Visitors to Rocky Mount on Oct. 19 can take a step back in time and experience the kinds of harvest-time activities the Cobb family and other Tennessee pioneers were busy tending to this time of year.
Rocky Mount’s annual Spirit of the Harvest celebration will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the living history farm in Piney Flats.
In addition to living history tours of the Cobb-Massengill house, the event will feature a number of craft classes and demonstrations related to the fall season, including hearth-side cooking, blacksmithing, apple butter making and apple cider pressing as well as lessons in 19th-century salt making by reenactor Jim Bordwine of Saltville, Va.
Bordwine has been demonstrating traditional salt making for 10 years.
European settlers arrived in the Saltville area around 1750 and started manufacturing salt after discovering the vast stores of salty marsh brine beneath their feet. Before refrigeration, salt was of the utmost importance for preservation of food. During the Civil War, Saltville was responsible for producing salt for all the Southern states, and in 1864 alone sold $100 million worth of salt, even with two battles fought in the valley that year.
Salt is still produced in Saltville today.
Between 1 and 3 p.m., members of the Jonesborough Storytellers Guild will spin tales in Rocky Mount’s theater, and throughout the day, teachers and students from the Appalachian Music Teachers Association will perform traditional and Americana music on keyboard and violin.
Admission to Spirit of the Harvest is $5 per person for ages 5 and up, and free for members of the Rocky Mount Historical Association.
Craft classes in candle dipping and making cornshuck dolls will be offered for an additional $2 per craft.
Rocky Mount will also be collecting non-perishable foods for Second Harvest. Anyone who donates food items gets 10 percent off their gift shop purchase on Saturday and a coupon for a discounted regular admission living history tour on their next visit.
William Cobb brought his family from North Carolina and built his two-story log structure between 1770 and 1772. During the Revolution, Cobb helped to supply the Overmountain men with gunpowder, horses, blankets and food on their way to the Battle of King’s Mountain. He and two of his sons joined the march to North Carolina where the American Forces won a great victory.
In 1790, the land that Cobb had settled became known as the Southwest Territory. The territory was formed from land that was originally a westward extension of North Carolina. The people of the area wanted to split away and become independent. They attempted to form their own state, calling it the State of Franklin after Benjamin Franklin, and elected John Sevier as governor of the state. The Lost State of Franklin was never recognized by the Federal government and was dissolved.
Cobb mostly kept himself above local politics, which seemed to make his home an ideal spot to house the governor of the Southwest Territory, William Blount. Blount was appointed governor by George Washington and lived with the Cobb family from 1790 until 1792, making Rocky Mount the first Territorial Capital of the Southwest Territory, which became the State of Tennessee in 1796.
William Cobb and his wife, Barsheba, moved to what is now Knoxville in 1795. They left Rocky Mount to their daughter, Penelope, who had married Hal Massengill. Rocky Mount stayed in the family, passed down through the generations, until 1958.
Rocky Mount is now a State of Tennessee Historic Site administered cooperatively with the Tennessee Historical Commission and the Rocky Mount Historical Association. Rocky Mount Museum is a “living history” museum, which uses first-person interpretation to portray people living in 1791.
Costumed interpreters take visitors through the log home of Rocky Mount and out-buildings, giving visitors a personal look at what it was like to live in the Southwest Territory. In the house, visitors will see such treasures as a 1720s Richard Midgley clock and hear stories about the Cobb family, Governor Blount, life on the frontier and the latest gossip of the territory.
In the historic kitchen, interpreters demonstrate 18th century cooking techniques and tools. Rocky Mount’s garden includes medicinal, culinary and dye plants that were often used in 1791.
The last building on the tour is the weaving cabin, where visitors will learn about flax and wool processing by watching interpreters demonstrate these techniques.
Rocky Mount is open for tours from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. Living history tours and the facility are available by reservation at any time, including Sundays and Mondays, for school and other groups, with advance reservations.
For more information, call (423) 538-7396 or visit www.rockymountmuseum.com.