Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Shelby's Fort and Squabble State

The "squabble" over the western Virginia-North Carolina boundary . . . probably had its origins as early as 1749, the year that the tract of land, then known as Sapling Grove and in the Virginia County of Augusta, was surveyed for Col. James PATTON, and "The Line between Virginia and North Carolina, from Peters Creek to Steep Rock Creek, being 90 Miles and 280 Poles, was Survey'd in 1749 By William CHURTON (4) and Daniel WELDON of North Carolina and Joshua FRY and Peter JEFFERSON of Virginia."

The 1665 King's charter for the Proprietorship of Carolina specified its boundary as "All that Province, Territory, or Tract of ground, situate, lying, and being within our Dominions of America aforesaid, extending North and Eastward as far as the North end of Carahtuke River or Gullet; upon a straight Westerly line to Wyonoake Creek, which lies within or about the degrees of thirty six and thirty Minutes [36° 30'], Northern latitude, and so West in a direct line as far as the South Seas; and South and Westward as far as the degrees of twenty nine, inclusive, northern latitude; and so West in a direct line as far as the South Seas." In 1728, the Virginia-Carolina line had been surveyed from the sea to the above-noted Peters Creek, following which, in 1729, seven of the Lords Proprietors sold their interests in North Carolina to the Crown whereupon North Carolina became a royal colony. (The eighth proprietor, Lord Granville, retained economic interest and continued granting land in the northern half of North Carolina. All political functions were under the supervision of the Crown until 1775.)

The 1749 westward extension was much needed, but the halt at Steep Rock Creek (in present-day Johnson, Tennessee's northeasternmost county) was clearly short-sighted given Colonel James PATTON'S 1,946 acre grant. (Augusta Co, VA Surveyors' Book) In fact, the abrupt stop at Steep Rock Creek was the beginning of hundreds of legal disputes over land claimed by Virginia and North Carolina (that part that later became East Tennessee), spanning more than a century and a half, many of them not settled until over a decade after the matter was finally taken to the U.S. Supreme Court in 1890.

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