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The Transylvania Company

was organized as the Louisa Company by Richard Henderson, in August 1774; it was reorganized as the Transylvania Company in January 1775. Henderson organized the company in hopes of exploiting and colonizing the area that now comprises most of Kentucky and Tennessee. On March 17, 1775, he met with a large contingent of Cherokee Indians near present-day Elizabethton, Tennessee, and came away with a "deed" to all the territory embraced by the Ohio, Kentucky, and Cumberland rivers, as well as a tract through the Cumberland Gap; in return, the Cherokee received trade goods valued at about 10,000 British Pounds. Henderson then hired Daniel Boone, who had previously explored area, to improve the Wilderness Road into the area and find a suitable place for a settlement.

map of Transylvania

In May 1775, Henderson organized a provisional democratic government for his colony, which he called Transylvania, and began petitioning the Continental Congress for recognition of Transylvania as the 14th colony. Unfortunately for Henderson, both Virginia and North Carolina, the two "real colonies" within which his claim lay, refused to recognize his claim to the land, saying that the Cherokee never owned the land and could not, therefore, sell it to anyone. As a result, Congress never gave Henderson's petition serious consideration.

In December 1776, Virginia assumed formal control over that portion of Henderson's claim within its jurisdiction, and created Kentucky County. In November 1778, Virginia voided all Transylvania Company-issued titles within Kentucky County. North Carolina voided Henderson's claims in 1783.

Although Henderson's dream of establishing a 14th state had been dashed, his efforts did not go unrewarded. Virginia and North Carolina each awarded Henderson and his associates 200,000 acres for their labor and expenses in having played a major part in the settlement of what are now Kentucky and Tennessee.

Daniel Boone
Cumberland Gap

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The Robinson Library >> American History >> United States: Local History and Description >> Old Southwest >> Kentucky

This page was last updated on March 16, 2018.