ELIZABETHTON — One of the most important houses in early Tennessee history will be open to the public this weekend, as a celebration of the Carter Mansion will include a wide variety of events and activities.
The Carter Mansion is the oldest wood frame home in the state and was built around 1775-1780, a time when most settlers were living in small log cabins.
The standards of homebuilding have increased dramatically since the time when John Carter and his son, Landon, built their mansion on the banks of the Watauga River. Even though it was built more than two and a quarter centuries ago, the house is still impressive with its overmantle murals, hand-carved moldings and raised panels. Donated furniture from the period adds to the authenticity.
The house is also important because of the roles the Carter family played in the state’s early history. Carter County is named in honor of Landon and Elizabethton is named in honor of Landon’s wife, Elizabeth. The house is said to be the only surviving link to the Watauga Association, the first democratic government set up by people born on the North American continent.
Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area historic interpreter Chad Bogart said there will be five free guided tours of the house this weekend. The tours will take place at 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday and at noon and 2 p.m. Sunday.
Bogart said there will be plenty of other activities going on, including the 4th Anniversary for the Washington County Regiment of North Carolina Milita, Sycamore Shoals’ living history organization.
The organization will be part of an event Bogart said he always finds especially touching. On Saturday, after the militia inspection and the raising of the colors at 10 a.m., there will be a grave decoration and “mourning of arms” to honor the Carter Family buried in the nearby cemetery.
Bogart said the mourning is an 18th century drill in which an honor guard fires their muskets simultaneously and then very, very slowly brings their weapons to order arms. Women will place flowers on the graves while the Watauga Valley Fifes and Drums play several pieces of period music.
One of the highlights Saturday will be the “Skirmish at the Mansion.” The performance will portray events that took place in 1781, when John Carter and John Sevier, who had access to the deed books, confiscated the lands of all loyalists.
When the Tories learned about the confiscation, they plotted to kill Carter and Sevier, take the deed books and restore their lands. The wife of one of the conspirators was friendly with Sevier and warned him. Carter then took the real deed books and fled, leaving a forged deed book in his office.
Carter died of smallpox a short time later, taking the location of his treasure to his grave.
The re-enactors will depict the events leading to a skirmish at the mansion. It is not known whether there was actual shooting at the event, but the public should enjoy and learn some local history from the re-enactment that will take place at 1 p.m. each day.
Bogart said there will be plenty of other examples of living history, such as Doug Ledbetter, who will demonstrate pewter casting, including the use of an authentic 18th-century spoon mold. “I am sure he will have some for sale,” Bogart said.
Another popular attraction for children is Ronnie Lail’s rope-making demonstrations. Bogart said Lail will make rope for jump ropes for the children.
The celebration will take place from 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Saturday and from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday. All events will take place on the grounds of the Carter Mansion at 1013 Broad St.