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Rocky Mount Museum building on momentum

Staff Report • Aug 18, 2013 at 5:30 PM

The Rocky Mount Historical Association is gearing up for its annual business meting at 7 p.m., Aug. 22 in the Rocky Mount Museum Auditorium in Piney Flats, and members are encouraging the public to join them.

Following opening remarks by Rep. Timothy Hill of the Tennessee House 3rd District, the group will elect new members to its board of trustees and new officers to its executive board. The slate of perspective board members and officers will be presented by Donald Davis, chairperson of the association’s nominating committee. Three standing association officers — Heather Bagnell, vice-president; Theresa Hayes, secretary; and Roscoe Harrison, treasurer — have requested to step down. Elizabeth Banks, Rayma Gibbs and Martha Stirling will stand in nomination for the vacant positions, respectively. In addition, Dr. Lindsey King, Dr. Pat LaBahn, Mary Alexander, Maxine Phillippi and Nancy Hart are nominated as board members.

After the elections, Rocky Mount interpreter Tom Turner will present a historical vignette on Daniel Smith, a pioneer, surveyor, treaty negotiator and United States Senator. Smith’s specific significance to Rocky Mount and the Southwest Territory was his appointment in 1790 by President George Washington as secretary of the newly established United States territory. He was given the authority to act in the stead of Gov. William Blount in his absence.

The annual business meeting is the latest in a string of happenings at Rocky Mount in the last couple of years. In October of 2011, the living history site dedicated its newly renovated Frank W. DeFriece Jr. and Josephine Wilson Memorial Gallery following a nearly 15-month closure for structural renovation and installation of state-of-the-art exhibits. The renovation was made possible by a grant of over $400,000 from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation and the Tennessee Historical Commission.

That same month also marked the inaugural 15K Overmountain Men Victory Run to commemorate the historic return of the farmer militia after their victory at the Battle of King’s Mountain on Oct. 7, 1780. Members of this citizen militia mustered first in Abingdon, Va., then came to Rocky Mount on the evening of Sept. 24, 1780 seeking the assistance of William Cobb and his family. The next day they mustered with others at Sycamore Shoals for the 330-mile trek to battle the British Loyalists under British Col. Patrick Ferguson. Rocky Mount holds its annual Victory Run on the first Saturday following the historic date of the battle (Oct. 7) and attracts an ever-increasing number of runners. Runners interested in participating in this year’s race should call Rocky Mount at 538-7396.

April 1, 2012, marked the 50th anniversary of the opening of Rocky Mount to the public. The museum and historic site celebrated the occasion with special programming throughout the year and the creation of a half dollar-size commemorative coin.

Just this past month, Rocky Mount unveiled a new interactive website that allows visitors to read about all the upcoming events at Rocky Mount as well as find out how to rent the facilities, learn about members of the board and more.

“Rocky Mount truly remains a hidden treasure and now with this dynamic website we have taken another step in overcoming the reality of hiding our light under a basket,” said Gary Walrath, Rocky Mount’s executive director.

Coming in September is another first for Rocky Mount: The Symphony of the Mountains Chamber Ensemble will perform Franz Schubert’s “Quintet in C Major, Opus 163 (among other pieces, including a world premier) in Rocky Mount’s auditorium. The quintet is composed of Sean Claire and Ilia Steinscneider (violin), Gina Caldwell (viola), Matt Wilkinson and Jeanine Wilkinson (cello). Sponsored by Bob and Nancy Hart, the event will be held from 3 to 5 p.m., Sept. 15. Tickets are $25, and all proceeds will support Rocky Mount.

Future plans for the Rocky Mount Historical Association include obtaining a view shed, which will hopefully help visitors maintain the illusion of stepping back into the 18th century. Major repair work to the site is coming, including new walkways that will improve the travel from one building to another.

“We are proud of Rocky Mount,” Walrath said, “and we are excited about the experience and productivity of our board members, past and present. We are anticipating even more exciting ventures in the near future, and we invite the public to become involved with us. Joining us for the Annual Meeting on Aug. 22 would be a fine place to start.”

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