Nine US States You've Never Heard Of - Part Iby Joe McAlhany
On New Year's Day, 2017, the map of the United States changed, although relatively few Americans picked up on it. The border between South and North Carolina was realigned just slightly - so slightly that it affected only 19 households. This may be a big deal for the woman whose master bedroom is now bisected by the state line, but for the rest of us, it is imperceptible, the kind of change that is impossible to see on a map.
The era of drastically fluctuating state borders and brand new states appears to be behind the United States - at least for now. There has not been a major change to the map since Hawaii was admitted as a state nearly sixty years ago. Talk about statehood for Washington, D.C. or Puerto Rico, or dividing California into a series of smaller states, remains just that: talk. It is easy to take the present shape and boundaries of the United States for granted, to think of the country as fixed, unchanging, permanent.
However, collectors of maps of the United States are able to take a different perspective. For centuries, the nation was in near-constant flux, as documented in painstaking (and sometimes inaccurate) detail on antique maps. There have been major changes in cartography, usually tied to the shattering of certain cartographic myths: California has gone from being an island to being attached to the mainland, there are now five Great Lakes instead of just one, and the Sea of the West has dried up and disappeared. But for connoisseurs, the real thrill is in the smaller details: changing place names, county development, new territories, and shifting state lines.
Collectors who really dig deep will start to find the would-be states that have been lost to history, proposed or provisional states that were never officially part of the Union. We decided to investigate the brief lifespans of nine of these lost states and territories. Many of these only appear on a handful of maps published in atlases or geography books over a narrow period of time, which makes finding them even more exciting. Locating one of these "almost" states is to catch a glimpse of an alternate map of the United States that has been erased by history.
New State of Franklin on "A Map of the States of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia...," by Joseph Purcell, from Morse's American Geography (dated 1792). [Click on the image to view this map in the OWA archive.]
Located in present-day Tennessee, Franklin (originally called Frankland) was nearly the 14th state of the United States. It was formed by settlers of what was then the western part of North Carolina, back when the state stretched to the Mississippi River. Fed up with the North Carolina government over high taxes and lack of protection from Native Americans, these frontiersmen declared independence from the state in August 1784. They drafted a constitution and elected leaders, including a governor, John Sevier, a Virginian of French descent who would eventually become the first governor of Tennessee.
On May 16th, 1785, the settlers submitted a petition for statehood for Frankland. Seven states voted yes for statehood, but under the Articles of Confederation, a 2/3 majority was required to admit a new state. Having declared its independence from North Carolina, yet being denied statehood by the Confederation, the State of Franklin began operating as a de facto independent republic with its own constitution, courts, taxation system, and bartering economy. Over the next few years, economic growth was stagnant and conflicts between the Cherokees and the North Carolina government escalated. The North Carolina state government was determined to take its western territories back, and after Franklinites rejected an offer to have back taxes waived in exchange for reconciliation, North Carolina decided to force the issue.
The conflicts with both the Native Americans and the state of North Carolina came to a head in 1788, after attacks from an alliance of Cherokees, Chickasaws, and other tribes pushed Sevier and the Franklinites to turn to the Spanish crown for help. Fearing that Spain would gain control of Franklin, North Carolina officials arrested Sevier in August 1788 to prevent him from striking a deal with Spain. Sevier's supporters sprung him from jail soon thereafter, but the deal with Spain was no longer pursued.
In February 1789, John Sevier and his fellow Franklin officials turned themselves in and swore their allegiance to North Carolina. The dream of Franklin was officially over after nearly four years of strife. But the State of Franklin persevered on maps. From 1787 to 1838, the names Frankland, Franklin, and Franklinia appeared on more than 30 maps. The spirited and persistent Franklinites would no doubt be pleased with their would-be state's continued cartographical existence in the decades after its dissolution.
You can read our more in-depth history of the State of Franklin here.
Franklinia, wedged between Tennassee and North Carolina, on "The United States of America Confirmed by Treaty. 1783," by Hamilton, Adams & Company (ca. 1831). Note New Iberia west of the Mississippi, where George Morgan's proposed colony on Spanish territory was supposed to be located. [Click on the image to view this map in the OWA archive.]
Morgania and New Madrid (at left) with Franklinia (at right) on "United States in North America," by Sir Richard Phillips, from Mavor's History of the Discovery and Settlement...of North and South America, and of the West Indies (ca. 1809). [Click on the image to view this map in the OWA archive.]
Appearing to the west of Franklin on some maps is the unofficial colony of Morgania, which lay along the western banks of the Mississippi. The colony is named after Colonel George Morgan, an ambitious and opportunistic merchant and land speculator. In 1784, Morgan was a stockholder in the Indiana project to settle a sizable tract of land in present-day West Virginia. After a protracted legal battle with the state of Virginia sunk this prospect, Morgan sought 2 million acres along the Mississippi River in Illinois Country, seeing the commercial and agricultural potential in the region. But in the summer of 1788, Morgan scrapped negotiations with Congress over the Illinois land deal in order to capitalize on an opportunity with the Spanish crown.
The Spanish were desperate to curb westward expansion into their Louisiana Territory. They needed to lure American settlers who would be loyal to the Spanish crown to the barely-populated western bank of the Mississippi. For their loyalty, these settlers would be rewarded with land grants, trade access, and religious freedom. Morgan jumped at the chance and proposed establishing a colony opposite of the mouth of the Ohio River. He would be in charge of establishing the colony's government and would be able to profit from land sales to new settlers. Working with the support of Spanish ambassador Don Diego de Gardoqui, Morgan set out to develop his provisional grant, a 15-million acre tract of land between present-day Perry County, Missouri and the mouth of the St. Francis River in Arkansas. He founded a city, New Madrid, on the banks of the Mississippi. It was to be the heart of his colony, a utopian trade center laid out in all right angles, with an emphasis on strong education and religious tolerance.
Unfortunately, Morgan's colony was sabotaged before he received the final stamp of approval from the Spanish king. James Wilkinson, a corrupt statesman described by Theodore Roosevelt as the most despicable character in American history, attacked Morgan's character in a letter to the Spanish governor. Subsequently, the terms of Morgan's deal with Spain fell through. His colony at New Madrid would outlive him, but only barely: it was completely decimated by a series of earthquakes in 1811 and 1812.
We have located Morgania on a handful of maps over the years, published between 1799 and ca. 1809. It always appears along with Franklin. The most notable example is from Francois Alexander Frederic La Rochefoucald Liancourt's account of his travels in Canada and the United States.
Fredonia on "Amerique du Nord," by Auguste-Henri Dufour, from Geographie de Balbi (ca. 1831). [Click on the image to view this map in the OWA archive.]
The Republic of Fredonia is a relatively forgotten blip in the long and well-documented history of Texas; even contemporary coverage of the Fredonian Rebellion in the Western Quarterly Review worried that the event would be wiped from historical memory if not recorded for posterity. In 1825, empresario Haden Edwards received permission from the Mexican government to settle 800 families in East Texas. Upon his arrival in Nacogdoches, he immediately stirred up trouble with the settlers already living in the region by threatening to boot them from their claims. After a bitterly disputed election that pitted the old settlers against Edwards and the newcomers, the Mexican government revoked Edwards' grant in December 1826.
Edwards and his brother, Benjamin, joined with local Indians (who felt Mexico had failed to deliver to them promised land) and settlers hoping to challenge Mexico's authority. They marched on Nacogdoches on December 16th and encouraged local residents to join them. On December 21st, the Edwards brothers and their allies declared their independence from Mexico as the Republic of Fredonia. Their unrecognized republic only lasted until January 31st, when the Fredonians fled to Louisiana after being overwhelmed by incoming Mexican troops and militiamen from Stephen F. Austin's colony. Edwards' grant was divided by the Mexican government and awarded to other immigrants. The Fredonia Rebellion was the third attempt at independence from Mexico. Texas colonization became so popular with the Anglos that in 1830 Mexico reversed its position and barred further immigration. This action led the way to the Battle of Nacogdoches, the opening skirmish in the Texas Revolution, which took place in August of 1832.
Fredonia only lasted forty days, but we have located it on an Auguste-Henri Dufour map of North America published circa 1830, where the name is splashed across the eastern portion of Texas. We found it again on a Dufour world map dated 1849 - four years after Texas had achieved statehood!
Deseret on "Vereinigte Staaten von Nord-America und Mexico," by Carl Christian Franz Radefeld, from Meyer's Zeitungs-Atlas (dated 1850). [Click on the image to view this map in the OWA archive.]
Proposed by Mormon settlers in 1849, Deseret was to be a theodemocratic state formed out of the western lands ceded to the United States at the conclusion of the Mexican-American War. Its borders were to stretch from Oregon south to Mexico, the Sierra Nevada Mountains east to the Green River and the Rockies. It would encompass a vast section of the American West, including the entirety of present-day Utah and Nevada as well as portions of California, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming, Idaho, and Oregon. The name Deseret came not from the desert landscape that dominated much of the proposed state, but from the word for "honeybee" in the Book of Mormon.
The Mormon settlers of Deseret were busy bees indeed, drafting a constitution, forming a General Assembly, and electing a governor, Brigham Young, then the second president of the Church of Latter-day Saints. This provisional government formed a militia, appointed judges, levied taxes, and banned gambling. But in September 1850, the Utah Territory was formed from the northern section of Deseret as part of the Compromise of 1850, an attempt to ease tensions between free and slave states. Young was appointed governor in February 1851, and two months later the proposed state of Deseret was dissolved.
It did not, however, disappear entirely. The Mormons made three further attempts to establish Deseret in 1856, 1862, and 1872. A "ghost government" of Mormon elders continued to meet once a year from 1862 to 1870, keeping the influence of the General Assembly of Deseret alive in the Utah Territory. But that influence crumbled as increasingly more non-Mormon settlers arrived with the railroads.
We have found the proposed state of Deseret on a few German maps of the United States published in between 1850 and 1852.
More to Come
Franklin, Morgania, Fredonia, and Deseret are just four US states that were never admitted to the Union. Stay tuned next month for a continuation of this article with five more US states you've never heard of!
The "Collector's Corner" is a new, recurring segment that will highlight one collector's journey through map collecting in their own words.
Greg T. "I traveled the world and one day I walked into a bookstore and that was the beginning of my map collecting. I saw a map - it wasn't particularly extraordinary or valuable - it was showing the Louisiana Purchase, and that started it. And I got into "cartographomania" - I had to have them all - mostly from travels from around the world. My favorite map is probably the Ortelius with Britain on the side, because I have it displayed on my wall and when people come in the house I'll often say, "What do you see there?" And they'll be befuddled and not have a clue, until I have them turn their head sideways and then it's "Oh" - a revelation! When it came to starting a collection, initially my mistake was trying to collect everything. Then I decided to focus on 18th century and older because it just had more history to it. But then occasionally I'll buy maps of Florida of course because that's where I live, so it's become another focus for me. And over the years map collecting has become part of a decorative process as well."
If you would like to share your story, please reply to this email explaining (in 200-500 words) how you first became interested in collecting maps, how you decided on your collecting interest, and what is your favorite map and why. Hopefully we will feature your collecting journey soon!
Old World Auctions specializes in genuine antique maps, atlases and decorative graphics originating between the 14th and 19th centuries.