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Date of Award

Spring 2012

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


Department of History


This thesis examines the events that produced a uniquely Tennessean identity before the 1796 statehood through a careful examination of the late colonial, Revolutionary, and Early Republic periods in the Appalachian backcountry. It argues that land, as a tangible embodiment of the republican notion of liberty, was the chief motivation for the actions of these backcountry settlers in the latter half of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. It first addresses specific circumstances concerning the motivation for the migration of hundreds, even thousands, of individuals across the Appalachian Mountains into Cherokee lands from four distinct originating colonies: Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and North Carolina. It then examines the way in which the American Revolution and subsequent War for Independence played into the cultural, social, economic, and familial connectedness of the settlers in the Tennessee country. The final portion of the thesis addresses the post-Revolution and Early Republic periods in which the Tennessee country went through several governmental organizations before attaining statehood. Here, still, the notion that liberty is found in land ownership is prevalent as Tennesseans sought legitimacy in the new United States.

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