Liberty!' begins 36th season at Sycamore Shoals Thursday

Contributed To The Press • Jul 9, 2014 at 11:32 AM

ELIZABETHTON — There was a lot of history made on the western approach to Elizabethton, known as Sycamore Shoals. There was the Transylvania Purchase, said to be the largest private real estate transaction in America. There was the Cherokee siege of Fort Watauga a few years later. Then came the gathering of the Overmountain Men, who mustered at Sycamore Shoals for their journey across the Blue Ridge to battle the British at King’s Mountain.

It was all that history taking place on such a small piece of land that gave rise to the state acquiring the property and naming it Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area. That history has also been captured in a play which the state has proclaimed the Official Outdoor Drama of Tennessee.

“Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals” begins its 36th season Thursday. The play will be presented each Thursday, Friday and Saturday on July 10-12, 17-19 and 24-26.

The park tells the story of these early settlers to Tennessee year around, providing programming, festivals, traditional arts workshops and living history events, but during the last three weekends of July, the park’s visitors may enjoy seeing the story of nationally significant events told in a dramatic presentation on the very ground on which the event took place.

The play is a two-act outdoor drama depicting four major events that took place in the late 18th century at Sycamore Shoals.

America in the 18th century was a loose -knit collection of 13 British colonies. In 1763 King George III of Great Britain and his parliament issued the Proclamation of 1763 stating that no lawful settlement could occur west of the Appalachian Mountains. This was done chiefly to protect the Cherokee Indians who had allied themselves with Great Britain during the French and Indian War and to keep a tight rein on the western colonial population. Increased taxes and continued harassment from the crown prompted a large number of families to move across the proclamation line and settle in the fertile valleys over the mountains.

By 1772 over 90 families had settled in the Watauga Valley alone. Finding themselves outside the protection of the crown and their settlement as a haven for outlaws hiding from the authorities, the settlers saw a need for law and order. In May of 1772 deliberations were held and a governing body of thirteen commissioners established a majority rule system called the Watauga Association.

Theodore Roosevelt in his Winning of the West said that the Watauga Settlement was the first “free and independent community on the continent” and “they successfully solved the difficult problem of self-government.” Law and order united with the idea that every free man would have a vote came about in the Watauga Settlement a full four years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776.

Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors (55 & older), and $5 for children (6-17 years of age). Children 5 and younger are admitted free. Also, a family cap discount for immediate members of one family (parents and their children) is offered for $39. Friends of Sycamore Shoals members will be admitted for $6. Veterans night is July 17: veterans and one escort are admitted free of charge for this performance. Interpretation for the Hearing Impaired will be available on July 19.

For more information, call the park at 543-5808 or visit www.sycamoreshoalstn.org.

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