John Carter, early Tennessee settler and Revolutionary War officer, was born in Virginia in 1737. As an adult John lived in Amherst, Virginia, where he was a merchant. He married Elizabeth Taylor about 1758, and the couple had three sons, Landon, John Jr., and Emmanuel.
In 1770 Carter moved to Tennessee and established a trading post with William Parker on the west side of the Holston River in an area that later became Hawkins County. In 1772, after a robbery by Indians, Carter moved his family to Watauga Old Fields (Elizabethton). In 1775 he acquired title to a section (640 acres) of land in Elizabethton. In the 1780s, perhaps John Carter, but more likely his son Landon, built the Carter Mansion, an impressive two-story weatherboard dwelling with a Penn-plan interior, wood paneling, and overmantel paintings. Carter also extended his property. By the time of his death, he had added more than two thousand acres to the original holding, making him one of the largest landholders west of the mountains at that time.
In 1772 Carter headed the government established by the Watauga Compact. In 1776 he commanded the fort that defended settlers against Indian attacks associated with the Revolutionary War. Appointed colonel by the North Carolina government in 1777, he continued his defensive activities against Indian attacks throughout the Revolutionary period. In 1778 and 1781 Carter served as senator to the North Carolina General Assembly from Washington District. He died of smallpox in 1781.