Richard Henderson and the Transylvania Company

A circa 1910-1930 image of Henderson from the N.C. Museum of History

A circa 1910-1930 image of Henderson from the N.C. Museum of History

On March 17, 1775, Richard Henderson’s Transylvania Company purchased much of the land that is now Kentucky and Tennessee from the Cherokee through a treaty signed at Sycamore Shoals on the Watauga River.

Born in 1735 in Granville County, Henderson became a lawyer and was appointed associate justice of the Salisbury District Superior Court. As early as 1764, Daniel Boone acted as an agent for Henderson’s land company. Henderson retired from the bench in 1773 and organized what became the Transylvania Company in order to develop lands on the Trans-Appalachian frontier. He established the colony of Transylvania with the settlement of Boonesborough on the Kentucky River, though Virginia, North Carolina and the Continental Congress all refused to recognize Transylvania’s attempts to become the fourteenth colony.

Without federal recognition, the Transylvania Company eventually lost control of the land. Henderson continued to engage in land speculation and later led a group of settlers into the Cumberland Valley in Tennessee. There he founded French Lick, known today as Nashville.

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