Degree Name

MA (Master of Arts)



Date of Award


Committee Chair or Co-Chairs

Jennifer Axsom Adler

Committee Members

Steven Nash, Tom Lee


For over two hundred years, historians have debated the historical importance of early Tennessee migrants in shaping the state’s history. These discussions center around North Carolina's impact compared to Virginia's. By shifting discourse to the retention of migrant mentalities, the overwhelming influence of Virginia emerges through the continuity of privilege and commodification schemata. This study employs an interdisciplinary methodological approach combining schema theory, memory studies, and material culture analysis to outline the retention of mentalities from Tidewater, Virginia, to East Tennessee during the early settlement period. By utilizing the case study of John Carter of Watauga (1728-1781), the research illustrates how Virginian origins shaped settlers’ perceptions of privilege through inheritance, ordered society, and models of success, as well as commodification through ownership, resource extraction, and speculation. Findings reveal that Virginian mental frameworks were foundational paradigms, guiding settlers’ actions and perpetuating hierarchical structures within Tennessee society. Despite the opportunity for deviation that migration and community establishment provided, elite settlers chose to assimilate and reestablish the dominant position of Virginian schemata within their new environment. The persistence of Virginian schemata in Tennessee informs broader questions of identity formation, migrant nostalgia, and the enduring legacy of colonial mentalities in shaping American history.

Document Type

Thesis - unrestricted


Copyright by the authors.