Powell Valley Executive Order


Yoakums Station 1797

On highway 63 between LaFollette, Tennessee and Cumberland Gap stands a Fort Yoakum Historical Marker.  It reads: Home
Powell Valley Executive Order - Pg.2

The 1771 Holston Treaty prohibited settlers from entering the Cherokee lands in the Powell Valley, however, recipients of North Carolina land grants moved into the area. President Washington directed the pioneers to leave the valley. Captain Richard Sparks and Captain John Wade read the executive order to the settlers at Yoakum Station one mile southeast in February 1797. The Treaty of Tellico (1798) resolved the controversy.

From Roulston's Knoxville Gazette and Weekly Advertiser February 6, 1797:

To the people residing in Powell's Valley, and elsewhere, on lands to which the Indian claim is not extinguished.

Fellow Citizens,

Fully impressed with a just sense of the duty enjoined upon us, by the President of the United States, through the Secretary of War, and duly empowered to pursue a line of conduct, which will conform to an Act of Congress, passed the 19th day of May 1790 entitled "an Act to regulate trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes, and to preserve peace on the frontiers," (to which no doubt you all have reference) we have come forward, and now address you, in full confidence of your treating the subject, coyly and dispassionately.

It is not our wish to enter rashly upon the duty assigned us; nor do we conceive there will be a necessity for it; and in order, therefore, to give you full time to prepare your minds for the event, we have deemed it proper to notify you, that on or about the 20th instant, we shall meet with you at YOAKUM'S STATION, where we hope your numbers will be full and respectable, and your tempers calmly disposed to argue on a subject which involves in itself consequences of material magnitude to the Union at large, and to you in particular.

We are assured, that the reflection of a moment will evince to you, how much better it is, to observe a strict obedience to the laws, than by a refractory disposition, involve your fellow citizens in the tumults of anarchy, and probably in the horrors of war, and create in your own minds a self reproach, which will forever be felt.

Fellow Citizens,

At our meeting, we will not scruple to read to you, the instructions we have received, and by which we are to be governed; and after your hearing them, we cannot admit of a doubt, but that you will in a given time remove to that side of the line to which we have a just claim, and save the necessity of unnecessary altercation.


We are your friends and humble servants,



John Wade
Captain, 3rd Reg US Army


Richard Sparks
Captain, 3rd Reg US Army


[EDITORS NOTE - The circular letter addressed to the inhabitants of Powell's Valley, etc, by Captains Sparks and Wade, is so replete with mildness and moderation, that the most obstinate disposition, cannot but concur with in opinion, that it is better to meet the wishes of these gentlemen than by a perverse conduct, compel them to measures which may temper their minds, so as to fit them for dispassionate argument, and by throwing aside every idea of the interest they now hold, take into view future prospects, and the advantage which may accrue to them and to the state at large, by a due obedience to the laws of the land,]

George states "The letter written by Captains Sparks and Wade to the Powell valley residents may have seemed "replete with mildness and moderation" to the Editor of the Gazette who was not being asked to vacate his homestead; but the people of Powell Valley did not feel exactly the same emotions felt by the good editor. They answered the Army men, and the answer, though unsigned as it appears in the Gazette of February 27, 1797, is a masterpiece. "


The Answer to the Army Men from the Knoxville Gazette and Weekly Advertiser February 27, 1797:

"The descendants of the frontiersmen who wrote this letter could well be proud of his ancestry. Here is the answer which the people of Powell Valley made to Captains Sparks and Wade, and one needs little reading between the lines to see that they were actually were writing to higher authority. They were possessed of enough native intelligence to know that Sparks and Wade were instruments."

To Captains Richard Sparks and John Wade, Citizen Soldiers,

Your address of February 2nd, 1797, to the people residing on lands to which Indian claim is not extinguished, we have seen, and considered with all the attention that a subject of so much magnitude and delicacy requires.

The civil manner, gentlemen, in which you have begun, and we hope will continue to execute your orders, excites sweet emotions in our breasts.

We cannot help expressing our warm acknowledgments to you, for the pains you take to convince, that our settlements are not tenable on the principles of law.

Your amiable characters have preceded you. We know that you are the brave Captains Sparks and Wade who fought and conquered our savage enemies of the North, under the banners of the heroic Generals Wayne and Wilkerson.

It is not from refractory or disorderly dispositions we were influenced to take possession of the land we now occupy. We had regard to the laws of nature, of nations, the statutes of North Carolina (the state from which ours emanated), and to our own civil code.

The Constitution of the State of Tennessee, in the 31 st Article of the Bill of Rights, guarantees to the people residing south of the French and Holston, between the rivers Tennessee and Big Pigeon, the right of pre-exemption and occupancy in that tract.

Congress recognized that Constitution in all its parts, by receiving the State into the Federal Union.
Many of us hold grants for our lands, legally obtained from the State of North Carolina, while under her jurisdiction. Under these plausible claims, we settled ourselves on the lands from which you command us to remove.

Although we anticipate the pungent grief we shall feel, on being obliged to leave our little farms, and on hearing the cries of our children fore spread, which we shall not be able shortly to (illegible) for them, yet we mean to bear with all the fortitude we can, the wrongs of the general government, hoping they will ere long become more just and generous to her suffering citizens. 

Oh! How we long for such wise, humane, and well-informed men as Jefferson and ???????. We know not who to place with him at the helm, to steer the ship of the Commonwealth. In discussing the scheme of the federal government in America, in which, by the most admirable contrivances, justice seems to be so impartially administered, property so well guarded, and liberty so effectually secured, that in theory it seems impossible that any people under such wise regulations, can possibly fail of being happy, virtuous, and free; but experiment convinces us, that they are inadequate to these salutary purposes; our errors have arose from reasoning on false premises, that is, from supposing that Congress and her ministers would act on principles incompatible with the vises, the follies, and passions of human nature.

Powell Valley Executive Order - Pg.2


Article shared by George L. Yoakum, Cadiz, KY 9-27-1999

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Rev 4b: 3 Mar 2000 : rdk
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