The Watauga Association (sometimes referred to as the Republic of Watauga) was a semi-autonomous government created in 1772 by frontier settlers living along the Watauga River in what is now present day Elizabethton, Tennessee. Although it lasted only a few years, the Watauga Association provided a basis for what later developed into the state of Tennessee and likely influenced other western frontier governments in the trans-Appalachian region. North Carolina annexed the Watauga settlement area, by then known as the Washington District, in November 1776. Within a year, the area was placed under a county government, becoming Washington County, North Carolina, in November 1777. (This is the present day Washington County, Carter County and other areas now located in the northeast part of the state of Tennessee.)
While there is no evidence that the Watauga Association ever claimed to be outside the sovereign territory of the British Crown, historians have often cited the Association as the earliest attempt by American-born colonists to form an independent democratic government. In 1774, Virginia governor Lord Dunmore called the Watauga Association a “dangerous example” of Americans forming a government “distinct from and independent of his majesty’s authority.” President Theodore Roosevelt later wrote that the Watauga settlers were the “first men of American birth to establish a free and independent community on the continent.” While no copy of the settlers’ compact, known as the Articles of the Watauga Association, has ever been found, related documents tend to imply that the Watauga settlers considered themselves British subjects.