Voices of the Land: The People of East Tennessee

Section 3: A Land Divided
Natalie L. Haslam Signature Gallery

A Land Divided

East and west Tennessee will, in the end … form two separate states … by the limits which nature herself has formed … in separating them by the high mountains of Cumberland, and … by the total difference in their commercial relations.
—F. A. Michaux, M. D., traveling botanist, 1805


With the frontier behind them, East Tennesseans turned to building their society—only to find that the land they had struggled so hard to possess now created barriers. The mountain-valley terrain isolated them from the rest of their state, restricted trade routes, and limited agriculture. They watched as wealth and political power shifted toward Middle Tennessee. They began to think of themselves as “East Tennesseans,” rather than just Tennesseans. This sense of apartness deepened with the approaching debate over secession and civil war. The region would choose its own course—and often with disastrous consequences.