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John Sevier

Gov. John Sevier

  • March 30, 1796 - September 21, 1801
    September 23, 1803 - September 20, 1809
  • Democratic-Republican
  • September 23, 1745
  • September 24, 1815
  • Virginia
  • Married twice--Sarah Hawkins, Catherine Sherrill; eighteen children
  • Representative
  • Army


JOHN SEVIER was born in Augusta County, Virginia. He studied law after attending Augusta Academy in Staunton, Virginia. He farmed for a decade and then moved to the Tennessee country. He was a delegate from the Watauga Settlements to the Provisional Congress of North Carolina in 1776, and as a Lieutenant Colonel took part in the Battle of King’s Mountain in 1780. He was Clerk of the Washington County Court (then in North Carolina and now in Tennessee) from 1778 to 1785 and governor of the proclaimed “State of Franklin” from 1785 to 1788. [What is now Tennessee was originally an area of North Carolina known as Washington County. Indebtedness to the federal government led North Carolina to cede the area to federal authorities but colonists who opposed the cession sought admission to statehood instead, first under the name “Franklin,” in honor of Benjamin Franklin. Despite North Carolina’s opposition to the move-which at one point included Sevier’s arrest-the territory won statehood as Tennessee in 1796.] He served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1789 until 1791. He was unanimously elected in convention as Tennessee’s first Governor and inaugurated in March, 1796. He was reelected the following year and again by popular vote-,295 to 12-in 1799. After a two-year break, he defeated incumbent Governor Archibald Roane in 1803 and again in 1805, and won election one final time in 1807 running unopposed. As governor, Sevier helped define Tennessee’s boundaries, negotiated with Indian tribes, and planned legislation designed to promote the state’s growth and progress. After retiring from the state house, he served one term in the Tennessee General Assembly, after which he was elected to three successive terms in the U.S. House of Representatives, serving until his death in Fort Decatur, Alabama while working with a congressional committee to fix the boundary line between Georgia and the Creek Indian Territory in Alabama. His remains were interred in Knoxville. Sevier County is named for him.


Biographical Directory of the U.S. Congress

The National Cyclopaedia of American Biography, Vol. 3. New York: James T. White & Company.

Past Governors of Tennessee

Philips, Margaret I. The Governors of Tennessee. Gretna, LA: Pelican Publishing Company, 2001.

Sobel, Robert, and John Raimo, eds. Biographical Directory of the Governors of the United States, 1789-1978, Vol. 4. Westport, CT: Meckler Books, 1978. 4 vols.

White, Robert H. Messages of the Governors of Tennessee, 1796-1821. Nashville: The Tennessee Historical Commission, Vol. 1, 1952.

Recent Tennessee Governors