KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Tennessee is celebrating its 226-year history of statehood this week. East Tennessee played a large role in the steps taken toward statehood, including the name.

According to the East Tennessee Historical Society, the United States Congress enacted Tennessee’s admission bill on May 31, 1796 after several Federalist leaders in the U.S. Senate opposed it. However, after these Federalists left Philadelphia early, the Senate agreed to a House request for an immediate conference committee meeting. A day later, the state of Tennessee was admitted on June 1, 1796.

The Tennessee Historical Society last year hosted Volunteer State Community College history professor, Davidson County historian and Baylor and Vanderbilt alum Dr. Carole Bucy in a series about the road to statehood, “Tennessee 101: Pre-Contact to 1850.”

Bucy said in the lecture series that early maps of the United States showed how massive the states of Virginia and North Carolina were before Tennessee wasn’t yet a state and had still been comprised of settlements.

“The Continental Congress realized that they had to address this problem,” Bucy explained in her lecture series episode, ‘Steps to Statehood.’ “What they really wanted was for the states – everything had to be voluntary from the state – they wanted the state to voluntarily cede, give back, to the Continental Congress the Confederation Congress, all of the lands between the Appalachian Mountains and the Mississippi River.”

Many of the states did not want to do this, Bucy said, adding that pre-Independence colonists resented being colonists in colonies because of Great Britain’s treatment of them. After more map-drawing, surveying and meetings, by 1785-87 two Land Ordinances created more plans for more specific outlines for territories to become states.

“Anytime Indian lands were taken or purchased, they were divided into sections as well,” Bucy said. Western North Carolina settlements were among the first in our region that asked for protection; a creation of a court across the Appalachian mountains was also ideal, according to Bucy. Before there was Tennessee, the region was part of western North Carolina.

North Carolina ceded its western lands (Tennessee) to the central U.S. government in June 1784, but then repealed it in November due to needing money from land sales. By December 1784, delegates met in Jonesboro to form a new, separate state – Franklin – where modern-day Greene, Washington and Sullivan counties are now. Bucy clarified that Franklin was not the first state name of Tennessee.

“Lots of people think it was,” Bucy said. “In addition to simply not getting admitted to the Union, Franklin was not the (first) name of Tennessee, because it was only put on one small part of the state. And it really wasn’t even Franklin to begin with… the first name that was suggested was ‘Frankland – land of the free.'”

Franklin’s first governor was to be John Sevier. The statehood application then went to Congress, but then delegates from North Carolina and others with western land holdings voiced their opposition. Congress voted it down.

Tennessee wouldn’t become a state until several years later – with John Sevier as its first governor.

East Tennessee played a large part in Tennessee’s road to statehood back in the 18th century; in fact, Knoxville had been the state’s first capital city, as it had been settled in 1786 and founded in 1791. Knoxville was later incorporated in 1815. But by then, the state legislature had relocated to Nashville, which is the current state capital city.

Tanasi, which is located near what is known today as Vonore in Monroe County, is from where the state gets its namesake. The historic Overhill Cherokee settlement is near where the Cherokee had peacefully called home before contact with European settlers.

Historically, the area that is known today as Monroe County was once the land of the Overhill Cherokee, which was the term used by European traders and British colonial explorers centuries ago. The Overhill town of Chota was once recognized as the capital of the entire Cherokee Nation. Many well-known Cherokee leaders called this area home, including Sequoyah, who created the written language of the Cherokee.

Coming up on Saturday, June 4 – the Sequoyah Birthplace Museum will host its Statehood Day event at the Vonore area museum from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. All Statehood Day activities are free along with free admission to the museum.