What a difference a week makes, or does it? I was looking forward to a quiet weekend following the Crockett reunion and low and behold my weekend was blotted out on my calendar. I was under orders to be at the Tennessee Children of the American Revolution (CAR) summer packet meeting at Sycamore Shoals.
I say under orders, my good friend Melodie Daniels knows to tell me where and when she needs or wants me, and I’ll be there. It is sort of like being married. That’s what friends do, support each other. We are involved with a lot of the same organizations, and I have watched her kids grow from knee high into young men.
Oldest son Ivan, 15, is serving as president of the Tennessee Society Children of the American Revolution. It’s a big job and more involved than anyone can imagine. The CAR is an interesting organization as each officer has a “senior.” The officers serve for a one-year term and the senior officers a two-year term.
Middle son Cohen, 13, is serving as vice president and Melodie is senior president. That’s not some family conspiracy, that is just how things fell into place. To make things more interesting, this writer serves as a senior state chaplain and events photographer.
Each state president has a project, and Ivan’s is to honor the children soldiers of the American Revolution, those in their teens who served in winning the fruits of independence we all now enjoy. Ivan’s goal is to erect a marker honoring them at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park. That is a big undertaking, but one that is doable.
Ivan designed a logo that reflects the service of these youngsters who lived in a time that required them to grow up all too soon. Lapel pins, T-shirts, cockades, and rosettes bearing the logo have sold like hot cakes, but a marker is a costly venture.
While CAR presidents have traditionally been from the middle of the state, the annual meetings are held in that area. They are in nice hotels with area tours and other activities. Ivan, however, chose to be different.
He chose to have his summer meeting in his own back yard, that playground for history buffs, Sycamore Shoals. In fact, it was not to be a cushy hotel experience, but primitive camping. I warned Melodie, “you’re going to have a mess.” She assured me that they were going out of their way to inform parents that this was not the state park experience with a cabin that has running water, air conditioning, and those other important facilities.
Three of the cabins at Sycamore Shoals have wood floors and a couple have dirt. It is reflective of the frontier. There is air conditioning only if you leave the door and windows open. To facilitate the visitors further two wall tents were set up inside the fort. Those important facilities I mentioned were a hundred yards away in another building.
Friday brought rain and all those hardy campers. They had some time to acclimate to the weekend surroundings before activities began. That afternoon groups toured the historic Carter Mansion in Elizabethton. Built between 1775-80 by John and Landon Carter, the Carter Mansion is the oldest standing frame house in the state of Tennessee. It is one of the jewels of our region. Chad Bogart says it is so well preserved because it was lived in up into the 1960s.
Bogart led the tours, it was a treat to watch all the young minds along with the adults soaking in the details of the surroundings. We got in some group photos outside before heading back to the park.
Next on the agenda was a river walk tour. It was still raining, and a fog had moved in, it wasn’t cold, but pleasant. After some debate it was decided to go ahead as planned with the river walk. Heading down the path behind a group of kids I could not help but think “what a difference a week makes.” Last week when the Crocketts were here the river was moving along lazily, and it was clear as a bell. Today, it was brown and raging along with an ominous fog hanging over it.
The first stop was at the site of the river crossing of the Overmountain Men. Here Dalton Wade told their story and explained the Virginians crossing the river here the night before heading out to Kings Mountain. The next stop was under a giant oak in the meadow, Elizabeth Hardy talked about plants and herbs and their uses as medicinals and in cooking. The rain began to fall a little harder as we stood there under the tree.
We went on down the trail as the river rushed violently beside us. Alexis Rollins told the story of Mary Patton, a local hero, and powder maker on the frontier. I have written about Mary and her name de ella came to light many times during the weekend.
Our next stop was at the fort where Isabella Hardy, a CAR member, told the story of Bonnie Kate Sherrill and her daring rescue from the hands of the Cherokee by John Sevier.
Following the river walk and the informative stories we headed back to the visitors center where the ladies of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) provided a most delectable meal. Near the end of the dinner CAR member Grace Ann Clark was honored with a special birthday cake and everyone singing “happy birthday.” Grace Ann is turning 22 which means she is aging out of CAR ella She has just graduated with a degree in nursing and will still be involved in DAR as well as helping with CAR activities.
This was just a short break as the evening of storytelling had just begun. Steve Ricker began with the story of the Overmountain Men. Into the story, Ivan Daniels in the persona of James Sevier, young son of John Sevier, related his wanting to go to Kings Mountain and that his father would not allow it. He said his step-mother of him Bonnie Kate Sevier helped him persuade the colonel to allow him to go. He told about his having to hold the horses while the men stormed the mountaintop and his anxiety about him not knowing what was happening. He told about trying to get his wounded uncle Robert home back across the mountains. He told about uncle Robert dying at Davenport Springs and burying him there.
Next, Cohen Daniels related the story of Rev. Samuel Doak’s prayer and its effect on the men before they marched off. He was again in the persona of a young man. Cohen rattled off the Doak message and prayer as I told some folks, I have heard that sermon for 40 years and could not begin to repeat it.
Having two CAR members involved in the story made it more attractive to those in attendance seeing a couple of their own involved with storytelling. Steve picked back up, concluding the story following the Battle of Kings Mountain.
What happened next was amazing. The Daniels boys held a storytelling seminar, giving each member a paper of do’s and don’ts related to good story telling. Each person was given a script about an historic character from this area. They were offered the chance to come to the microphone on the stage and tell that person’s story. They were expecting three to four kids to want to participate, but over 20 came forward. As I said, it was astounding to see that much interest and enthusiasm.
At the conclusion of the evening the Daniels boys held a “tattoo” which is the fife and drum songs played to end the evening for soldiers in the early days of our nation. This was an enjoyable and informative way to end the evening. The Daniels boys are outstanding on the fife and drum.
I was home late Friday, and Saturday morning came early. My morning orders were to stop at Mountain View Bulk Foods to pick up a couple sandwich trays for lunch. When I arrived at Sycamore Shoals the morning sessions were already under way with youngsters reporting on projects and activities of their chapters. It was fascinating and just amazing to hear these youngsters talking about their projects in their home communities. Another fife and drum demonstration followed. Grace Whitten, another talent on the fife, joined in the demonstrations.
Lunch brought a wide array of edibles including those sandwich trays. Melodie had arranged for Appalachian Ice to come to the park and to serve up whatever the kids desired. Two sundae choices were “The Presidents Special” that’s Ivan Daniels favorite, not that other president. Or “Kings Mountain.” I went with Ivan’s favorite which was fantastic. The sundaes and other choices were part of the dinner with no money changing hands. At least not from the kids when they ordered.
Next up was a bit of drilling out on the green at the fort. Kids where given wooden rifles and formed up as the fifers and drum led them on a marching adventure around the fort grounds. Following this activity Chad Bogart and members of the militia gave a cannon firing demonstration. The Washington County Militia formed up as the CAR kids who had formed their own revolutionary militia retired the colors from the fort’s flagpole. The militia then fired a rifle volley followed by a “mourning of arms” in honor of our ancestors and nation. This wound down the day’s activities as the kids headed out to enjoy a swimming party at the park pool.
Sunday morning, I was again headed to Sycamore Shoals. The kids were holding a worship service at the Patton-Simmons Cemetery near the grave of Mary Patton. Chaplain Alyvia Baxter opened the service with prayer, Chad Bogart led in song. We were each given a scripture to read before Melodie Daniels spoke for a few minutes. Chad led us in song once more and Alyvia gave the closing prayer.
One more stop was scheduled before concluding the weekend. We visited Sabine Hill, also known as Happy Valley, Watauga Point, and the General Nathaniel Taylor House. You will notice it on the right as one heads into Elizabethton. The state has completely restored this home to its former elegance. Mrs. Taylor had decorated the home in a patriotic red-white-and-blue theme. It, like the Carter house, is incredibly preserved.
Matthew Simerly led our group on the tour of the home. Matthew was dressed in War of 1812 attire as was Ivan Daniels. Cohen Daniels is the state junior president of the Society of the War of 1812. Alyvia and her Mom de ella Jennifer Rowan as well as Melodie and myself are also members. It was a shift of time periods, but that is something we are all accustomed to.
My final orders were to come to the park and bring some of the leftover food home with me. That was not a problem as I have saved over a week in groceries. As I left, I did drop in at the big antique mall across the street. I always find neat items there and they did not disappoint.
As Melodie and I talked about the event a few days later she stressed the dedication of the parents in making the weekend happen. It’s those parents that drove from all over the state so they and their kids could really “rough it” in primitive cabins. Parents who camped in less-than-ideal conditions so their children could enjoy an experience that they will remember their entire lives. They got to experience history where it happened generations before their ancestors arrived in middle and west Tennessee. They got to live experiences that they could never enjoy firsthand in a hotel in Nashville.
In fact, there was clamor for the event to be held there again. Park manager Jennifer Bauer said she would like to see it become an annual event. Over 75 adults and children enjoyed this year, after the word gets out, what number could come next year? That next annual meeting coming up in March, well, it will be in Greeneville at the General Morgan Inn where we will once again showcase some East Tennessee history.
We have a wonderful fort family including park personnel, militia members (reenactors) DAR, SAR, and other groups that come together to make events like this happen. The Daniels family is very talented, but as Melodie noted it takes us all. I must thank Artistic Printers for all the wonderful program handouts. The Overmountain Victory Trail Association also provided part of the meals.
Next weekend is Crockett Days at the David Crockett Birthplace State Park. The Daniels boys will have a tent set up to talk CAR Bring your youngsters on over and visit with them. I hope that everyone who has followed this column the last few weeks takes time to come out and trail some of the past yourself. I’ll be there, so stop by and let’s chat as we trail the past together.