The Holston Settlements in Western Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee
The first Holston settlement on the Holston River (in Virginia) became the county of Sullivan, Tennessee. A southern settlement was on the Watauga River in Washington County, North Carolina. These settlements were the culmination of the treaty of Hard Labor in 1768 with the Cherokee Indians as well as the experimental survey which was had of the Virginia-North Carolina line in 1771. The settlers were from Pennsylvania. All of the unsettled countries were believed to be part of Virginia. The reason is the topography itself, where the Blue Ridge mountains separate Virginia from Tennessee. The highest peak east of the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Mitchell, was almost impassable. When the explorer, James Robertson, crossed that range in 1770, he was lost in mountains which could not be tracked and wandered for fourteen days without food. When the watershed (a basin-like landform defined by highpoints and ridgelines that descend into lower elevations and stream valleys) changed from the Alleghany Mountains to the Blue Ridge, however, it left an open valley into which to send a population from Virginia into the undefined northern border of North Carolina. After the settlement of the valleys from Harrisburg to Hagertown were settled, backwoodsmen from Pennsylvania poured into tidewater Virginia, pushing their settlements up the Shenandoah River. Thus, a new settlement was established near the Giles and Montgomery Countinies lines called New Castle. There was a fort there, but the settlers were sometimes inside the fort and sometimes working on the land which they had claimed in the Alleghany and Blue Ridge Mountains. A common agricultural practice was to raise small patches of corn during the summer and retreat into the fort during winter, or back to the Holston settlements. Some cultivated their crops using a mere hoe while others used a rude implement made of a forked limb, one prong sharpened to scratch the loose soil, and the other to fasten the horse to, and the main stem answered for a handle. The horses, when not in use, were belled and turned out to feed at large on the nutritious cane and wild grass. The rifle of the pioneer and his dog were mostly his stock in trade, and furnished him an abundant supply of game of all kinds, from the buffalo down to the smaller varieties. The streams furnished fish in any quantity and of the most delicious flavor. They were all marksmen, and dressed in buckskin breeches with skins of other animals for other garments, and coonskin caps to cover the head with the tail hanging down behind. The women wore skins and linsey instead of crinoline, and short gowns and petticoats instead of balmorals and hoop skirts. Source: An Account of Wilburn Waters from Annuals of Southwest Virginia.