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Return of the Overmountain Men highlights busy month at Sycamore Shoals

John Thompson • Updated Sep 5, 2017 at 7:43 PM

ELIZABETHTON — Although Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park is busy for most of the year, it is September when some very dedicated people always plan to make their visit.

The reason why September is such ah important month is because 237 years ago, the Overmountain Men mustered at Sycamore Shoals prior to making the trek southeastward toward the Roan Highlands and Yellow Mountain Gap. They were on their way to meet British Maj. Patrick Ferguson and his military force of loyalists

Each year a contingent of re-enactors portraying the Overmountain Men begin marching at the start of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail in Abingdon, Virginia, and begin marching south. One of the highlights of the re-enactment each year is the fording of the Watauga River, where the Overmountain Men first set foot on the grounds of the park.

That event and the weekend prior to the crossing have become important days on the park’s calendar. This year is no exception. The crossing of the river should take place around 2 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 25.

Another annual event tied to the events of 1780 is a weekend event to commemorate the gathering of the Overmountain Men at Sycamore Shoals. That includes not only the Overmountain Men coming from Virginia and the north, who crossed the Watauga, but also many other men from the Watauga and Nolichucky settlements who were waiting on the other side of the river when the Virginians made their crossing. This year, that gathering will be commemorated on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 23 and 24.

The park will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Sunday to provide visitors with a glimpse of what the gathering must have been like. Re-enactors will be exhibiting not only their clothing and weapons, but also their campsites and daily life on the Appalachian frontier at the time of the Revolutionary War.

The weekend will attract not only re-enactors from the region, but also from many other areas who are following the itinerary of the Overmountain Men on their march to meet Ferguson on Kings Mountain.

The events will continue into Tuesday, Sept. 26, when the re-enactors will portray the fiery "Sword of Gideon" sermon given by the Rev. Samuel Doak at Sycamore Shoals before the bivouac broke up and the Overmountain Men headed for Roan Mountain.

The re-enactors will also visit the grave of Mary Patton, who manufactured the gunpowder used by the Overmountain Men in the battle. The marchers will spend the night at Roan Mountain.

The weekend before the gathering will also be a busy one for the park. As part of that weekend, the Tennessee Society Sons of the American Revolution will celebrate the Gathering at Sycamore Shoals with a wreath-laying memorial service. The public is invited to attend and participate in the wreath-laying service. For more information, contact Ronnie Lail at 423-914-8677 or [email protected]

The 20th Annual Fort Watauga Knap-In will also be held on that weekend of Sept 16-17 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day. This annual event brings together “knappers” from throughout the Tri-Cities region as they demonstrate the age old skills of knapping stone using traditional techniques. Demonstrations will include blade making, arrowhead making, atlatl and spear, bullroarer and more.

Also on Sunday, Sept. 17, from 1:30-4 p.m. there will be a presentation of "Women's Attire: A reflection of history in America: 1880s to 1950s." The program will be presented by Judy Murray and will feature period clothing, which will be offered for sale. Light refreshments will be provided.

One final event for Sycamore Shoals Park in September takes place on the last day of the month. Participants can celebrate National Public Lands Day by joining Bryan Stevens of the Lee and Lois Herndon Bird Club for a morning of viewing birds during the migratory season.

Participants should dress appropriately for the weather as the group will be taking a casual stroll on the park grounds. Meet outside in front of the Visitor Center, tour will begin at 8 a.m.

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