Native Americans were hunting and camping in the Nolichucky Valley as early as the Paleo-Indian period (c. 10,000 B.C.). A substantial Woodland period (1000 B.C. - 1000 A.D.) village existed at the Nolichucky's confluence with Big Limestone Creek (now part of Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park).[9] By the time the first Euro-American settlers arrived in the area in the late 18th century, the Cherokee claimed the valley as part of their hunting grounds. The Great Indian Warpath passed just northwest of modern Greeneville, and the townsite is believed to have once been the juncture of two lesser Native American trails.[10]
Permanent European settlement of Greene County began in 1772. Jacob Brown, a North Carolina merchant, leased a large stretch of land from the Cherokee, located between the upper Lick Creek watershed and the Nolichucky River, in what is now the northeastern corner of the county. The "Nolichucky Settlement" initially aligned itself with the Watauga Association as part of Washington County, North Carolina. After voting irregularities in a local election, however, an early Nolichucky settler named Daniel Kennedy (1750–1802) led a movement to form a separate county, which was granted in 1783.
The county was named after Nathanael Greene, reflecting the loyalties of the numerous Revolutionary War veterans who settled in the Nolichucky Valley, especially from Pennsylvania and Virginia. The first county court sessions were held at the home of Robert Kerr, who lived at "Big Spring" (near the center of modern Greeneville). Kerr donated 50 acres  for the establishment of the county seat, most of which was located in the area currently bounded by Irish, College, Church, and Summer streets. "Greeneville" was officially recognized as a town in 1786.[11]
Greeneville becomes capital of the State of Franklin

Replica of the Capitol of the State of Franklin in Greeneville
In 1784, North Carolina attempted to resolve its debts by giving the U.S. Congress its lands west of the Appalachian Mountains, including Greene County, abandoning responsibility for the area to the federal government. In response, delegates from Greene and neighboring counties convened at Jonesborough and resolved to break away from North Carolina and establish an independent state. The delegates agreed to meet again later that year to form a constitution, which was rejected when presented to the general delegation in December.[12] Reverend Samuel Houston (not to be confused with the later governor of Tennessee and Texas) had presented a draft constitution which restricted the election of lawyers and other professionals. Houston's draft met staunch opposition, especially from Reverend Hezekiah Balch (1741–1810) (who was later instrumental in the creation of Tusculum College). John Sevier was elected governor, and other executive offices were filled.
A petition for statehood for what would have become known as the State of Franklin (named in honor of Benjamin Franklin) was drawn at the delegates session in May 1785. The delegates submitted a petition for statehood to Congress, which failed to gain the requisite votes needed for admission to the Union. The first state legislature of Franklin met in December of 1785 in a crude log courthouse in Greeneville, which had been named the capital city the previous August.[13] During this session, the delegates finally approved a constitution which was based on, and quite similar to, the North Carolina state constitution. However, the Franklin movement began to collapse soon thereafter, with North Carolina reasserting its control of the area the following spring.
In 1897, at the Tennessee Centennial Exposition in Nashville, a log house that had been moved from Greeneville was displayed as the capitol where the State of Franklin's delegates met in the 1780s. There is, however, nothing to verify that this building was the actual capitol. In the 1960s, the capitol was reconstructed, based largely on the dimensions given in historian J. G. M. Ramsey's Annals of Tennessee.[14]
Greeneville and the abolitionist movement
Greene County, like much of East Tennessee, was home to a strong abolitionist movement in the early 19th century. This movement was likely influenced by the relatively large numbers of Quakers who migrated to the region from Pennsylvania in the 1790s. The Quakers considered slavery to be in violation of Biblical Scripture, and were active in the region's abolitionist movement throughout the antebellum period.[15] One such Quaker was Elihu Embree (1782–1820), who published the nation's first abolitionlist newspaper, The Emancipator, at nearby Jonesborough.
When Embree's untimely death in 1820 effectively ended publication of The Emancipator, several of Embree's supporters turned to Ohio abolitionist Benjamin Lundy, who had started publication of his own antislavery newspaper, The Genius of Universal Emancipation, in 1821. Anticipating that a southern-based abolitionist movement would be more effective, Lundy purchased Embree's printing press and moved to Greeneville in 1822. Lundy remained in Greeneville for two years before moving to Baltimore. He would later prove influential in the career of William Lloyd Garrison, whom he hired as an associate editor in 1829.[16][17]
Greenevillians involved in the abolitionist movement included Hezekiah Balch, who freed his slaves at the Greene County Courthouse in 1807. Samuel Doak, the founder of Tusculum College, followed in 1818. Valentine Sevier (1780–1854), a nephew of John Sevier who served as Greene County Court Clerk, freed his slaves in the 1830s and offered to pay for their passage to Liberia, which had been formed as a colony for freed slaves. Francis McCorkle, the pastor of Greeneville's Presbyterian Church, was a leading member of the Manumission Society of Tennessee.[18]
In June 1861, on the eve of the Civil War, 30 counties of the pro-Union East Tennessee Convention met in Greeneville to discuss strategy after state voters had elected to join the Confederate States of America. The convention sought to create a separate state in East Tennessee that would remain with the United States. The state government in Nashville rejected the convention's request, however, and East Tennessee was occupied by Confederate forces shortly thereafter.[19],_Tennessee%22%20%5Cl%20%22ite_note-9,_Tennessee%22%20%5Cl%20%22ite_note-10,_Tennessee%22%20%5Cl%20%22ite_note-11,_Tennessee%22%20%5Cl%20%22ite_note-12,_Tennessee%22%20%5Cl%20%22ite_note-13,_Tennessee,_Tennessee%22%20%5Cl%20%22ite_note-14,_Tennessee%22%20%5Cl%20%22ite_note-15,_Tennessee,_Tennessee%22%20%5Cl%20%22ite_note-16,_Tennessee%22%20%5Cl%20%22ite_note-17,_Tennessee),_Tennessee%22%20%5Cl%20%22ite_note-18,_Tennessee,_Tennessee%22%20%5Cl%20%22ite_note-19shapeimage_2_link_0shapeimage_2_link_1shapeimage_2_link_2shapeimage_2_link_3shapeimage_2_link_4shapeimage_2_link_5shapeimage_2_link_6shapeimage_2_link_7shapeimage_2_link_8shapeimage_2_link_9shapeimage_2_link_10shapeimage_2_link_11shapeimage_2_link_12shapeimage_2_link_13shapeimage_2_link_14shapeimage_2_link_15shapeimage_2_link_16shapeimage_2_link_17shapeimage_2_link_18shapeimage_2_link_19shapeimage_2_link_20shapeimage_2_link_21shapeimage_2_link_22shapeimage_2_link_23shapeimage_2_link_24shapeimage_2_link_25shapeimage_2_link_26shapeimage_2_link_27shapeimage_2_link_28shapeimage_2_link_29shapeimage_2_link_30shapeimage_2_link_31shapeimage_2_link_32shapeimage_2_link_33shapeimage_2_link_34shapeimage_2_link_35shapeimage_2_link_36shapeimage_2_link_37shapeimage_2_link_38shapeimage_2_link_39shapeimage_2_link_40shapeimage_2_link_41shapeimage_2_link_42shapeimage_2_link_43shapeimage_2_link_44shapeimage_2_link_45shapeimage_2_link_46