It’s taken at least three decades for a Boones Creek Historical Trust’s vision to come to life, and now it’s a tangible thing to celebrate the rich history and heritage of the community.
During those 30 years or so, members were gathering items of historical significance to Boones Creek. Those things were stored at several places because there wasn’t a place large enough for all of it.
But when the City of Johnson City gifted the Kefauver farm house and two acres at 632 Hales Chapel Road in Gray last year, things began to happen in high gear.
The Boones Creek Opry and a small museum, which had already been established in a strip mall in Johnson City, moved to its new home — actually in Boones Creek — but there was still work to do.
Trust members began immediately formulating a concrete plan to turn the house into the museum and build an opry stage.
“You want to talk about regionalism? This is regionalism. It’s the tie that binds,” Vicki Shell, one of several leaders in the BCHT who kept the vision alive, said as she looked around the Opry Barn recently. Her excitement was hardly containable as she talked about things that are to come for the site.
The Opry started out under a large event tent, but the barn was recently completed and shows have started each Saturday at 6 p.m.
Much of the expense for the barn was donated, she said. Kelly Wolfe provided the building, Summers Taylor poured the concrete, Tim Hicks ran the electrical system and Ferguson Supply provided lights.
The Opry also now has a corporate sponsor that’s also a home-grown business. Dr. Enuf, the bubbly drink that was developed and is manufactured in Johnson City, stepped in to become a big part of ensuring the Boones Creek history remains alive, Shell said.
The barn is decorated with items that connect and express the impact the Boones Creek community had on the area, including concert announcement posters, farm items used during the 1700s and things that depict Daniel Boone’s impact on the region.
The most recent addition to the barn is an impressive 8-foot-by-5-foot hand-carved mural of Boone and the Axe Men on horses gathered on Long Island in Kingsport. That’s where they crossed the Holston River, a spot that would become the starting point of the Wilderness Trail, which led to the Cumberland Gap.
Master wood carver Joe Pilkington gifted the carving to the Boones Creek trust after Kingsport apparently turned it down.
“In an interview with the Times-News I said the first person who called me could have it,” Pilkington said.
Bright and early on the Monday after that story ran on a Sunday, a board member from the Historical Trust called Pilkington and said, “we want it. We want it.”
True to his word, Pilkington transported the carving to the Opry site and it now hangs in the barn.
Pilkington, who retired from graphic design work, was instrumental in carving the horses on the Kingsport Carousel.
Dressed in a white t-shirt, overalls and a felt cowboy hat, Pilkington’s eyes lit up when he talked about the Daniel Boone carving — a relief carving that makes the subjects appear as if they’re rising up out of the wood — and wood carving in general.
The piece, which took about 300 hours to carve, would have cost around $40,000 if he had been commissioned to do it.
But the trust isn’t stopping with the museum and opry barn, Shell said.
“We’re applying for grants,” that will help sustain the property.
“There is a lot of growth coming here,” she said. “The more that happens, the more we will thrive. They (residents and folks from elsewhere) want to see this,” she said.
“It’s going to make people see what we’re about … our history,” she said.
Just down the road, another plot of pasture land is being prepared for a new subdivision.
Opry performances aren’t the only thing happening at the site.
Shell said one school group has already visited the farm, and she expects it will become a popular educational field trip.
Shell compiled numerous interviews from members of the Boones Creek trust who want to keep the history alive. She used those interviews to create a movie, approximately 30 minutes, that museum guests will view to get the foundation of the area’s history before continuing with the tour.
“We want that to be in every school in Washington County … children don’t even know where they are,” and the importance of Boones Creek history, Shell said.
The barn venue could also be an event venue for outside groups, she said, and the house can be used for other types of events.
Admission to the Opry night is still a modest $2, but Shell said many people drop more than that in the jar. There will be some special performances that will carry a $10 admission ticket, but Shell said she hopes they can keep the entrance fee low to encourage more people to attend.
The Kefauver house is open for free tours 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and the Saturday night performances start at 6 p.m. with a featured musical artist followed by an open mike for anyone to share their talents.
Donations are always appreciated, Shell said, because she and others hope the site will be there for generations to come. For more information, visit www.boonescreekhistoricaltrust.org/ or call 423-461-0151.