Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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SEVIER, John, pioneer, born in Rockingham county, Virginia, 23 September, 1745" died near Fort Decatur, Georgia, 24 September, 1815. He was descended from an ancient French family who spelled their name Xavier'. His father, Valentine, emigrated to this country from London about 1740, and, settling in Rockingham county John was educated, until he was sixteen years of age, at the academy in Fredericksburg, Virginia, married the next year, and founded the village of Newmarket in the valley of the Shenandoah. He there became celebrated as an Indian fighter, was a victor in many battles with the neighboring tribes, and in 1772 was appointed captain in the Virginia line. In the spring of that year he removed to Watauga, a settlement on the western slope of the Alleghanies, and, by his courage, address, and military ability, became one of the principal men in the colony. When Lord Dunmore's war began in 1773 against the Shawnee and other Indian tribes, he resumed his rank in the Virginia line, served throughout the campaign, and on 10 October, 1774, took part ill the battle of Point Pleasant. At the beginning of the Revolution he drew up the memorial of the citizens of Watauga to the North Carolina legislature asking to be annexed to that colony, that "they might aid in the unhappy contest, and bear their full proportion of the expenses of the war." Their petition was granted and the whole of what is now Tennessee was organized into a county of North Carolina, then known as Washington district. Sevier was chosen a delegate to the State convention, and in the "declaration of rights" introduced a clause thus defining the limits of the state" "That it shall not be so construed as to prevent the establishment of one or more governments westward of this state, by consent of the legislature," showing that he had already in mind the establishment of a separate common wealth beyond the Alleghanies. In the spring of 1777 the legislature of North Carolina met, and Sevier was again a representative from Watauga, and procured for the settlement the establishment of courts and the extension of state laws. On his return he was appointed clerk of the county and district judge, and with James Robertson was in reality in control of all judicial and administrative functions in the settlement. He was elected colonel by the over-mountain people in the same year, enlisted every able-bodied male between the ages of sixteen and fifty in the militia, and commanded that force in innumerable Indian fights. He entered the territory of tile savages in 1779, burned their towns, and fought the successful battle of Boyd's Creek. With Colonel Isaac Shelby, in 1780, he planned the battle of King's Mountain, raised 480 men, was appointed their colonel, and in a critical moment of the action rushed on the enemy, up the slope of the mountain, within short range of their muskets, and turned the fortunes of the day. For this set-vice he received thanks and a sword and pistol from the North Carolina legislature. A fellow-soldier says of him, in that battle: " His eyes were flames of fire, and his words were electric bolts crashing down the ranks of the enemy." He subsequently rendered important services at Musgrove's mill and in defending the frontier against the ravages of the Indians. In 1781 he conducted several expeditions against the Chickamauga towns, was foremost in many skermishes as well as treaties and negotiations with the Indians, and was revered and loved by the settlers as their father and friend. At the close of the war the Watauga settlement had widely extended its borders, and contained a large and active population. But the vast territory which is now the state of Tennessee, comprising" about 29,000,000 acres, brought with its possession the obligation to bear a correspondingly large part of the Federal debt. Therefore, in June, 1784, tile legislature of North Carolina ceded it to the general government. When the news of this act reached the settlers they determined to form a government of their own, and then apply for admission into the Union. They were the more ready to do this as they considered themselves neglected by the North Carolina government. Accordingly, on 23 August, 1784, they called a convention, organized a constitution and state government, elected John Sevier governor, arid named their state Franklin, in honor of Benjamin Franklin. In the mean time, before the cession had been legally concluded, the legislature of North Carolina met again and made haste to undo what had been done at the former session. They gave the Watauga settlers a superior court, formed the militia into a brigade, and appointed Sevier brigadier-general. After this Sevier earnestly opposed the scheme of a separate government, and advised all his compatriots to take no further steps toward it; but public opinion was strongly against a return to North Carolina, and he finally consented to accept the governorship of the new state, taking the oath of office on 1 March, 1785. Within sixty days he established a superior court, reorganized the militia, and founded Washington college, the first institution of classical learning west of the Alleghanies. He also entered into treaties of peace with the Cherokee Indians after continued warfare for fifteen years, and for two years governed with unbroken prosperity. But dissatisfaction arose in North Carolina, and at the end of that time Governor Richard Caswell issued a proclamation declaring the new government to be a revolt and ordering that it be at once abandoned. Violence followed the attempt to subdue it, but the settlers finally submitted to a superior force. Sevier was captured and imprisoned, but rescued, and the country was ceded to the United States government under the title of the "territory south of the Ohio river." Sevier then took an oath of allegiance to the United States, was commissioned brigadier-general of that section in 1789, and in 1790 chosen to congress as the first representative from the valley of the Mississippi. He conducted the Etowah campaign against the Creeks and Cherokees in 1793, which completely broke the spirit of the Indians, so that they did not attack the French Broad and Holston settlements again during Sevier's lifetime, and in 1796, when the territory was admitted into the Union as the state of Tennessee, he was chosen its first governor. He served three consecutive terms, was re-elected three successive times after 1803, and was chosen a member of congress in 1811, and was returned to that body for a third term in 1815, but died before he could take his seat. Near the close of his congressional career he was appointed by President Monroe to act as United States commissioner to settle the boundary-line between Georgia and the Creek territory in Alabama. But the labor was too great, and he died in his tent, attended only by a few soldiers and Indians, His biographer, James R. Gilmore, says of him : "He was in the active service of his country from a boy of eighteen till he died at the age of seventy years. During all this period he was leader of men, and a prime mover in the important events which occurred beyond the Alleghanies. His sway was potent and undisputed in civil as well as military affairs. As long as he lived he was the real seat of power. A rule like his was never before nor since known in this country." A monument to his honor is erected in Nashville, and Sevier county, Tennessee, is named for him. See "The Rear-Guard of the Revolution," by James R. Gilmore (New York, 1886), and "Life of John Sevier," by the same author (1887).--His nephew, Ambrose Hundley, senator, born in Greene county, Tennessee, 4 November, 1801; died in Little Rock, Arkansas, 31 December, 1848, received little early education, removed to Arkansas territory in 1822, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1823. He was clerk of the territorial legislature and a member of that body, in 1823-'5, a delegate to congress in 1827-'36, haying been chosen as a Democrat, and United States senator from the latter year till 1848. During this service he was chairman of the committee on Indian affairs for many years, of that on foreign relations, and in 1848 was a United States commissioner to negotiate peace with Mexico.
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