Monday marks the 233th anniversary of the Battle of Kings Mountain, which was a monumental win for patriots that couldn’t have been achieved without the help of militiamen from this area. Most Upper East Tennesseans know the story of the Overmountain Men, who mustered at Sycamore Shoals on the banks of the Watauga River before marching to South Carolina to confront loyalist troops under the command of British Major Patrick Ferguson.
The Overmountain Men played a key role in defeating Ferguson in a battle that lifted patriot morale and sparked subsequent victories in the South. It was just little less than a year later that the British surrendered at Yorktown, Va.
The Overmountain Men are just part of the wonderfully rich history of our region. As we’ve noted in this space before, some of the greatest and most heroic figures in American history walked this very ground. David Crockett, Daniel Boone and Andrew Jackson are just a few that come to mind.
This is where the state of Tennessee was born. You might even argue that this is where the identity of this very nation was forged.
More than 200 years ago, frontiersmen, tradesmen and clergymen from the area assembled at Fort Watauga to carve out a system of government that would stand as a model for a burgeoning nation.
We are pleased to see that spirit of independence and an appreciation of history abides today in some of their descendants. As Press Elizabethton Bureau Chief John Thompson reported recently, a new generation has taken up the tradition of crossing the Watauga River at Sycamore Shoals on Sept. 25 to re-enact the Overmountain Men’s start to their trek to Kings Mountain. Tristan Gifford, at 14 months old, is the youngest re-enactor to ever to make the crossing. He was carried across the river by his mother, Wendy.
She told the Press she wants to raise her children to have a love and understanding of local history, which is her family’s history as well. Wendy’s maiden name is McKeehan, and she traces her family lineage back to Mary Patton of Powder Branch, who is famous for making gunpowder for the Overmountain Men.
As Thompson noted in his story, Wendy has been successful in instilling her love of history in her older son, Jordan, who is a fifth-grader at Happy Valley Elementary School. That’s refreshing to hear. We wish more parents would follow Wendy’s lead.