Tag Archives: colonial


Overmountain men fighting at Kings Mountain, the turning point of the War. fought  in the Southern Theater.

Overmountain men fighting at Kings Mountain, the turning point of the War. fought in the Southern Theater.

Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area Presents:

The Overmountain Victory Trail Celebration

Friday, Saturday and Sunday,

September 25, 26 and 27

It was the year 1780. The tide of the Revolution had turned against the colonists.  The British, forced out of New England, gained new allies in the divided South and won victory after victory in a bloody civil war.  Charleston had fallen, and American forces had crumbled at the battle of Camden. But then the impossible occurred…The frontiersmen of the western mountains began a long march, gathering an army along the way, from the highlands of Virginia to the hills of South Carolina.  There, at a place called King’s Mountain, they destroyed an army and opened the way for the final American victory at Yorktown.

The route they took from Virginia to South Carolina, we now know as the Overmountain Victory Trail.  Come celebrate with us as we recreate the muster of the Overmountain Men, which occurred here at Sycamore Shoals over two hundred years ago. Re-enactors in period clothing will be on hand throughout the weekend to share stories of the excitement and danger of that tumultuous time.

The celebration kicks off at 2:00 pm on Friday, September 25th as the Overmountain Victory Trail Association recreates the historic Watauga River crossing. For the past 40 years Members of the OVTA have recreated this historic occurrence since 1975, following the same route and timetable as their legendary forebears from Abingdon, VA to Kings Mountain, SC.

In conjunction with the OVTA crossing, the Tennessee State Guard will be celebrating their 235th anniversary as they trace their inception to the gathering of the Overmountain Men at Sycamore Shoals in 1780. Tennessee State Guardsmen will join the OVTA in the recreation of the Watauga River crossing. Following the crossing the Tennessee State Guard will hold a timeline Pass in Review showcasing the guard’s involvement in Tennessee’s military history.

The celebration continues both Saturday and Sunday as the Washington County Militia present living history demonstrations and activities in and around Fort Watauga.  Also, as part of the weekend’s activities, join us as we celebrate National Public Land’s Day on Saturday, September 26. At 1:00 pmjoin Historic Interpreter Chad Bogart on a special guided walk through the grounds of Sycamore Shoals and along portions of the walking path. Discover the vital role Sycamore Shoals played in the early frontier community, and how its significance would impact our nation’s history. Hear the story of the Overmountain Men and their historic gathering at Sycamore Shoals.

It will be a fun filled and action packed weekend sure to entertain and educate all ages. Admission is free so bring the entire family and relive some of the most crucial days of the American Revolution.





2:00Watauga River CrossingMembers of the Overmountain Victory Trail Association and the Tennessee State Guard recreate the historic crossing of September 25th, 1780.

Following the Crossing – TN State Guard Timeline Pass in Review – The Tennessee State Guard celebrates its 235th anniversary by showcasing their involvement in the state’s military history. Program presented in the Fort Watauga Amphitheater.



9:00“The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon”Join The Overmountain Men inside Fort Watauga as they assemble for morning colors and then listen to the stirring words of Reverend Samuel Doak as he delivers his famous sermon and prayer. The militia then departs in search of Patrick Ferguson and the tory army.


11:00“Gearing up for War” – Join Ken and Retha Reece inside Fort Watauga and learn about the gear, equipment, and food carried by the Overmountain Men in their campaign to Kings Mountain.


12:00 – “Echoes of Revolution” – Join the Watauga Valley Fifes and Drums for an exciting glimpse into the musical world of the 18th century.


1:00 – “Trail Talk: Walking in Frontier Footsteps” – To celebrate National Public Lands Day, join historic interpreter Chad Bogart for a guided walk along the park trail as he recounts the story of the Overmountain Men and their historic gathering at Sycamore Shoals. Program begins at Fort Watauga.


2:00 – “Life on the Homefront” – Come to the Talbot House for a look at the woman’s role on the 18th century frontier. See how the women and children fared after the militia had marched off in search of Patrick Ferguson and the Tory army.

3:00“Every Seventh Man” – Oral tradition states that the Overmountain Men left behind one in seven to guard the settlements as they went in search of the tory army. Witness the Watauga Home Guard drill and hone their skills as defenders of the frontier. Learn about the different firearms used in Colonial America.

4:00Camps Close – Join us tomorrow for another exciting day of life on the colonial frontier!



10:00Worship Service – Feel free to join the militia for Sunday morning service held in the courtyard of Fort Watauga. Following the service witness the Washington County Militia fall in for inspection of arms, and orders are given for the day.


12:00Artillery Demonstration – Join members of the Washington County Militia as they fire the fort’s cannon and talk about artillery in the 18th century.

1:00 – “Life on the Homefront” – Come to the Talbot House for a look at the woman’s role on the 18th century frontier. See how the women and children fared after the militia had marched off in search of Patrick Ferguson and the Tory army.


2:00“Every Seventh Man” – Oral tradition states that the Overmountain Men left behind one in seven to guard the settlements as they went in search of the tory army. Witness the Watauga Home Guard drill and hone their skills as defenders of the frontier. Learn about the different firearms used in Colonial America.


3:00Retiring the Colors – Camps Close – Thank you for joining us for a great day of frontier living history. Join us next time!



Open Hearth Cooking – Flintlock Musket & Rifle Demonstrations – Tavern Life – Militia Drill

Colonial Music – Leatherwork – Wool Processing – Colonial Games – 18th Century Camp Life

And Much More!!!


All activities are weather dependent. Schedule is subject to change or cancellation.


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Filed under 2015 MILITIA ACTIVITY

Thinkin’ About Fightin’

In my next life!! Now SHE would stop the Brits dead in their tracks!

 It’s February already and I am just about to get over Christmas  and the  bit of extra poundage that only gobbling a load of mince pie can add. I’m already preparing for Guilford Courthouse and my bedroom looks like an arsenal’s ammo locker .

       A fellow reenactor friend of mine out in Oklahoma sent me this picture of a wild woman aiming a “Bess”, looking like she is ready to take on all comers . He’s still chuckling at the thought of the strange attachment I have to my sawed- off Bess , and I thought to myself that, in my next life, I may be lucky enough to look like that, with that sexy-sassy, determined look. The more I  thought  about it, the more I realized that, Heck-Fire,I’m half way there now (stop laughing)!
       As you know, last year under the auspices of our admired officers and with their blessing, I made my debut as cannon-fodder on the field of Guilford Courthouse and when I think about it, I can feel the pulse thrum in my neck.  When I participated last year, I looked at the experience through the eyes of a reenactor, knowing the history but not feeling the motivation. It was there the actual battle was fought some 236 years ago and while I most definitely appreciated what had happened there and was awed thinking that I was walking (running) in the footsteps of people long gone but not forgotten, there was not the emotion that the militia men felt, that pit of fury that would make a man look death in the eye and spit in it. This year, I think I’m seeing this same event as an angry patriot who sees how priceless principles of liberty and justice are being bastardized, limited and encroached upon.  Unfortunately,   I think I’m beginning to understand exactly what fueled these people to take on the biggest power in the world and fight with every breath and strength in them. Pretty much any more, I stay  disgusted and ticked off ( a mild phrase ,indeed, but this is a family blog after all), what with the war on educators, the encroachment of insurance companies into one’s total private life, telling me they must have my phone number and email at all times so they can have   “health coaches” who don’t know Jack (sorry, Gerald) telling me what I can and cannot do (in their darned dreams!), bungling, incompetent politicians shoving things down my throat, groups  telling me what I must or must not say, think or must not think,  constant TV advertisement shoving things down my throat, phones and machines that are becoming “smarter” as their owners are becoming more and more stupid and helpless. Faced with this and more, even the mildest, most law abiding person will, sometime in his or her life , get to a point  when one says ENOUGH! It doesn’t take much after that point to ignite a veritable inferno of anger and rebellion similiar to what the Rebels must have felt toward the government at the time and  their British and Tory “brethren”. Because of new federal guidelines, it is illegal to reenact battles at national battlesite parks. We , the people, the working slugs, are  paying the taxes to pay for the upkeep of these places and yet we can’t respectfully reenact the battles or life that existed there, providing the public with a wonderful teaching moment and a glimpse into their own history. The total irony is that there are many who think that the current generation has no clue about the past or it’s importance as a guide for the future and forbidding these events is not helping to correct this problem . Thank goodness that the part of the battle where the Militia fought at Guilford Courthouse is on county land and one can honor those brave and angry patriots there. I wonder what they would think of the country they fought for if they were alive today? Would they think that history is beginning to repeat itself or their sacrifices were in vain? Whatever that might be, Guilford Courthouse is the last stand where one can scream, “Give me liberty or give me death. The devil take ye t’ Hell and beyond”, drawing from the same  well of anger and disgust that every patriot drank from. Of course that scream must be accompanied with at least 200 grains of black powder :o).
       So, as I’m surveying my digs, I see several rolled cartridges, cartridge box, paper, my powder horn, priming horn, picks and brushes, bag, canteen, flints, patch knife in one pile. My bee-bee gun is on my dresser (in case of home invasion; how stupid is that. I bet I’m the only person in my town who doesn’t own a real pistol- YET) In another pile are the man- rags and in a third are the mocs and trekkers I have to grease up with bear tallow. On top of this, I have a short list of must- haves: more blank cartridges, a primer, a long piece of linen to wipe my Bess with and a half full  flask of spirit. My hero is Deborah Sampson ( a fitting last name when you think about the Old Testament) and I read where she took a ball to the leg during a skirmish. Fearing that her identity as a man would be blown, rather than go to the surgeon, she dug out the bullet herself. Now you know that you’d have to be pretty stoked to slice and dice your own leg so I figure in case I get wounded at Guilford and that damned horse stomps me as he almost did last year, they could lay me out next to a tree and let me sip on my flask before the “operation”.
     I’m thinkin’ of fightin’ and Guilford Courthouse is where we will make a stand for truth, justice and the American way. Besides the excitement of the moment, I think I will be able to understand what intense emotion compelled otherwise peaceful people to act in an uncommon way. I hope Bob gets his wish this year of putting a hundred men in the field. You can bet your last beer, I’ll be there.


Filed under 2012 Militia Activity, commentary

Mission Accomplished: Who , What , When , Where, Why

Sycamore Shoals

MOLLYNOTE: Park officials and Militia officers: This commentary is my own take on historical reenactment and reflects  no other point of view. Please feel free to correct me or add if you see I’m in error.  :o)

Yesterday I “taught” a seminar at the Historical Site that was slated as “How to Make an 18th century Petticote and Apron” and it turned into Basic Sewing 101. There were two people who took this mini class, one being a sweet young lady who is the new interpretive ranger at Roan Mountain State Park and the other was a gentleman who eventually wants to do 18th century reenactment as a tailor.

While we were struggling with basic hand stitching methods, we talked about the do’s and don’t of  HISTORICAL reenactment. It’s come up many times  before but never ceases to amaze me that a concept so simple can be so confusing. When the young fella was toying with the idea of creating a persona of a “fop”, I knew in my heart of hearts this ain’t gonna fly. I might show up as a cross-dressing female at a battle site but I can reasonably assume from documentation that women in certain places did what had to be done if they felt compelled to take the place of their husbands or lend an extra hand when needed, but I’m not wearing silks, lace  and cloth shoes as a member of the landed gentry when, in fact, there was no such class in the Watauga District at that time (unless you look at the Carters as a class of one, but they were more nouveau riche , unlike the Randolphs or Lees :o)  .

I love the fact that the the Militia was created, not as a reflection of  colonial Williamsburg or 18th century Charles Town, with little  basis in the history of this place, but with the mission to recreate as close as possible , the story of  what is now East Tennessee in its very infancy. I also love the idea that the Militia is more embracing of those who are honestly trying to get a feel for living history in all its forms, but the responsibility for making sure they understand the mission of the Site is more imperative than before, in my humble opinion, and to do it in a way that is encouraging rather than derisive . I think the Militia does a great job with this.

S0me times, though, I think newcomers forget why we exist as a hobby or really don’t actually understand the mission we IN THIS PLACE have. It goes back to the “Five W’s”, the very basics of reporting , and if you think about it, aren’t we reporters as well as the repositors of the history of a place? When the public see us, they think everything we do is “truth”. By and large, they do not question how authentically we do it. It’s a burden,however loving, that we bear to make sure that what we do and how we do things is as REASONABLY right as we can do it, based on the research we have at hand. The answers are simple and a guidepost for everything. The orientation is different from those people who are crossing from the SCA or LARP or Sci-Fi. The differentiating factor is the degree of fantasy that various groups allow. We, for good or bad, must stick to the facts, ma’m, nothing but the facts as we can gather them.

WHO:   We realize that people, real people, lived in this real place and we look at their origins and the facts of their lives and cultures. We read their bios  and think about what character traits made them as tough as they were in order to survive and prosper.  While not portraying any one historical person, we recreate types and the culture which bred them and made them what they were.

WHAT:  We realize that there was a daily struggle for survival, not because of Native raids necessarily,  but by the very nature of the area’s remoteness , topography, the political vacuum the people were in, struggle for land and habitation,  and what jobs and duties it took to provide meat and bread on the table, shelter and clothes and other necessaries that we take for granted because of industrialization and technology. Whether the people of the time were white settler, Cherokee or Creek, they had the same dilemmas and how they solved them was based in their individual cultures which we as reenactors (or dramatists) should not revise. We try to recreate their “technology” and use it no matter how uncomfortable sometimes (OK, so I use the golden throne from time to time LOL- hush now!) and short cut if necessary but the public doesn’t know it because it’s hidden.

WHEN:  This is the time before time, the 18th century, when history as we perceive it began as an emerging new country, people actively shedding their identities and affliations with their brothers overseas. The fact that many didn’t want to or were on the fence , makes things more interesting. IN  THIS PLACE, the Revolution was not as a  direct  an influence as it was  in the northern colonies or the lowlands of the Carolinas, however,  it provided a background for  settling differences by what ever means possible  or necessary and people IN THIS PLACE got directly involved when they were directly threatened. In THIS PLACE,  settlers came to be free, felt they were already free in fact, to leave beginnings elsewhere or play economic roulette to make their lots better if possible, and fought in the background whether directly (Militia) or by providing information and support against Loyalists or Native sympathizers.

Where: We are at Sycamore Shoals Historical Site, the birthplace of what is now Tennessee and, to me,  probably the most important of all the historical sites in the state. It was IN THIS PLACE where treaties were formed, land grants were signed , laws  were made and people gathered, traded, fought and died. It’s not a fantasy re-creation, with none of the Disneyland accoutrements and no matter how nice we want it to be, it was a rough place, full of rough ,hardy and ingenious people of many races involved in the  drama of living, loving and dying in this place. There is no place here  for  promulgating  a total fiction if we are to honor those in whose footsteps we walk. While a major funding arm of the site lies with the Drama, I would hope that the drama,  being primarily  entertainment, does not take further liberties and  sacrifice  history for that purpose ; it looks like the Park has been  encouraging  those volunteers to concentrate on what is appropriate for theatric authenticity. I think that there’s a place for both kinds of activities as long as each understands its mission and makes sure the public understands what they are.

WHY: THE most important of all questions. I think that this is as varied as the people who are members or potiential ones of the group that is housed at this place. For me, history is my hobby and American literature,the written history of the mind and heart of  the writers,   reflecting the society in which they lived, is a facet  of  the history of the country; it’s a natural correllary for what I do for a living but,  more than that, it’s to honor those faceless people, the disenfranchised, the hardy, who came before and whose legacy is the moral and attitudinal complexion of this State. One can almost hear the echoes of their voices in the place and at the original site only a mile away and  I can’t help but think that if it weren’t for these people IN THIS PLACE and up and down the original colonies, we wouldn’t have within us  that which makes us so far the most powerful country in the world and the “Grand Experiment”  is still surviving. In a time when things are tough, looking back into the past provides clues as to how to make things better for the future. Finally, hell, I like to get really dirty once a month and toting a musket let out the tomboy I really am!

SOOOOO, the bottom line is that  the Militia is on the right track, better than it ever was in its prior life and I’m really proud to be a part of it. We do a lot to mentor and encourage. We don’t forget why we are in this place and what our purpose is for doing what we do. People who come to visit carry away a sense of who their ancestors are and how they lived. Not a bad thing to do once a month :O)


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The 12 Days of Colonial Christmas

Christmas in the Country

There is a wonderful series of articles I found at the following site that traces the traditions and history of Christmas in Colonial times and traces the customs and attitudes backward to the “motherland”. All the pages are DEFINITELY well worth reading to get you in the mood for Old Christmas coming up in two weeks.


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Filed under HISTORY, Secondary source

Lydia Russell Bean and Nancy Ward


Lydia Russell Bean

Nancy Ward

One of the events that is being recreated this coming weekend by at the Seige is the capture of Lydia Bean and subsequent release at the urging of Nancy Ward, the Beloved Woman of the Cherokee.  I was doing a bit of research on these ladies to get a flavor for who they were. For those who want to brush up, the information below is good. From all kinds of sources, I read the facts  of their lives, where they came from, the circumstances surrounding Bean’s capture and intervention by Ward. I also studied the bond that they later forged and the merger of two disparate cultures in the persons of these two women. Somehow or another, the women themselves were buried under facts and histories UNTIL I studied portraiture of these two women and their descendents.

It’s amazing what you can see in a face . The strength, courage and untutored wisdom of these two seem to match. While there is something of the hardness of diamonds in both these women, they both had the wisdom and internal sureness to see the qualities of the other and what each could bring to the table to create a peace of sorts, a symbiotic relationship  ensuring survival of both cultures.  It seemed like the same kind of friendship, each a mirror of the other, that William Bradford and Squanto forged a century and a half earlier in Plimouth. There’s a determination in the jawlines, a firmness in the mouths which means they must have been formidable and powerful women in their own ways. Think of the guts it took for Lydia Beam to follow her husband into the wilderness. What fueled it? Was it shrewd business acumen, a sense of adventure, devotion or desperation because their options were exhausted where they were? This was no walk in the park; something like taking a midnight stroll  in the gang-infested bowels of Los Angeles comes to mind. There were no comforts, nothing familiar, yet she was mother of  TEN children, no midwives, no nannies, no reality show :o). Kate Goslin is having a hard time raising eight- think of raising  ten in the 18th century wilderness. I don’t think there is a woman alive today in this country of relative predictability that has the grit and fearlessness that this woman had to have to survive, much less thrive. What would make a woman leave everything she knew and walk over the edge into a world of danger and uncertainty, where one false move, one lapse of judgement could mean the difference between life and death? How did she cope with the grief when she held the body of her daughter, killed by the people who she developed a connection to? I looked at photo  of Sarah  Bean, the great-great granddaughter of Lydia and one can see the steel in the eye, grit and almost surreal firmness that must have existed in her ancestor. She had the strength of Gibraltar written in every line and feature.

Sarah Bean

Nancy Ward's great-great granddaughter

It was a strange friendship created between these two women; Nancy Ward probably being the first to recognize Bean as her doppelganger. Lydia, wounded and probably petrified, one wiff of smoke, a flick of consuming flame  away from a certain agonizing death, was probably focused on how to save her own life, fighting the despair of  knowing she would never see her family again, facing the prospects of looking into the depths of a Hell like she has never known, nor would ever want to know. With the screams of Samuel Moore still ringing in her ears, did she pray like she never had before? Most likely. Did she taste the bile of pure panic as she was led to the stake; most definitely.  Did she cry? Maybe not. Nancy Ward saw something in this woman to know she somehow found an equal, a kindred soul. Surely she had the softness to be able to calm the woman she saved and the awe inspiring insight and intelligence to know that there were things this woman knew that would make the lot of every native woman much easier and ensure the survival of their children in times of sparse  hunts. When one sees  the portraiture of Nancy Ward and look  in the face of her descendent, Nancy Grace Ward, there is a certain dignity born of living in a native culture that was in existence in one place for thousands of years.  There is also a softness not seen in the face of Lydia Bean’s descendent. You see this in the faces of women in  Rome , Vienna and Paris. There’s something in the genes that says “we’ve been here forever, we know who we are”. There is a dignity in the face of Nancy Ward sr. and I imagine when she walked into a space, she  strode with grace ,commanding  the whole room without even opening her mouth.  She proved herself by going into battle as a 17 year old girl, chewing her husband’s bullets so as to make them more deadly. When he was shot, she took up his arms and fought in his place. How did she cope with the private heartbreak of being a  second wife to a white man? How did she deal with the subsequent changes to her people which she recognized were not good?  Bloodletting created a reputation; seeking peace and crafting a bridge to another culture created a legend.

Lydia (Russell) Bean (1726-1788), William’s wife, was captured along with 13 year old Samuel Moore in July 1776 by hostile Cherokee Indians prior to an attack on the Wataugu settlement. She was intercepted as she made her way from her home on Boone’s Creek to Sycamore Shoals. She was sent to the Overhill Towns and was lead to the stake. But she was saved, it is said, by Nancy Ward, “Beloved Woman” of the Cherokees, who told the Indians that they could use Mrs. Bean’s instruction in the making of butter and cheese. So her life was spared and later she returned to her home. 

Nancy Ward’s act may have had far reaching effects. When militant Cherokees prepared to attack illegal white communities on the Watauga River, Ward disapproved of intentionally taking civilian lives. She was able to warn several of the Watauga settlements in time for them to defend themselves or flee. Lydia was sentenced to execution and was actually being tied to a stake when Ward exercised her right to spare condemned captives. She took the injured Mrs. Bean into her own home to nurse her back to health. Mrs. Bean, like most “settler women,” wove her own cloth. At this time, the Cherokee were wearing a combination of traditional hide (animal skin) clothing and loomed cloth purchased from traders. Cherokee people had rough-woven hemp clothing, but it was not as comfortable as clothing made from linen, cotton, or wool. Mrs. Bean taught Ward how to set up a loom, spin thread or yarn, and weave cloth. This skill would make the Cherokee people less dependent on traders, but it also Europeanized the Cherokee in terms of gender roles. Women came to be expected to do the weaving and house chores; as men became farmers in the changing society, women became “housewives.” Another aspect of Cherokee life that changed when Ward saved the life of Mrs. Bean was that of raising animals. Lydia owned dairy cattle, which she took to Ward’s house. Ward learned to prepare and use dairy foods, which provided some nourishment even when hunting was bad. However, because of Ward’s introduction of dairy farming to the Cherokee, they would begin to amass large herds and farms, which required even more manual labor. This would soon lead the Cherokee into using slave labor. In fact, Ward herself had been “awarded” the black slave of a felled Creek warrior after her victory at the Battle of Taliwa and thus became the first Cherokee slave owner. 

Lydia’s brother George Russell, husband of Elizabeth Bean, was killed by Indians while on a hunting trip in Grainger County, Tennessee, in 1796. Her daughter, Jane Bean, was killed in 1798 by Indians while working her loom outside the walls of Bean’s Station.

Bean Geneology  http://www.larkcom.us/ancestry/Bean/notables.cfm

FASCINATING article about the Melungeons  and Lydia Bean http://www.melungeons.com/articles/march2003a.htm

 Nancy Ward’s honorable life is documented in several sources but this is very interesting  http://nancyward.org/bio.htm


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