colonists made treaties with the Native Americans, which the Proclamation declared null and void, even if both sides were in agreement on the transaction.

King George’s edict further inflamed the colonists and, while it brought relative peace with the Native Americans, it created further discontent that, combined with other factors, would flare in the coming years into all-out revolution.

Footsteps for Freedom: The Road to Kings Mountain is a production of the Mitchell County Historical Society, a non-profit organization committed to the preservation of the history, heritage, and culture of Mitchell County, North Carolina. Today’s program was written, narrated, and produced by David Biddix. Special thanks to WTOE radio in Spruce Pine, North Carolina (1470 on the AM dial) and WKYK Radio in Burnsville, North Carolina (940 on the AM dial) for airing our program. You can also download episodes through Apple Podcasts and Google Podcasts. Learn more at mitchellnchistory.org/ovm.

The Mitchell County Historical Society offices are located in the Historic Mitchell County Courthouse in Bakersville. We’d love for you to become a member of our Society! You can learn more about us on the web at mitchellnchistory.org. There, you can also see show notes about today’s episode, links to online resources about the Battle of Kings Mountain and those involved in it, and much more about Mitchell County’s history and heritage. You can also visit us on Facebook. Join us next time as we continue the journey to Patrick Ferguson and the famous battle atop Kings Mountain.