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Boones Creek Historical Trust Museum and Opry open for business

Becky Campbell • Jun 8, 2018 at 7:51 PM

After more than three decades, a local history preservation organization has a place to call home but the new location can only hold a fraction of the artifacts and cherished heirlooms the group has collected since it began.

The Boones Creek Historical Trust was organized in 1986 by the late Ruth Hodges after then-Gov. Lamar Alexander asked communities across the stated to host Homecoming ‘86. The yearlong celebration was held in almost every Tennessee community. State officials said the focus was to be “part hoe-down, part history lesson and part homecoming celebration.” 

But it wasn’t until earlier this year that members of the Trust were able to bring the idea of a museum to life. It’s located in the old Radio Shack store at 525 W. Oakland Ave. Suite 1, Johnson City. Since music runs so deep in East Tennessee and Boones Creek’s history, it was a no-brainer that music should be a large part of the museum.

“This museum is threaded together with a musical timeline,” said Vicki Shell, a local musician, Boones Creek area resident and member of the Trust. “There are 20 QR codes that connect to songs through our history,” she said. And that connection continues and grows every Saturday night with live music at the museum.

Shell said members of the Trust didn’t think getting people to visit the museum would be difficult, but getting them to return again and again might. That’s when the idea of an Opry was born and one corner of the museum has a small stage where invited groups perform and then it’s opened up for anyone to pull out their instruments and jam together. There’s a $1 cover charge and snacks and drinks are sold for a nominal amount. All proceeds go into the fund for a larger museum the Trust hopes to have one day.

But even with this first step, the Historical Trust has created a space drenched in the history of Boones Creek.

Step into the door and you’ll be transported back to the very beginnings of the musical foundation of East Tennessee — the Cherokee Nation — and it’s impact on the region. The museum takes visitors from that point to Boones Creek, where Daniel Boone left his famous message that he had killed a bear in 1760, then to 1769 and Bean Fort, when William Bean became the first white settler in Boones Creek even before Tennessee was a state. At that time, Indians were known to poison the white settlers’ drinking water, so Bean build his home over the top of his spring. The building still stands today in the Flourville area of Boones Creek, Shell said.

Displays also depict early medical care in the area from two doctors — Dr. Hezekiah Hankal and Dr. Joseph L. Clark — to show business with the story of Joe Bowman, an expert shooter who went to Hollywood to create western movie shooting scenes. It tells the story of Mayme Keefauver, the fist woman to run for public office in Washington County. There also is an area dedicated to the tobacco-growing industry.

A couple of the museum’s prized possessions are an original Boone rifle and an Edison Amberola, which still plays the wax cylinders on which music was once recorded.

Shell said there has already been a lot of interest in the museum, which is run by volunteers and open 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Also on Saturday is Opry music night, which begins at 6. Tonight, the local band Rockingham Road will play prior to open mic. For more information about the museum, visit www.boonescreekhistoricaltrust.org or call 423-467-0151.

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