They fought in the Revolutionary War, they lived in the area west of the Appalachian Mountains when it was annexed by North Carolina, they were here when it was briefly the State of Franklin, and they’ve been here since Tennessee gained statehood.
In 1824, patriarch Samuel Stonecypher bought land next to the Nolichucky River containing a small cabin with ties to a big personality. Pioneer and statesman David Crockett was born there and was just making a name for himself when the Stonecyphers bought the land.
Living descendant Rick Stonecypher was born in 1955, when Crockett’s popularity was surging because of a Disney miniseries, “Davy Crockett,” that immortalized the folk hero.
Rick fondly remembers the summers of his boyhood, running trotlines across the river for catfish and sleeping in a huge World War II tent on the old homestead, but he also remembers visits from U.S. Reps. Jimmy Quillen and Howard Baker and Gov. Lamar Alexander after the spot became an important meeting site for the community.
“I’d be riding my bicycle down to the river with two fishing poles on each handlebar and see a big shiny car outside great-granddaddy’s house, and I’d know Quillen was in town,” Rick, now in his 60s, said.
The Davy Crockett Birthplace Association took over the some of the land in the late 50s to preserve its historical value, but the Stonecypher family continued living there until 1973, when the state took ownership of the land and established the Davy Crockett Birthplace State Park.
Rick said the park has undergone a significant transformation in the last year-and-a-half under the new leadership of park manager Jackie Fischer. Since she came to the park, she’s petitioned for a name change to David Crockett Birthplace State Park and established a working homestead on the site with animals and live demonstrators to show visitors how the land was used in the time of Crockett.
A few weeks ago, as part of the park’s annual Crockett Days Celebration, Fischer invited the living Stonecyphers and their descendants, some of whom hail from Kentucky, to the park to dedicate Stonecypher cabin in their honor.
Rick, his 84-year-old mother and his 90-year-old uncle, joined with other family members to watch more than 100 historical reenactors from six states, including the Overmountain Men, the Sons, Daughters and Children of the American Revolution and the Watauga Valley Fife and Drum Corps, marched from the parks monument to the homestead.
“We love the fact that people can see how people lived back then, how hard it was,” Rick said. “We’ve waited a long time for this to come around and for her to reinterpret the way it was when we knew it. We’re so honored Jackie wanted to do that for the family.”
Rick, a member of the Sons of the American Revolution, said he’s always been interested in his family’s history, and seeing the new activity at the park under Fischer and the new opportunities to teach visitors about the region’s past makes him proud.