The Overmountain Men that settled the area around present-day Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park were movers and shakers during the 1770s who established a majority-rule government known as the Watauga Association four years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence, negotiated a land treaty with Cherokee leaders, played an important part in the expansion of settlements west of the Alleghany Mountains and influenced the outcome of the American Revolution. Photo TN State Parks
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History Happens at Tennessee State Parks

There’s something of interest for everyone on a journey into the 1770s during the Living History-Militia Muster on February 15-16, 2014 at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park in Elizabethton.

Re-enactors portray a variety of characters and highlight the skills and trades needed by the self-sufficient pioneering families that lived here like rendering salt, a commodity crucial for preserving foods and enhancing flavor.

Sycamore Shoals Living History

Chad Bogart and David “Buck” Simerly render salt and maple syrup – salt kettle on the left and syrup kettle on the right – at Sycamore Shoals State Park. (Photo: Retha Reece)

As Chad Bogart, Historic Interpreter at Sycamore Shoals explained, liquid brine hauled in from salt wells many miles away in Saltville, Virginia was boiled to render salt. Those same salt wells became strategically important during the Civil War. Tanning hides, working leather, cooking over an open hearth, hand sewing, spinning and knitting will be demonstrated too.

Sycamore Shoals hosts living history programs throughout the year, holds a two-day Native American Festival in May, presents an outdoor drama during July and has scenic walks along the Sycamore Shoals of the Watauga River. For details, call 423-543-5808.

Find More History at Ford Loudoun

The 1,200-acre Fort Loudoun State Historic Park overlooks Tellico Lake and tells the story that took place here during the French and Indian War (1754-1763).

I recommend visiting the reconstructed fort, stopping by the interpretative center to see displays of interesting artifacts and viewing a 30-minute video about the history of Fort Loudoun and how the British plan to strengthen ties with the Cherokee ran amok.

Living history garrison weekends, interpretive programs and the 18th Century Trade Faire held each September are all popular events. You may also enjoy the great hiking, fishing and birding. For more information, call 423-884-6217.

Garrison Fort Loudoun

The British garrison at Fort Loudoun was intended to strengthen ties with the Overhill Cherokee during Britain’s fight with the French during the French and Indian War. (Photo: TN State Parks)

Cherokee Heritage Day and More 

The neighboring Sequoyah Birthplace Museum is operated by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee to honor the man who brought reading and writing to his people during the 1820s. Special events include Cherokee Heritage Day, Sequoyah Remembrance Day and the 23rd Annual Fall Festival on September 6-7. Call 423-884-6246 for more details.

Also part of 19th century Cherokee heritage, Red Clay State Historic Park encompasses 263 acres south of Cleveland. Between 1832-1837, Red Clay served as the seat of Cherokee government. This is where the Cherokee learned their efforts to remain in their traditional homeland had failed. The James F. Corn Interpretive Facility has a film and exhibits about the Trail of Tears and this poignant, difficult chapter in Cherokee history.

Red Clay State Park

The eternal flame was returned to Red Clay in 1984 from fires originally lit using coals that were carried to Oklahoma during the Trail of Tears. (Photo: TN State Parks)

You can also visit the reconstructed council house and the sacred Blue Hole Spring. The Council of Trees Trail is a good place to see migratory birds during the spring and fall. Red Clay hosts a two-day Pow Wow each fall. For information call 423-478-0339.

About ten miles south of Jackson, Pinson Mounds State Archaeological Park contains at least 15 Native American mounds that form the largest Middle Woodland Period mound complex in the Southeastern United States.

These mound builders lived long before historic tribes such as the Cherokee and Chickasaw as you will learn in the museum that replicates a mound and offers displays and interpretive programs. Archaeological evidence suggests the mounds were used for both burial and ceremonial purposes. Five hiking trails provide ample opportunities to explore the park. For additional information call 731-988-5614

Our final destination is Fort Pillow State Historic Park about 60 miles north of Memphis on the first of the four Chickasaw Bluffs that rise 50 to 200 feet above the flood plain of the Mississippi River. The bluffs were used by the Chickasaw to hinder French traffic on the Mississippi during the 18th century and the bluffs were numbered one through four by river men with the first at Fort Pillow and the fourth bluff in Memphis.

The 1,646-acre park is a Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency designated Wildlife Observation Area. It is known for its well-preserved breastworks and reconstructed inner fort. The Interpretive Center contains Civil War artifacts and materials relating to Fort Pillow and offers an introductory film about the battle that occurred here in 1864. For more information, call 731-738-5581.

Fort Pillow TN State Park

Fort Pillow State Historic Park has a rustic campground, a 25-acre lake stocked with bass, bream, catfish and crappie and a historic loop trail through hardwood forests and rugged terrain. (Photo: TN State Parks)

Hi there! I’m Vernon Summerlin. Like many, I came to Nashville to break into the music industry. After years of striving, I...Read on

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