Tag Archives: 18th century Tennessee

OVERMOUNTAIN VICTORY TRAIL MARCH, SEPT.25-27


To those who lived in the Eastern Appalachians in the last decades of the 1700’s, the Revolutionary War was a distant drumbeat being fought and stalemated somewhere up north. For these people, it was an echo in the mountains that surrounded their hard scrabble lives. For the most part, though there were others, these early settlers on the frontier were not English, per se,  but came from the large Irish territory, the Ulster Plantation. These Scot-Irish whose ancestors where already displaced once, ignored the Royal Proclamation where George III promised the indigenous peoples that there would be no British subjects settling permanently west of the  Alleghenies and dug out a tenuous  life in the wilderness and lived as they wished.

The call of war sounded closer when the British decided to end the stalemate , invade the Southern colonies thus splitting the colonies and the resistance with the hope of ending the war. They banked on loyalists fighting along side the British soldiers. What they didn’t bank on was the ragtag group, these “mongrels”, “barbarians” , these “Backwater Men” as Major Patrick Furgeson  disparagingly called them, who sometimes appeared in the low countries, who fought like devils with their strange Indian cries, who could fell a deer at 200 yards, who harbored rebels and their families in the depths of the mountains and lived to fight another day. The sound of war was made crashingly real when Furgeson,commissioned by Cornwallis to subdue the rebels on his western flank,  out of frustration, threatened the leaders of this group by saying  If the Rebels “did not desist from their opposition to the British arms,” he would “march his army over the mountains, hang their leaders and lay their country waste with fire and sword.”  This enraged the leaders of these very independent people who mustered over a thousand men and set off on a 330 mile journey in a nine day march which brought defeat to the Tories and death to Furgeson. These men  set off ,not to fight for a nation but to defend their cabins and farms and the mountain life they valued.

Why they fought! (Timothy L. Overman and son)

Why they fought! (Timothy L. Overman and son)

Every year in September, The Washington County Regiment , in conjunction with the OVTA (Overmountain Victory Trail Association) , holds its commemoration of the Overmountain Men’s gathering at Sycamore Shoals. This year it was held on September 25 through 27th. It threatened rain all weekend, so much so that the school day scheduled for Friday was cancelled. The day turned out sunny, however and the historic site hosted the Tennessee State Guard who were on maneuvers at the park. I didn’t stop for a head count but I bet there was a hundred  if there was one, and It was really cool to see them mass together, so erect and so serious. The Watauga Valley Fife and Drum leading the way, the Militia, distaff members and the whole company of Guard participated in crossing the Watauga as the Overmountain Men did 235 years ago. Prior to the crossing, Steve Ricker told the story of the battle of Kings Mountain to a rapt audience and the Reverend Doak, played by George Cobb, gave that rousing sermon which rededicated the men and brought the men’s determination to a fever pitch.

Steve Ricker telling the story to a captivated audience.

Steve Ricker telling the story to a captivated audience.

Interesting perspective of the crossing with Superintendent of the National parks in the south, John Slaughter, in the foreground.

Interesting perspective of the crossing with Superintendent of the National parks in the south, John Slaughter, in the foreground.

The militia, members of the OVTA and the Tennessee National Guard crossing the river

The militia, members of the OVTA and the Tennessee National Guard crossing the river

It speaks for itself!

It speaks for itself

After the crossing the Overmountain Men , followed by Representatives of the First Tennessee Regiment (War of 1812) and then the whole contingent of the Tennessee State Guard assembled in the ampitheater for a short program. It brought home that there has been a continuum of volunteer service protecting communities here and wherever they are needed for the last 235 years and that these last are the inheritors of a grand tradition. One member of the Guard  sang the most beautiful rendition of the national anthem I’ve ever heard and there were speeches. Then three guardsmen were singled out for recognition for excellence.

Scott Smith who lives in Church Hill, TN, was one of the three who received an award of excellence.

Scott Smith who lives in Church Hill, TN, was one of the three who received an award of excellence.

The Guard, the OVTA and the National Park Service all had display stations at the visitors’ center and they stayed all weekend, providing the public with information and answering questions.

Saturday was another one of those days, threatening rain which never came. There was good traffic throughout the weekend where people came and saw various displays of 18th century living. one of the more interesting ones , I though, was Ken and Retha Reece’s display of trekking equipment and how one made pemmicin to take on trips. There were militia drills throughout the day and the crowd pleasing cannon demonstration in the latter part of the afternoon.

Fine tradition of service over time

Fine tradition of service over time

After the public left for the day, many of the members went to the burial site of Mary Patton who provided the excellent black powder for the Overmountain Men. She was remembered in a moving ceremony culimnating in a military salute and the pouring of black powder on her grave.

Sunday was less fast paced and more relaxed. Under cloudy skies, George Cobb preached the sermon explaining the references to the sword of Gideon and Macedonia. The park was lightly attended which was just as well as the militia got together for the first time, and actually was able to socialize.

My breakfast buddies and I having biscuits and apple butter or molasses Sunday morning.

My breakfast buddies and I having biscuits and apple butter or molasses Sunday morning.

I think the members were gathering their reserves to see the changing of officers in the afternoon. At 3 :30, Colonel Bob McCroskey stepped down as Colonel of the Militia and passed the baton to now Colonel Chadwick Bogart. It was very moving to hear Bob enumerate the accomplishments of the regiment over his six-year tenure, listen to his reasons for stepping down and read Chad’s commission to him and all assembled. Chad had tears in his eyes and he accepted the commission and praised Bob for his service, His first command , though, was to the distaff members as he bellowed ” you WILL Wear modesty cloths at ALL TIMES”. The verdict? Yep, he has what it takes as every woman looked down at her chest to see that her cloth was put on correctly.

It was a busy weekend, full of fun and emotion as the Washington Co. Regiment of North Carolina Militia, the OVTA and the TN State Guard met together to commemorate one of the most important events in the Up Country of North Carolina.

Pam Eddy and Lisa Bennett pouring black powder of Mary Patton's grave

Pam Eddy and Lisa Bennett pouring black powder of Mary Patton’s grave

Salute at Mary Patton's grave

Salute at Mary Patton’s grave

Colonel McCroskey presenting the new colonel with his commission

Colonel McCroskey presenting the new colonel with his commission

Colonel Bogart accepting his commission, praising the militia and the willingness of its members to do whatever it takes to further the goals of the historic site and do it with willingness and humor.

Colonel Bogart accepting his commission, praising the militia and the willingness of its members to do whatever it takes to further the goals of the historic site and do it with willingness and humor

George Cobb showing Pam Eddy and myself the reference about Macedonia in Acts from the New Testament crafted by James Moore.

George Cobb explaining to Pam Eddy and myself the reference about Macedonia in Acts. The Bible in my hands is  the New Testament crafted by James Moore.

The passing of the baton.

The passing of the baton.

Colonel McCroskey explaining to the crowd that he felt the Militia needed a constant presence from a Militia leader and that his health prevented him from being with the group especially in inclement conditions.

Colonel McCroskey explaining to the crowd that he felt the Militia needed a constant presence from a Militia leader and that his health prevented him from being with the group especially in inclement conditions.

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Filed under 2015 MILITIA ACTIVITY, Sycamore Shoals Historical Site

MAJOR BOGART SPEAKS: SEPTEMBER MUSTER SCHOOL DAY SCHEDULE


Good Morning everyone,

We now have our nine stations and station leaders set for the September School Day on the 25th.

Stations are as follows…

Revolutionary War Weaponry – Tony DeVault

Colonial Games – Kay Milsaps

Colonial Handwriting – Ramona Invidiato

Hides and Tanning – Kim Palmer & Earl Stalge

Trail Foods and Overmountain Man Gear – Ken & Retha Reece

Colonial Clothing – Worley & Lisa Bennett

Fort/Cabin Life – Chenoa Patton & Rachel Bennett

Artistry – Richard Luce

Museum/Gift Shop – Park Staff

STATION LEADERS*** Have your station set up and ready to go by 9:00 am Friday, September 25th.

Rotations are 15 minutes each. Rotations begin at 9:30. Lunch Break 11:00 – 12:00. Rotations end at 12:45

Thank you to all who volunteered to assists in this event. We couldn’t do it without you.

As always please contact me with any questions, comments or concerns.

Y.M.O.S.

Major Bogart

Chad A. Bogart

Historic Interpreter

Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area

1651 W. Elk Ave.

Elizabethton, TN 37643

423-543-5808 ext. 107

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21st Annual Seige of Fort Watauga. May 16-17, 2015


Pensive and watching

Pensive and watching

This weekend marked the 21st annual Siege of Fort Watauga. Each year, the complexion of the event has been different but this one, by far, has been the best for so many reasons.  The weather was clement; Friday was sunny and clear, Saturday was hot but dry and the rains held off Sunday until long after the event was done, but that’s not why it was so good. I’ll let the Johnson City Press and the master’s thesis written by Brian Patrick Compton , whose links are below, tell the story of the three pronged Cherokee siege which trapped one hundred-fifty people inside the fort for twenty days or so and how they managed to overcome three hundred very angry warriors with only five pounds of black powder and buckets of boiling water. What was interesting was what I saw in recreating the spirit of the place and its inhabitants and the number of youngsters who are keeping the story alive.

Many of the sutlers came from their stay at Martin’s Station the previous week and they were in place by Friday when the rest of the re-enactors came and set up throughout the day. One could hear excited voices and the clang of hammer on metal as tents were set up. All the cabins were manned and everyone was ready to roll. The most interesting was the Tory public house set up in the man cave. So what if they were loyalists? Will Caldwell, Kurt Stevens, Ethan Walling and others did a wonderful job capturing the feeling of a public house. I have to say though, that after hours was kind of staid by my standards .  I was next door and was was expecting to hear God knows what from these twenty-somethings. I was kind of hoping to live my youth vicariously by listening.  I was in my twenties once and I can remember kicking up my heels a bit. Instead, there was quiet conversation, plenty of laughter and the clinking of glasses. Whoopee!

Games, food and fellowship abounded at the Loyalist public house.

Games, food and fellowship abounded at the Loyalist public house.

pooped

RELAXIN’

There was a larger than normal number of participants, ranging from Brits to Tories, Natives and civilian impressions. What was so interesting was number of different 18th century living skills being demonstrated all over the park. There was salt making, chair caning, sewing, flax processing, hearth

German stuffed noodles in broth on Saturday and hasty apple fritters on Sunday at the Ramona Inn :o)

German stuffed noodles in broth on Saturday and hasty apple fritters on Sunday at the Ramona Inn :o)

and open fire cooking, leather working, children games, adult games,  weaving, spinning, weaponry, native living and of course, relaxatin’.  Between the two days, more than a thousand visitors came to view the battle recreations and visit with the reenactors, a very satisfying turnout.

When Saturday broke and the call to arms was made, there was musket toting militia almost equal in number to the original seventy five that were there in 1776. The line, crooked as it was, stretched from Blockhouse to near the back gate. (we need to have a tee shirt made,boys, with “Washington County Regiment of North Carolina Militia” in colonial lettering printed in a crooked line on the front and “We don’t do straight lines” printed on the back. Just sayin’)

Waiting for orders; look who's  at the end of the line?

Waiting for orders; look who’s at the end of the line?

On Saturday, the group recreated the ladies out in the field, the native attack and capturing of Lydia Bean. Strategic placement of men and ladies  with John Moss’s SC rangers, Militia members and those from the Anderson Blockhouse filled the wall and the field; shot was abundant and the smoke hung heavy over the field. The Brits, Loyalists and natives were a formidable group and it still gives me chills as I think of the natives streaking over the field with the sound of their war whoops still ringing in my ears. There was one young fellow especially who startled the living bejaysis out of me.

Charcoal streak!

Caleb and the Charcoal streak!

The native who I think is Kurk blended in to the tree canopy and the fort walls and it gave me a start to see him try to force his way into the Talbot House on Sunday . Fortunately for the Talbots, though, the natives at the door were soundly repelled! It was touches like this that made this event especially interesting.

I bet those natives had a pounding headache after they got pounded!

I bet those natives had a pounding headache after they got pounded!

Sweet sounds!

Sweet sounds!

There were other things that made a difference as well. On Saturday and Sunday, after the battle, the Fife and Drum Corp gave what I thought was almost a concert and on Saturday, there were three brothers from Jonesville , VA, who played violins and sang. It was pure heaven to listen to the Corp and these fine young gentlemen. Besides the usual doings, at 2 PM on Sunday, the ladies provided a fine tea for all and sundry. Dainties of all kinds appeared and  like the loaves and fishes, it fed the multitude,

It seems like we fed thousands at the tea.

It seems like we fed thousands at the tea.

The Fife and Drum Corp outdid themselves this year! Many visitors commented on how wonderful they sounded

The Fife and Drum Corp outdid themselves this year! Many visitors commented on how wonderful they sounded

The most interesting thing about this particular event was the number of children who were there. One could see them playing in and around the fort on both days. There was the sound of light  young voices, lithe bodies zooming around like fireflies and every where they landed, there was laughter and smiles. It gladdened our hearts to see these young people, from toddlers to twenty-somethings, So many of the members have worried that when we go, the story might die. But after seeing the amount of young people  taking part, I think the future of telling the story of the intrepid people who settled this place will be forever insured.

Keeping the story alive!

Keeping the story alive!

Melodie Daniels and one of her "man-cubs". so cute!

Melodie Daniels and one of her “man-cubs”. so cute!

Pearl

Pearl

A beauty!

A beauty!

Younger and older; our story lives!

Younger and older; our story lives!

Interesting and scholarly master’s thesis :Revised History of Fort Watauga.

http://dc.etsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2260&context=etd

Johnson City Press:

http://www.johnsoncitypress.com/article/126642/living-history-sycamore-shoals-strives-for-accuracy-in-siege-of-fort-watauga-event

Watch the full Sunday battle!

Photos from JD Douglas and Ken and Retha Reece. Thanks for taking such beautiful pictures. It was tough to choose from so many wonderful shots! A special mention goes to thanking Earl Slagle. He has been working diligently on making the cabins look totally beautiful and authentic by framing the sides of all the buildings, fixing and insulating the eaves. It’s astounding what this man has done and many visitors commented on how beautiful the fort is.

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21st Annual Siege of Fort Wautaga, May 16 & 17, 2015


Militia is looking good

Militia is looking good

21st Annual Siege of Fort Watauga

May 16 & 17, 2015

On Saturday, May 16th and Sunday, May 17th, Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area will host nearly 200 living history re-enactors for the annual Siege of Fort Watauga. Colonial, British, and Native re-enactors will converge at the re-created Fort Watauga at Sycamore Shoals to relive the days when America’s first frontier was the land beyond the blue ridge.

The Siege of Fort Watauga is a live retelling of the Cherokee attack brought on the settlers of the Watauga valley in the summer of 1776. At Sycamore Shoals, Fort Watauga offered protection to nearly 200 settlers during a two-week siege led by Cherokee War Chief, Old Abram, and 300 warriors.

Sycamore Shoals will once again be the scene of war during the Siege of Fort Watauga. The event lasts from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on Saturday, May 16th and10:00 am to 3:00 pm on Sunday, May 17th. Step back in time as you visit the fort, militia camps, British encampment, and Native camp. Be immersed in 18thcentury frontier life as you witness daily aspects of colonial culture. See the clash of two cultures as the attack on fort Watauga is recreated both days at 1:00 pm. Also, attend our auction of 18th century reproductions on Saturday.

Take advantage of colonial merchants selling period wares in “Sutler’s Row”. There will be several vendors offering a myriad of 18th century reproduction items for the colonial enthusiast or the primitive decorator. Vendors this year include Zettlemoyer Pottery offering reproduction redware and other 18th century pottery items, Trader Bob offering tanned animal pelts and hides, Ft. Vause Outfitters specializing in finished leather goods, and several other vendors offering everything from 18th century reproduction clothing, weaponry, and original antiques, to replica housewares, hand-carved wooden items, and military accouterments.

Several Revolutionary War living history units will be in attendance and will make the 18th century come to life during the weekend. Units include the First Maryland based in Hendersonville, NC, Musgrove’s Mill Militia and the South Carolina Rangers based in upstate South Carolina, and two British units; the 42nd Light Infantry and the North Carolina Highland Regiment. The host unit is the Washington County Regiment of North Carolina Militia based at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area. Numerous individuals also participate in the event portraying many 18th century walks of life including Cherokee Natives, Backcountry Hunters, Farmers, Housewives, African Slaves, Commoners and Gentry.

For more information on this and other exciting events at Sycamore Shoals please contact the park at 423-543-5808 or visit the park’s website atwww.sycamoreshoalstn.org. Bring the entire family and see how your ancestors played a crucial role in our region’s history and in the formation of our nation. Hear the rattle of muskets, smell the campfire smoke, and see the 18th century come to life at the Siege of Fort Watauga. This event is sponsored by The Washington County Regiment of North Carolina Militia and The Friends of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area.

Siege of Fort Watauga 2015 Schedule of Events

S A T U R D A Y,  M A Y  16th

10:00   Camps Open.

10:30   Raising the Colors & Militia Inspection (Fort Watauga)

11:00   Kids Militia Drill (Talbot’s Meadow – in front of Fort Watauga)

11:30   Colonial Games (Fort Watauga)

12:00   “Ms. Jane”, Colonial Frontier Slave Narrative: Ms. Lynette Stuart (Fort Watauga)

1:00     Battle Reenactment: “Siege of Fort Watauga”

2:00     “Recruitment of Children into His Majesty’s Service” (British Camp)

2:30     Field Music: Watauga Valley Fifes & Drums (Fort Watauga)

3:00     Auction (Visitors Center)

4:00     Salt Making on the Frontier: Mr. Jim Boardwine (Fort Watauga)

5:00     Camps Close. Please join us tomorrow for another exciting day of living history!

S U N D A Y,  M A Y  17th

10:00   Camps Open – Worship Service (Fort Watauga)

11:00   Militia Inspection (Fort Watauga)

11:30   Colonial Games (Fort Watauga)

12:00   “Ms. Jane”, Colonial Frontier Slave Narrative: Ms. Lynette Stuart (Fort Watauga)

1:00     Battle Reenactment: “Siege of Fort Watauga”

1:30     Field Music: Watauga Valley Fifes & Drums (Fort Watauga)

2:00     Ladies Tea & Sunday Social – Everyone Welcomed (Fort Watauga)

3:00     Retiring the Colors (Fort Watauga) Event Closed. Thank you for coming!

O N G O I N G   A C T I V I T I E S   T H R O U G H O U T   T H E   W E E K E N D 

Cherokee Lifeways and Demonstrations, Colonial Games, Salt Making, Tavern Keeping, Leather Work, Weaving, Food Preservation, Lard Rendering, Hand Sewing, Knitting, Flax Processing, Colonial Music, Open Hearth Cooking, Flintlock Firearms Demonstrations, 18th Century Militia Encampment, British Camp, And Many More Aspects of 18th Century Life!

18TH  C E N T U R Y   M A R K E T   F A I R

Ft. Vause Outfitters, Daniel Boone of Kentucky, Zettlemoyer Pottery, Grubbs Station,

Wintergreen Farms, Roy Carter, Trader Bob, Squirrel Town Traders, Johnson and Moffett, McDuffies Trade, Shaun Harley: Pewterer

Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area, 1651 W. Elk Ave. Elizabethton, TN 37643

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Carter Mansion Celebration, April 11-12, 2015


Five miles east of the fort is a little slice of elegance on the frontier and it’s always nice when the Militia has a muster at the John and Landon Carter Mansion. This year it was on April 11-12 and I’ll tell you, there were a lot of people sweating it  on Friday before the event. For one thing, it had been raining like a bee-ach-e and cold all week and the forecast didn’t look too promising almost right up to the very end. There weren’t too many people setting up on Friday and the question that was bandied about was whether there would be enough people there to hold the skirmish as the boss (Major Bogart) hadn’t really come up with a Plan B. Scott and Ethan Wallen, Bobby Hamm, Earl Slagle and the Garrous set up in the rain and prayed for good weather. With my bad luck when it came to events and the weather powers, I even offered to sleep at home thinking that with the Jonas removed, things would be good. Oh me of little faith!!! As bad as it was prior to the weekend, that’s how glorious it was from late Friday to Sunday.

Becky and John Garrou and their display of "Smalls" The place was jumpin' all weekend!

Becky and John Garrou and their display of “Smalls” The place was jumpin’ all weekend!

Part of the discussion regarding attendance was that so much was going on this particular weekend and the members were pulled in every direction. At Rocky Mount, there was Wooly Days and also a big meeting of the OVTA, and several members had to be there for that. There was a big Civil War event at the Tipton- Haynes house in Johnson City as well and several thought that these would pretty well siphon off members and the public too. In spite of that all, we had a decent public attendance and the members worked around their schedules and came in force.   Weather was dry and cool and people came from everywhere. There were all kinds of displays, from Jennifer Bauer’s husband doing flint knapping and she dying wool, to The Garrous’ mercantile stall, “The Gourd Man” Jim’s  fine display of gourd items, Ronnie Lail’s rope making machine, Cindy weaving and me spinning wool. Kay Milsap had the children all gathered as she demonstrated 18th century games , Bobby Hamm had fur and bone trade goods and the list goes on. At 1 PM, the group recreated a skirmish between the Tories and the Patriots. Actually this battle didn’t really exist the way we do it but the hard feelings and in-fighting sure did. After the Transylvania Purchase, John Carter and Charles Robertson fronted money for several families to buy the land they had settled on. When it was known that some of these families were loyal to the Crown, the Commitee of Five pulled the plug on these people. I suppose today we’d call it foreclosure. John, as Chairman, planned to take the deeds to New Bern to re-register them and it’s this that the argument and subsequent skirmish is based on. People LOVE the yelling, the shooting and it makes for a bit of drama. Of course, what they don’t know is that Carter never made it to the capitol but died along the way from smallpox and the box of deeds was never found. After the skirmish, the ladies laid on a tea for one and all. It always astounds me how much food we end up having- kind of like the loaves and fishes . the tea went off without a hitch!

Sunday came gloriously and instead of a tea, Major Bogart conducted a frontier service with communion. Everyone who was there was mindful of Easter that had just passed , Chad gave  a wonderful sermon, very touching and the Militia gathered  closely. Sunday was a more relaxed day but still it moved so fast that before one knew it, it was over.

The celebration at Carter Mansion is the beginning of the warm weather reenactment season and no more wonderful time could have been planned.

Thanks John and Becky Garrou for the great pictures.

Cindy Jordan and me in front of my domicile. Harry was with Earl Slagle down by at his camp

Cindy Jordan and me in front of my domicile. Harry was with Earl Slagle down by at his camp

Rope Making

Rope Making

Doug Ledbetter came from the Nolichucky with his Surveying equipment.

Doug Ledbetter came from the Nolichucky with his Surveying equipment.

Melodie Daniels and one of her "man-cubs". so cute!

Melodie Daniels and one of her “man-cubs”. so cute!

Ethan "God save the King" Wallen and Jennifer

Ethan “God save the King” Wallen and Jennifer

It was great seeing Col. Bob McCroskey.  Mel McKay is in the picture too.

It was great seeing Col. Bob McCroskey. Mel McKay is in the picture too.

communion with Chad Bogart, Jason Davis and Ronnie Lail

communion with Chad Bogart, Jason Davis and Ronnie Lail

gwthering

The place to meet and greet

The John and Landon Carter Mansion

The John and Landon Carter Mansion

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Trade Days Muster, FEBRUARY 14-15, 2015


That's how the militia felt this past weekend.

That’s how the militia felt this past weekend.

February is always an iffy month in Tennessee; some days are wicked, some days are spring-like. This past weekend proved to be the former in spades. There have been winter weather warnings for a few days before the event. They called for temperatures in the thirties by day and 3 degrees with windchill factors into the minuses. Anybody else would have had second thoughts about holding a muster in these conditions but we’re the Militia, descended from tough and hardy stock, iron men and women. A little snow and cold never stopped us before as it didn’t stop the Overmountain Men marching across the Roan. There was also the knowledge that Earl Slagle, God bless him rich and deeply, had gone through every cabin, filling in every possible place that was open with chinking material. Those that planned to stay overnight knew that we’d be warmer than we ever were before and with a full shed of wood, a semblance of comfort was achievable.

On Friday, Tony DeVault, myself and Kim set up our spaces for a long stay. Kim had a diamond fly under the trees outside the fort and actually slept there on Friday night. I worried about him but this mountain man knows what he’s doing.( He was persuaded to sleep in the Talbot House on Saturday; thank God he listened.) He also set up his outdoor smoker as he was planning to smoke six deer hides on Saturday. The Bennetts set up the Talbot House but they were smarter than us and day tripped it both days. Saturday night, Ethan and Scott Walling came and opened the Tavern so all but one of the buildings inside the fort were occupied. Friday night was cold, the sky was fully blanketed by clouds, but there was a luminosity that comes with a full or nearly full moon. It was eerie but beautiful and it was a cozy time for us, sharing food and stories. Before I went to bed I made biscuits and bacon for the morning and slept reasonably well except for getting up every few hours to stoke the fire. I could hear Tony doing the same, as I heard him at the wood shed every now and then.

Saturday was cold and clear, a good day for indoor activities. Lisa, Rachael and Susanna spent the day cooking and sewing, Tony was in the man cave doing woodworking, I cooked Saturday and did a wool processing demo on Sunday and of course, there was Ken with his hides. Many members came for the day including Ken Markland, Mel McKay, ,Bucky Claubaugh, Ronnie and Linda Lail, Donna and Doug Ledbetter, Earl Slagle, who had hand surgery right after he made things comfy for us, and daughter , Sarah, David (Who came after work) and Matt Simerly to name a few. It was especially nice to see Col. Bob McCrosky. He braved an irate wife to come out for a while to cheer us all on. He’s just gotten over pneumonia and Margie had every right to worry but Bob did come and we so loved it. Chad roused the militia to march from time to time, banging on the window saying “I mean it” (Mel: ” Militias don’t drill” as he laughed out the door, wooden musket over his shoulder). In spite of the bitter cold, there was a surprising number of people who showed up and while the wind whipped, Chad and the men did put on a fine cannon display each afternoon. For myself, I especially loved having the class from Milligan College who came, partook of chocolate cake and hot mulled cider and stayed a while. The professor was a very nice man, a country boy from west Tennessee, and he and Mel and Ken enjoyed a long conversation. I loved being in the cabin all day cooking and Mel, Ken and Tony made it ever so nice staying and talking. There was a lot of laughing coming through the door to be sure.

It was wonderful seeing Col. MCCroskey. Made my DAY!!!

It was wonderful seeing Col. MCCroskey. Made my DAY!!!

After everyone left, we combined our food and had a wonderful meal and then after all the clean up, the crazy ones resupplied themselves with wood for the night before we turned in. The acid test was going to be making it through the night, with blowing snow, and arctic temps. I made it really well through the night but began to notice that my nose was filling up. I ascribed it to the dry heat but around 2 :30, I woke with a raging headache and knew that stopped up nose signaled a head cold. DAMN!! Thinking about the frontier women, I figured I’d just “man on” as they say and do the best I could. everyone had speculated that we would have a very mean number of people on Sunday with all the advisories for them to stay indoors, but would you believe???? Shades of Field of Dreams- to paraphrase the famous quote “If you build it, he will come” to “if you’re crazy enough to be there, somebody crazier will come”. Sure enough, when Chad was conducting services in the Talbot House, here came two women, one cradling a hairless Chihuahua in a blanket. Throughout the day, people did come and enter the cabins to see what they could see, but when the coast was clear, most everyone but me went to the Talbot House for company. I didn’t want to share the wealth and kind of isolated myself so I wouldn’t share what no one wanted.At 3 PM, precisely, colors went down and by 3:10, I was on the road with my cabbage of a head to a nice warm shower and bed, Vicks on chest, box of tissue in hand.

You can say what you want about the Washington County Regiment of North Carolina Militia, but the one thing that you can say the most is that this is one dedicated group of people who cheerfully keep alive the heritage of the area no matter what. Herodotus must have been looking into the future when he said “….these are stayed neither by snow nor rain nor heat nor darkness from accomplishing their appointed course with all speed.”

—Herodotus, Histories (8.98) (trans. A.D. Godley, 1924)

This is a close as anyone could be taking pictures. it was just too dang cold!

This is a close as anyone could be taking pictures. it was just too dang cold!

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Musings about Colonial Skills and Trade Days, February 14-15


The Tavern/Blockhouse: Beautiful but Freezing!

The Tavern/Blockhouse: Beautiful but Freezing!

Colonial Skills & Trades: Militia Muster at Fort Watauga
Saturday, February 14 10:00 am – 4:00 pm
Sunday, February 15 10:00 am – 3:00 pm
Visit Fort Watauga and step into a colorful Revolutionary world. Reenactors portray a variety of characters, from hunters and farmers to land speculators and backcountry gentry. Walk among colonists and native people who share their pasts through talks, mini-dramas, and demonstrations of 18th century life.

Militia drill

Militia drill

When one goes to Fort Watauga as a volunteer, sometimes one can lose sight of the real drama that shaped our past in this part of the world. Speaking for myself, I get busy with staging one of the cabins which the rangers have generously allowed me to do and to stay in while I’m there (aka The Ramona Inn), figuring out what to have as a public demonstration, making sure things are as authentic as I can make them. I spend days figuring out what to make for meals for me and my friends, how to stay warm and every now and then, think how people must have lived in this spot two centuries ago. Jennifer , in her write-up about the next event , wrote about the kinds of people the public can expect to find in the fort, talking about their histories and demonstrating 18th century living skills. I ask myself periodically who these native people, farmers, back-country gentry really were and how the colonists, a group of very independent , self-reliant people, came together to form a prolific community which became cohesive then and still endures now. Every time I go to an event there, I review the history of the area and its people and this helps me to refocus on the two truly important things: the people who sacrificed their comfort, their sharing with family and in some cases, their very lives or that their children, and secondly, the ability to share this history with the people who come to visit in a way that is immediate and relavent. It was really the back country, the back of the beyond, claimed by a people a thousand years ago, in danger of losing their ancestral land, but still willing to trade and live with the new comers for the most part. It makes me wonder how natives and settlers coexisted and wonder about the feelings of those who sensed that their time on their ancestral ground would soon end. I find myself continually amazed by the strength or maybe the desperation of the settlers. It’s thought provoking that anyone, especially the women, could have survived here, must less thrived here, for long and it’s a testament to their ethnic character that they were able to hack out a living in this place. When the fort is very quiet and there aren’t a lot of people there, I stand outside listening to the night noises, look back into the cabin whose only light is a fire in the hearth, a candle and a lamp and wonder how anyone except the most hardy could have actually made it there. The area is manicured now and safety and convenience are nearby, but what did a woman see and hear then? It’s a thought I take with me when things get hectic during the day.dave sherry

In reminding myself of what went on here in the past, I came across this EXCELLENT book excerpt, written clearly and succinctly . It’s definitely well worth the read.

http://www.electricscotland.com/history/articles/tennessee.htm

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