Monday, January 14, 2013

Sycamore Shoals State Park is your chance to see living history

Most people refer to Sycamore Shoals as a park but it is actually a state historic area. Its title was earned because of the historic on U.S. History  and also the State of Tennessee.

The park was packed when we got there. My husband pulled up to the Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area where my daughter and I got out. That's when we heard the first "Boom!". Another loud burst came immediately. My husband yelled "Yay! A reenactment!" so we hurried out of the car as fast as we could.

Sycamore Shoals park sign
Visiting Sycamore Shoals was a spur-of-the-moment decision that was done without advance research. We went there while staying at the campground at Roan Mountain State Park and never dreamed that we would see living colonial history in action.

This is home to the first settlement that was developed after the original 13 colonies. Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area is home to the Watauga Association. This group created the first written constitution outside of the colonies and it is where the Transylvania Purchase (also called the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals) was signed. Click here for park photos and to 

read more. Later on, the fort would be a gathering ground for volunteer militia on the way to the Battle for Kings Mountain. This was one of the first turning points of the Revolutionary War.

Sycamore Shoals reenactment
Reenactments happen often. The drama that we witnessed was a reenactment of the siege of Fort Watauga. A year after the treaty was signed, a group of Cherokee attempted to take their land back from the settlers by siege. The settlers did not relent. After a couple of weeks the Cherokee decided that the siege was not worth it and went home.

Reenactors at Sycamore Shoals
In a reenactment, all of the actors are in period dress and character. Their job is to remain in character throughout the event. If "shot", then they remained on the ground until the "dead arise" command was given. Actors continued to stay in character while answering questions after the drama.

We were able to watch portrayals of colonists and soldiers as they went about life inside the fort. There were also Cherokee with Native American artifacts and art. A cooking area was on display, there were soldiers tents and even a circuit riding preacher.

 Circuit riders; then and now
My husband spoke with the circuit rider for several minutes. I have to tell you that as the wife of a circuit rider, it was interesting to speak with one who remained in period character. He did crack a chuckle when my husband told him that he is his modern day counterpart.

In addition to the fort, Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area offers tons of other activities. A hiking trail goes along the Watauga River toward the hospital next door. Fishing is allowed (Tennessee fishing license is required.)  A shaded picnic area with grills and tables is off to one side.

Sycamore Shoals Reenactment
Another portion of the park contains the oldest frame house in the State of Tennessee. The Carter Mansion was the home of John, Landon and Elizabeth Carter. Nearby Elizabethton, Tennessee was named in her honor.

The Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area visitor center is a must-see. It contains exhibits, a theater, gift shop and bookstore. Plus, it's the only spot in the park that has air conditioning. The hours are from Monday - Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. This map link can get you there.

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