Early Land Claims for Tennessee Ancestors—Mostly Military Evidence

Many of the original land entries in Tennessee were based on Military Bounty Land Claims. And while they were supposed to apply to the military land district only–along the Cumberland River in Middle Tennessee–claims on the land extended across eastern, middle, and into western Tennessee.

Actually, there were two military sections in Tennessee.

The military district in Tennessee which shows on most historical maps is District #2–along the Cumberland River where it first crosses the present TN-KY boundary all the way west to the spot where the Cumberland River turns north back into KY. District #2 was created in 1783 by North Carolina for two reasons:

  1. Military District #1 was inadequate to supply enough land to fill all the claims that were being submitted.
  2. A substantial area in District #1 became involved in what is known as the Glasgow Land Frauds; and, grants ceased for a time, to allow for investigation into the charges and claims arising from those charges.

Availability of these extensive bounty lands led your ancestors to claim military service–even if they did not serve; or, even if they served on the wrong side; or, even if they served in the wrong state!   Even if, your ancestor was originally from Virginia or Maryland, if he claims military service in North Carolina, for Tennessee lands, you can find him. By using the claim number with related document numbers, you can track your ancestor from Tennessee back to his home county in North Carolina.

At the time District #2 was created, the Tennessee-Kentucky boundary line did not exist as it does today. Tennessee extended well north and included areas that would eventually become Allen, Simpson, and Warren counties (among others) in Kentucky.  The TN-KY line was not finalized until many years later, when Tennessee citizens discovered that they now lived in Kentucky and were given a choice in which state they wanted to record their legal business.

This district includes the Red River with branches beginning across the current KY boundary line in old Simpson County, as well as in Sumner County TN. These branches join to form the Red River which eventually empties into the Cumberland River in present-day Montgomery County (originally Davidson County Tennessee).

Military District #1 was created in 1780 by North Carolina as a military reserve to award lands in lieu of pay to soldiers who served in the Revolutionary War. This district lay between the Powell and Holston Rivers along the Clinch River valley in East Tennessee and may have originally crossed North over the current Virginia boundary line. These rivers joined to form the great Tennessee River.

Your favorite Tennessee Genealogist, Arlene Eakle   http://arleneeakle.com

PS The records are now indexed and printed. Stay tuned for the bibliography.

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