The Transylvania Purchase, the single largest private land sale in this country, which happened right there at Sycamore Shoals on March 14, 1775, was celebrated by the Regiment during the weekend of Mach 26-27. Sometimes members remember musters because the crowds were huge and there was dizzying amount of activity. Some are remembered because of the sheer amount of participation by the members of the Regiment and some because the weather was just so fine, it makes one glad to be alive. This weekend was a first in my memory. I, and I think many of the members who came this weekend, will remember it because of all the ‘tweens, teens and youngsters who came and enjoyed the event and blessed us with their enthusiasm and curiosity .
The weather threatened; there was no doubt that it would rain on both Saturday and Sunday, but it did not or, at least, it didn’t when it mattered most. During the original transaction , there were somewhere around a thousand who witnessed the signing. This past Saturday there was no thousand to be sure, but there was a larger crowd than any of us thought there’d be given the forecast. A surprising number of young people who came were so interested that they came back again Sunday. On Saturday, the Regiment was engaged in various 18th century activities like carding wool, knitting , sewing and open hearth and camp cooking. Near Cabin 5, Earl and Jacob were demonstrating fire making and there were pelts and leather for show and sale. Between Cabin 3 and 4, Mike taught the visitors tomahawk and knife throwing. Chad and our Native American guest, dressed in full regalia, recounted the facts surrounding the Transylvania Purchase to a good crowd. Close to mid-day on Saturday, we had a military drill and practiced linear shooting as one would in battle formation. That was a lot of fun, though there was a lot to remember. Personally, this was my first real drilling with my new- to -me sailor’s musket (Thanks to Mike, my “master”, who wants his indentured to drill in his place and learn to protect his camp and even fight in his place sometimes) and it was pretty good although I messed up when it came to firing one person at a time with the 3 second interval. We did shoot several times and the visitors learned much as did we, concerning how the militia fought in open fields. After the visitors left, the members got together and, in spite of a nasty rain, we managed to all fit under Col. Mc Croskey’s fly and shared a terrific period dinner and each other’s company.
Sunday was cold and damp with a very light attendance so many of the planned activities went by the way side. Church service was UNBELIEVABLE but more about that later. Mostly we just talked to the people who came and told stories.
On the surface, it seems like this weekend was just like any other muster when the weather forecast managed to scare people away , but it was far from that. What made it so different was the number of young people who participated with the Regiment and the number of youngsters who came in various groups and their avid interest in what was going on. Everywhere one looked, one saw youth , saw the smiles, heard the laughter, the cheers and claps when someone stuck a hawk into the block, the questions they asked. As participants with the Regiment, Amy Aprile’s littlest brother looked so nice in his new gray colonial frock coat and white britches. He reminded me of Sterling and Adam at the beginning, inquisitive and determined to get his kit right. He was so proud, eyes shining, as he showed us what he had so far and what he needed to get. Amy taught her younger sister how to card wool and she stayed with us all day Saturday. Adam, always faithful, lent his assistance to Ronnie and to the Regiment as we were drilling. The biggest drum was played by the littlest boy who usually plays fife. Eighteen year old Marina Jansma, whose mother is a fifer in the Fife and Drum group (Donna Sue) , desired to participate but wistfully felt that she had nothing to wear that was appropriate. I lent her an outfit and she looked like a beautiful spring butterfly when she walked through the fort Saturday and Sunday. Jacob, of course, is the role-model for all the young people. It’s hard to think that he is only in his mid teens as he is so mature and manly. I’ve noticed that when he is at the fort, the younger boys look at him with awe and respect. The older men treat him as a peer and Earl and Linda have a lot to be proud of.
The three groups of young people who visited the fort this weekend were a pleasure to behold. In a world where all you hear about kids is mostly bad, they were doing what youngsters should do: have good clean fun, look at the world innocently, try new things. It was a pleasure for all of us, I think, watching the kids be kids. One came from Virginia, accompanied by the park ranger of Anderson Blockhouse (Natural Tunnel Park). There was a group of girls in soccer uniforms who were so energetic and you could see they loved everything they saw and they were back on Sunday. Another notable group of twelve fellows was from First Baptist Church, Spartanburg, SC, who were up here for a Young Men Christian Retreat. Sycamore Shoals was not on their list of things to do but they came and were wowed by the place. I don’t know what the draw was but you have never heard such cheers and laughing as when Mike worked with all the kids, teaching them how to throw knives and hawks. When the boys and their leaders found out that we had a frontier service on Sunday, they informed Chad and Bob that they wanted to come to the service.
There were thirty-two people including the boys from Spartanburg packed inside the Talbot House on Sunday. In my life, I never participated in such a wonderful hour of worship as I did in this past muster and many of the members said the same thing. Further, many said that this sense of unity, hope and joy lasted all day. Chad expressed a bit of nervousness prior to the service ,which was uncharacteristic of him. I think God must have heard his prayer because God was definitely coming through him as he conducted the best service we’ve ever had. One of the leaders of the Spartanburg group played guitar and sang hymns beautifully and with feeling and you could feel as sense of joy and peace in this place. We all were truly blessed.
Every muster has something nice to remember but this one was the best in that we saw the best of the younger generation being what kids should be and bringing to the older members a sense of hope and joy and purpose in recreating history for them and with them.
One of the youth leaders, Seth Buckley, from Spartanburg left this comment:
I brought our youth group of young men this weekend to the encampment…we stayed at Doe River Gorge camp…and drove over to see the reenactors….it was an amazing experience for all of us…and we really connected with each one of the actors…we came back two more times we enjoyed it so much! Will never forget the worship service in the cabin together with you all!
For more about the Muster, check out the Johnson City Press video: