Almost as soon as settlers began living on the Tennessee frontier there were movements to form government. Dissatisfied with the protection offered by North Carolina’s distant government, settlers drew up their own governments as early as the 1780s. The Watauga Association and Cumberland Compact were early forms of government. In 1785, settlers in northeastern Tennessee seceded from North Carolina and established the State of Franklin. The experiment was short-lived, but foretold that in the future the lands west of the Smoky Mountains would be their own state.
Before Tennessee could become a state, however, it was a territory of the United States. In 1789 North Carolina ratified its own constitution and in doing so ceded its western lands, the Tennessee country, to the U.S. government. These lands eventually became known as the Southwest Territory and in 1790 president George Washington appointed William Blount its territorial governor.
Blount was a 41-year-old land speculator and businessman who had campaigned actively for the position. A veteran of the War for Independence, Blount knew George Washington and was one of the signers of the U.S. Constitution in 1787.
At the time of its establishment, the Southwest Territory was some 43,000 square miles in area. The population of 35,000 was centered in two main areas: the northeastern corner and the Cumberland settlements near present-day Nashville .
Governor Blount moved quickly to establish a territorial government. In October 1790 he arrived in Washington County and established the state’s first capitol in the home of William Cobb. This simple wood frame house known as Rocky Mount would be the territory’s capital for the next 18 months before it moved to James White’s Fort in Knoxville .
The territory’s first election was held in 1793 and the resulting Council met a year later. They established the town of Knoxville , created a tax rate, and chartered Greeneville and Blount Colleges. They also ordered a census in 1795, which showed a population of more than 77,000 people and support for statehood.
The territory had met the federal requirements for statehood, and so Blount and other territorial leaders set out to make Tennessee a state. They called a constitutional convention, and delegates spent three weeks writing Tennessee’s first constitution. The first statewide poll elected John Sevier governor of the new state. Meanwhile Tennessee’s request to become a state was being debated in Washington, where finally, on June 1, 1796, President Washington signed the statehood bill and Tennessee became the 16th state in the Union.
The new state of Tennessee attracted settlers who were drawn by cheap land and the opportunity it represented. Between 1790 and 1800 the state’s population tripled, and by 1810 Tennessee’s population had grown to 250,000. The expansion caused a shift in power as the middle and western parts of the state became more populated. The capital moved from Knoxville  to Nashville  in 1812.
Life during the early 19th century in Tennessee was largely rural. For the subsistence farmers who made up the majority of the state’s population, life was a relentless cycle of hard work. Many families lived in one- or two-room cabins and spent their days growing food and the fibers needed to make their own clothes; raising animals that supplied farm power, meat, and hides; building or repairing buildings and tools; and cutting firewood in prodigious quantities.
Small-hold farmers often owned no slaves. Those who did only owned one or two and worked alongside them.
Children provided valuable labor on the Tennessee farm. Boys often plowed their first furrow at age nine, and girls of that age were expected to mind younger children, help cook, and learn the skills of midwifery, sewing, and gardening. While women’s time was often consumed with child-rearing, cooking, and sewing, the housewife worked in the field alongside her husband when she was needed.
There were no public schools on the frontier and the few private schools that existed were not accessible to the farming class. Religious missionaries were often the only people who could read and write in a community, and the first schools were established by churches. Presbyterian, Methodist, and Baptist ministers were the first to reach many settlements in Tennessee.
Settlements were spread out and few had established churches. As a result, the camp meeting became entrenched in Tennessee culture. The homegrown spirituality of the camp meeting appealed to Tennesseans’ independent spirit, which looked suspiciously at official religion and embraced the informal and deeply personal religion of the camp meeting.
The meetings were major events drawing between a few hundred and thousands of people. Wilma Dykeman writes: “From distances as far as 40, 50 and more miles, they came in wagons, carriages, a wide array of vehicles, and raised their tents . . . They spent the summer days and nights surrounded by seemingly endless expanse of green forest, supplied with a bounty of cold pure water, breathing that acrid blue wood smoke from rows of campfires and the rich smells of food cooking over glowing red coals, listening to the greetings of old friends, the voices of children playing, crying, growing drowsy, a stamping of the horses, and the bedlam of the meeting itself once the services had begun.”
Camp services were passionate and emotional, reaching a feverish pitch as men and women were overtaken by the spirit. Many camp meetings attracted both black and white participants.
Tennesseans were among the “War Hawks” in Congress who advocated for war with Great Britain in 1812. The conflict was seen by many as an opportunity to rid their borders once and for all of all Indians. The government asked for 2,800 volunteers and 30,000 Tennesseans offered to enlist. This is when Tennessee’s nickname as the Volunteer State was born.
Nashville  lawyer, politician, and businessman Andrew Jackson was chosen as the leader of the Tennessee volunteers. Despite their shortage of supplies and lack of support from the War Department, Jackson’s militia prevailed in a series of lopsided victories. Given command of the southern military district, Andrew Jackson led U.S. forces at the Battle of New Orleans on January 8, 1815. The ragtag group inflicted a crushing defeat on the British, and despite having occurred after the signing of the peace treaty with Great Britain, the battle was a victory that launched Jackson onto the road to the presidency.