The Watauga Association was a semi-independent government formed during 1772 by frontier colonists living in the length of the Watauga River in what is currently known as Elizabethton in Tennessee. Even though it continued only some years, the Watauga Association offered a foundation for what afterward developed into the Tennessee State and probably influenced other western border governments in the trans-Appalachian area. North Carolina captured the Watauga settlement region, by then recognized as the Washington District, during November 1776. The region was positioned under a county government within a year, turning into Washington County in North Carolina, during November 1777. This is the existing Carter County, Washington County, and other regions currently situated in the northeastern part of the Tennessee State.
As there is no proof that the Watauga Association ever declared to be outside the independent country of the British Crown, historians have regularly mentioned the Association as the earliest effort by American-born migrants to form a self-governing democratic government. Lord Dunmore, the Virginia governor, called the Watauga Association a "hazardous example" of Americans in 1774, forming a regime different from and sovereign of his majesty's authority. Theodore Roosevelt, the then President, later wrote that the Watauga colonizers were the original men of American birth to set up a free and self-governing society on the continent. As no copy of the compact of the settlers, called the Articles of the Watauga Association, has ever been discovered, associated documents tend to mean that the Watauga colonists considered themselves as British citizens.
European colonists started arriving in the Nolichucky, Watauga, and Holston river valleys during the last part of the 1760s and the early part of the 1770s, most moving from Virginia through the Great Valley, even though some were supposed to have been Regulators escaping North Carolina subsequent to their defeat at the Battle of Alamance. These colonists erroneously believed the Nolichucky and Watauga valleys were a fraction of lands yielded to Virginia by the Cherokee during the Treaty of Lochaber in 1770, but a succeeding review by Colonel John Donelson established that these lands were still division of the Cherokee province. As resolution on lands west of colonial limits dishonored the 1763 Royal Proclamation, the Nolichucky and Watauga colonists were ordered to depart.
The settlers of Watauga and Nolichucky bargained a 10-year rent directly with the Cherokee during May 1772 and being outer the claims of any settlement, time-honored the Watauga Association to offer essential government functions. The lease and the succeeding acquisition of these lands during 1775 were considered against the law by the British Crown, and were fervently opposed by a developing group of the Cherokee guided by the young leader, Dragging Canoe. With the eruption of the Revolutionary War of America in April 1775, the colonists prepared themselves into the "Washington District," faithful to the "united colonies," and created a Committee of Safety to administer it, marking the conclusion of the supposed "Watauga Republic".
The Cherokee, who were allied with the British, commenced an all-out attack against the settlements during July 1776, but were severely defeated. The Cherokee signed an agreement during 1777, called the Treaty of Long Island, yielding the power of the Nolichucky and Watauga valleys to the American settlements.