Gathering of the Overmountain Men highlights September at Sycamore Shoals

John Thompson • Aug 28, 2018 at 9:18 PM

ELIZABETHTON_ — September marks one of the most important months of the year at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park.

It is the month of the Gathering of the Overmountain Men at Sycamore Shoals, when men from Tennessee, Southwest Virginia, Kentucky and the Carolinas gathered to march south to confront British Maj. Patrick Ferguson and his loyalist force atop Kings Mountain in South Carolina. It was an event that has often been described as a turning point in the Revolutionary War.

The annual event always takes place at the end of September. That is because the Overmountain Men gathered at Sycamore Shoals on Sept. 25, 1780. The next morning, they heard a celebrated sermon from Presbyterian minister Samuel Doak and the men then rode out to Gap Creek and then to Sheltering Rock in Roan Mountain.

This year, the celebration will take place over two weekends. The Gathering at Sycamore Shoals begins on Saturday, Sept. 15, starting at 10 a.m. The Tennessee Society Sons of the American Revolution will celebrate the 238th “Gathering at Sycamore Shoals.” The event will include a memorial service and a wreath-laying service. The public is invited to attend and participate in the wreath laying. For more information, contact Ronnie Lall at 423-914-8677 or [email protected]

On the next weekend, Overmountain Men re-enactors will be encamped at Sycamore Shoals, portraying the way they lived during their march to Kings Mountain. The re-enactors provide an accurate representation of how the Overmountain Men camped, ate and socialized on their long march to South Carolina. The encampment will be open to the public on Saturday, Sept. 22, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Sunday, Sept. 23, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The climax comes on Tuesday, Sept. 25, when the re-enactors from Overmountain Victory Trail Association arrive in Sycamore Shoals. Many of these re-enactors are retracing the steps of the Overmountain Men on the exact date they arrived at each location. The re-enactors begin their trek each year in Abingdon, Va., and head south. Their arrival at Sycamore Shoals is always a highlight because they cross the Watauga River, stopping in the middle of the river to fire a volley with their long rifles. The crossing usually takes place around 2 p.m. The re-enactors have been retracing the Overmountain Men’s route across the icy river since 1975.

The Overmountain Victory Trail Association participants will be camping at Sycamore Shoals and gathering the next morning for the Rev. Doak’s sermon.

But there will be plenty of other things going on at the park during September.

As always, the Watauga Valley Fife and Drum Corps will meet every Saturday to practice. The corps forms at historical events, dedications and parades. Every Saturday, the Senior Corps meets from 10 a.m. to noon. The Junior Corps meets from noon to 1 p.m. The Junior Corps is open to new members and beginners. Musical experience is welcome but not necessary, just come with a willingness to learn. Junior Corps members have opportunities throughout the year to move into Senior Corps as they progress.

Another event that will span much of September is the Tennessee Watercolor Society Traveling Show. It will be at Sycamore Shoals from Saturday, Sept. 1, to Sunday, Sept. 23. The hours are 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., except Sundays, when the show will be open from 1-4:30 p.m. There will be a reception on Sunday, Sept. 9, from 2-4 p.m. The traveling show has 30 juried paintings created by award-winning water color artists from across the state. The exhibition originates in Clarksville and comes to Sycamore Shoals every other year. Local artists Barbara Jake Wilson and Linda Campbell have paintings in this year’s exhibit.

There will be a chance to participate in a bike ride on Sept. 5. The ride will take place from 10-11 a.m. and will be led by Park Rangers Jason Davis and Corbin Hayslett. They will take participants on a ride up the Tweetsie Trail to the Elizabethton Covered Bridge, then back to the park via the Elizabethton Linear Trail. Total loop will be about 6 miles and take approximately one hour, depending on the ability level of the participants. Portions of the route will not be suitable for pull-behind child carriers. The ride will be rescheduled if the weather is bad. The cost is $5 per rider and the maximum participation is 10 riders. Pre-registration required at www.tnstateparks.com/parks/about/sycamore-shoals. Choose “Upcoming Events” in the left-hand menu.

The National Garden Club Standard Flower Show will take place on Friday, Sept. 7, from 1-4 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 8, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event is the by the Shady Oaks Garden Club, which has had several state winners in flower shows in the past few years. This year’s event will include artistic flower designs, horticulture specimens, educational exhibits and botanical art creations.

The Liberty Spinners will hold their monthly meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 9:30 a.m. This gathering of spinners and fiber artists is open to anyone interested in the art of spinning.

There will also be a tour of the Carter Mansion on Tuesday, Sept. 11, at 11 a.m. Participants will be guided by Davis on a tour of Tennessee’s oldest frame house. The mansion is located at 1031 Broad St. Admission is $7 for adults, $3 for ages 7 to 17. Children 6 and under are admitted free. Pre-registration required at www.tnstateparks.com/parks/about/sycamore-shoals. Choose “Upcoming Events” in the left-hand menu.

On Wednesday, Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. to noon, participants can go “Fishin’ with a Ranger.” Join Davis and Hayslett for a morning of fishin’ and fun at the Historic Carter Mansion. The rangers ask that you  bring your lucky pole and favorite lures. The cost is $5 and pre-registration required at www.tnstateparks.com/parks/about/sycamore-shoals. Choose “Upcoming Events” in the left hand menu.

The fun will tranform from fishin’ to fiddlin’ on Thursday, Sept. 13, from 2-3 p.m. The fiddle was used for all sorts of music on the frontier. From ballad accompaniment, dance tunes, and lonesome soulful pieces, early residents of this region expressed themselves through the tones of violins in all shapes and sizes. Participants will join Hayslett in historic Sabine Hill (built 1818) to venture back in time and experience frontier fiddlin’. The cost is $10 for adults, $7 for ages 7-17. Children under 6 are admitted free. Pre-registration is required – www.tnstateparks.com/parks/about/sycamore-shoals. Choose “Upcoming Events” in the left hand menu.

The 21st Annual Fort Watauga Knap-In will take place on the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 16-17, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Knapping — with a “K” — has nothing to do with sleep. Knapping is the art of making stone tools, and the Fort Watauga event is the park’s celebration of Tennessee Archaeology Week. Watch primitive skills craftsmen make arrowheads, spear points and other survival tools. There will be demonstrations of primitive tools such as the bow, arrow and atlatl throughout the day.

Sabine Hill will be featured once again on Sunday, Sept. 16, from 1-4 p.m for an afternoon of early 19th century dance with the Sabine Hill Social Society. Beginners and seasoned dancers alike are all welcome. The afternoon will include English country dance and early Appalachian dance techniques.

The monthly Old Time Music Jam led by Art Lang will take place on Sunday, Sept. 23, from 1:30 p.m. to  4 p.m. It will once again be time to enjoy the rich musical traditions of the region. Old-time musicians of all levels are welcome. Don’t play and instrument? Come on over, kick back, and enjoy the tunes.

For another chance to learn to play an instrument, join Martha Egan, an experienced pennywhistle player and teacher, for her class on learning the pennywhistle on Sunday, Sept. 30, from 1:30-3 p.m. Popular in the British Isles in the 1800s, this class includes the fundamentals of holding and sounding your pennywhistle, learning the first notes, and playing a song — or come and advance the skills you already possess. Music and other supplemental materials provided. All ages welcome. The cost is $25 and includes a Clarke or Walton pennywhistle in the key of D, with instructions. The cost is $15 if you bring your own instrument.