Sabine Hill celebrates bicentennial this weekend

John Thompson • Oct 9, 2018 at 8:14 PM

ELIZABETHTON —The recent completion of the Sabine Hill renovation project by the state came just in time to celebrate the 200th birthday of the historic house that was the first home of the legendary Tennessee family that produced governors, generals, Indian commissioners and federal judges.

There is no home that is more visible to anyone who approaches Elizabethton from the west. The two-story federal-style house stands on a hill that makes it very visible, especially when the new expressway was built to curve around the house and connect with West Elk Avenue. For generations the house with the conspicuous location slowly deteriorated in full view of the public.

That ended when two community-spirited individuals, Helen Wilson and Sam LaPorte, purchased the old home to rescue it from a developer. They then held the the home through some hard economic times for the state. It paid off when the economy improved and the state purchased the home from Wilson and LaPorte As a property of the state, the house underwent years of restoration under the direction of the Tennessee Historical Commission to restore it to its 1812 splendor.

This weekend, Sycamore Shoals will hold several Sabine Hill Bicentennial Celebration events.

The first event on the list is a very special one: An Evening with Andrew Jackson, which will be held on Friday from 6-9 p.m.

President Jackson will be portrayed by one of the nation’s most renowned re-enactors of Old Hickory, Carter County’s own Grant Hardin. He is well known for portraying many of the region’s early leaders, from Daniel Boone to William Cobb to John Sevier to name but a few. He has performed in television shows and outdoor dramas, but his most enduring performance may be his annual portrayal of Jackson at the anniversaries of the Battle of New Orleans, including the bicentennial observance in 2015. The fact that Hardin is the exact height as Jackson and his body is as wiry and lean as the general helps in his portrayal, but when he takes on the character of Jackson, he becomes just as fiery, backwoodsy, elegant and commanding as Jackson at the darkest days before the Louisiana battle.

Jackson’s connection to the bicentennial is a military one. Nathaniel Taylor may have started construction on the house and his widow, Mary Patton Taylor, completed the house, Taylor served In Jackson’s army as a brigadier general, but he was part of the force that guarded the other potential target of British invasion: Mobile, Ala. His general’s pay may have assisted his wife in completing the construction.

The Oct. 12 “Evening with Andrew Jackson” will take place in the Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park’s Visitor Center. The schedule of events Is:

6 p.m.: Doors open.

6:15 p.m.: Early 19th century music.

7 p.m.: Andrew Jackson.

8 p.m.: Reception and light refreshments.

Tickets are $8 and capacity is only 80 people. Reservations must be made online at www.tnstateparks.com/parks/sycamore-shoals. Choose "Upcoming Events" in left hand menu.

The bicentennial weekend will continue with guided tours of the Sabine Hill Home on Saturday and Sunday. Saturday’s tours will take place at 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Tours on Sunday will be held at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

Sunday, Oct. 14 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

The cost of the tour is $7 for adults, $3 for students aged 7 to 17 and free for children 6 and under. Capacity for each tour is 18 people.

Online registration is required at www.tnstateparks.com/parks/sycamore-shoals.

As part of your weekend experience be sure to take in these additional interesting and informative programs:

• Here in East Tennessee we are taught from youth about the significance of our region and its inhabitants in the American Revolution and the American Civil War. However, few people understand the crucial involvement that East Tennesseans had in the War of 1812. Melanie Storie, a lecturer with the East Tennessee State University Department of History and former seasonal interpreter at Sycamore Shoals, will be presenting a 50-minute lecture on East Tennessee’s role in one of America’s most important and most-oft-forgotten wars as part of the Sabine Hill Bicentennial Celebration. Her expertise lies within East Tennessee in 19th century history and her publications include, “The Dreaded Thirteenth Tennessee Union Cavalry: Marauding Mountain Men.” The lecture will take place in the Gathering Room within the Sycamore Shoals Visitor Center from 111-11:50 a.m. on Saturday and is free.

• Upper East Tennessee carries a strong legacy of traditional Southern music. From bluesman Brownie McGhee to world-renowned singer Tennessee Ernie Ford, a wide array of music has spread from Tennessee’s mountains abroad. The Taylors of Elizabethton so too produced music that charmed the hearts and ears of locals and foreigners alike. Brothers Bob and Alf Taylor who at separate times held Tennessee’s highest office, brought mountain music to the national stage by “fiddling around” on the campaign trail, even fiddling together when they ran against one another in the 1886 gubernatorial contest. Miraculously, links to the Taylors’ music, such as phonograph records, eyewitness accounts and even Alf Taylor’s fiddle survive to today. Thanks to ETSU’s Reece Museum and director Randall Sanders, Alf’s fiddle among other Taylor related treasures will be on display at Sycamore Shoals for the Sabine Hill Bicentennial Celebration. Ranger Corbin Hayslett will present a program on East Tennessee fiddling and the Taylor brothers’ influence and legacy on Saturday in the Gathering Place within the Visitor Center. The program will last from noon until 12:50 p.m. and is free.

Additionally, the Sabine Hill Social Society will be offering opportunities throughout the weekend for visitors to take a glimpse into the social atmosphere of the early 19th century. These free programs will take place in the Gathering Room of the Visitor Center. Playing cards was a very common pastime in the early 1800s. On Saturday from 1:30-4 p.m. join in the fun, and learn some early 19th century card games. On Sunday from 1:30-4 p.m. join Sabine Hill Social Society members to learn about early 19th century dance styles and practices. Dancing was a highly popular social pastime, so come to learn or just to watch. No partner or prior experience required.

For more information and a detailed schedule, call Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park at 423-543-5808 or visit www.sycamoreshoalstn.org and www.tnstateparks.com/parks/sycamore-shoals. The park is located at 1651 W. Elk Ave. in Elizabethton. The Sabine Hill State Historic Site is two miles west of the park at 2328 W. G St.

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