Yes, you read the title right, the US State of Franklin really existed, but not for long.
In 1783, many of the 13 colonies looked nothing like today modern states. Virginia was one of the larges states and extended all the way westward to the Mississippi River, encompassing most of today’s West Virginia and Kentucky as well as southern parts of Ohio and Indiana. North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia also extended from the eastern coast westward to the Mississippi River.
In North Carolina, the colonial and new state legislature paid little attention to the western part of the colony/state. From today’s western border of North Carolina to the Mississippi River, the area consisted of four large counties – Davidson, Greene, Sullivan and Washington.
At one point, the North Carolina legislature passed the Land Grab Act to open up the sale of land in the western part of the state. In about 7 months, many of the members of the North Carolina legislatures and their business partners bought up four million acres of land. However, a new legislature was elected and they nullified the land warrants. It was largely due to the fact that many of the land warrants made by the members of the legislature were questionable and fraudulent which is why the new legislature nullified the Land Grab Act.
The issue revolved around the taxes that the new federal government was trying to collect to help pay for the Revolutionary War. The western counties were not heavily populated so they became more of a financial burden to the state than an asset. Additionally, the legislature did not want to spend any resources in providing protection for the inhabitants in the western counties since they were having problems with Indians and a number of criminals who went west to escape arrest.
As a result, the North Carolina legislature ceded the land to the federal government. The residents of the four western counties felt they were better protected and represented by the federal government than they were by the North Carolina legislature.
On this day, August 23, 1784, delegates from all but one of the western counties met and after hours of heated debate, voted to declare their independence from North Carolina and establish the new state of Franklin.
In 1788, the State of Franklin voted to rejoin North Carolina in order to obtain help from North Carolina since Indian attacks had increased in a number of Franklin settlements. It had also applied to the US Congress for statehood, but the bid for statehood was unsuccessful. Therefore, the state of Franklin, although never officially a state, existed for only four short years. Much of what made up Franklin eventually became part of the state of Tennessee in 1796.
Sources for the above includes: State of Franklin Declares Independence; State of Franklin; In Search of the State of Franklin; State of Franklin; State of Franklin; The Mysterious Lost State of Franklin