Robertson, James, 1742–1814, American frontiersman, a founder of Tennessee, b. Brunswick co., Va. He was reared in North Carolina. After the failure of the Regulator movement, he led (1771) a group of settlers from Orange co., N.C., to Tennessee, where he became a leader of the Watauga Association. In 1779, Robertson explored the Cumberland River country for Richard Henderson and his Transylvania Company and in 1780 began the settlement of Nashborough, later renamed Nashville. Under the Cumberland Compact he became the chief civil and military officer of the community, and his wise leadership was largely responsible for its survival. When the state of Tennessee was organized in 1796, Robertson was prominent in drafting its first constitution. In his later years he served in the state senate (1798) and as agent to the Chickasaw.
See biography by A. W. Putnam (1859, repr. 1971).