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Tennessee State Parks Series: Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area remains true to heritage

February 15th, 2012 12:37 pm by Staff Report

Tennessee State Parks Series: Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area remains true to heritage

Throughout the year, the park holds numerous events and workshops commemorating the Sycamore Shoals' historical significance.

Editor's Note: The Tennessee State Parks system is celebrating its 75th Anniversary in 2012. In February, we are taking a closer look at each of the four Tennessee State Parks located in or just a short distance from the Tri-Cities.

By Pam Cox

ELIZABETHTON, Tenn.- Sycamore Shoals State Park may be "small in acreage, but it is huge in history," said park manager Jennifer Bauer.

Although the Sycamore Shoals area was important in so many historical events, it did not become a state park until 1976, when the nation celebrated its bicentennial.

The series of events that unfolded at Sycamore Shoals was critical to state and national history in the 18th century.

Sycamore Shoals and the Watauga River Valley Area was the site of one of the earliest settlements outside of the original 13 English colonies. The Watauga Association, the nation’s first majority-ruled form of government, was born in 1772 - years before the Declaration of Independence.

In 1775, the area was the site of one of the nation’s largest land deals - the Transylvania Purchase which, ultimately led Daniel Boone to blaze the Wilderness Road. Prior to this huge land deal, the pioneers and the Cherokee had lived together in peace and, often, forged bonds of assistance in this newly-developing land.

Richard Henderson of North Carolina headed the Transylvania Purchase and made a deal with the Cherokee to purchase 20 million acres of land from the Cumberland River watershed to the Kentucky River. Henderson agreed to pay the Cherokee 2,000 pounds of British Sterling and an additional 8,000 worth of goods for the land.

More than 1,200 Cherokee spent weeks at Sycamore Shoals debating the merits of the proposal. Cherokee warrior Dragging Canoe was firmly against the deal, but he was overridden by Chief Little Carpenter. Dragging Canoe vowed to drive the pioneers from the native land, forcing the pioneers to build Fort Watauga for their protection.

Often deemed the most significant event of Sycamore Shoals’ history was the muster of the Overmountain Militia Men who fought and defeated a Loyalist army at the Battle of King’s Mountain. The victory of the Overmountain Men at King’s Mountain is considered by many historians to be a turning point in the Revolutionary War.

With so much rich history, Sycamore Shoals State Park has remained true to its heritage. Throughout the year, the park holds numerous events and workshops commemorating the Shoals’ historical significance.

A few highlights of upcoming events include: Carter Mansion Celebration and Militia, April 14; 18th Annual Siege at Fort Watauga, May 19-20; Native American Festival, June 2-3; An 18th Century Independence Celebration & Muster, June 30; "Liberty," the Saga of Sycamore Shoals, July 12-14, 19-21 and 26-28; Civil War Camp at the Carter Mansion in August; the 12th Annual Sycamore Shoals Celtic Festival, Sept. 7-9; Overmountain Victory Trail Celebration, Sept. 22, 23 & 25; Fort Watauga Knap-In, Oct. 6-7; Harvest Celebration & Militia Muster at Fort Watauga, Nov. 17-18; and Lamplight Christmas Wreath Exhibit and Winterfest Art Show, beginning in December and continuing through Jan. 4.

The Lamplight Christmas Wreath Exhibit will replace the annual Christmas Tree Exhibit.

"We had to change the event this year because our museum is undergoing a renovation that will create a new interpretative center for the park," Bauer explained.

Bauer has been with Sycamore Shoals for nine years. While Sycamore Shoals is surrounded by an abundance of natural beauty, Bauer finds the historical events that happened here to be incredible.

"When I think about the history of this place, I am so amazed by the personal character of the people who lived here and who were willing to risk everything for something they believed in - freedom," she said.

For more information on Sycamore Shoals and its events and workshops, visit the website at or or call 423-543-5805.

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