Yesterday I finally took care of a nagging bit of unfinished business. Being an aficionado of the Rev War and the Tennessee frontier, I’ve always had a soft spot for Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area, but I’d never visited Carter Mansion, the historic house museum just a few miles away operated by the park as a satellite site.
Built sometime around the Revolution, either by John Carter (one of the first settlers in what would become Tennessee and leader of the Watauga Association) or his son Landon (a veteran of the War for Independence and an important political figure on the frontier), the house is one of the oldest and most important structures in the region.
I’d wanted to see it for a long time, but it had been closed every time I’d visited the park, so when I found out about a living history event at the house this weekend, I jumped at the chance to make a special trip. I took my cousin along; he’s a fellow history enthusiast who accompanied me on my last visit to the park.
If this doesn’t fit your idea of a “mansion,” bear in mind that most houses of that time and place were simple cabins; painted siding and brick chimneys weren’t the sort of architectural features you saw every day.
Where the house really knocks your socks off, though, is its elaborate interior. The carved panels, crown molding, chair rails, and fluted columns of the first-floor walls put this home in a different class altogether from the rough dwellings typical of the eighteenth-century frontier. Incredibly, some of the walls still have the original stain, visible above this fireplace in the parlor.
I’ve seen more than my share of historic house museums from the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, and this is one of the most beautifully restored and furnished of the whole lot.
Some members of the Carter family are buried on the grounds…
…although I could’ve sworn I saw John Carter himself treating some of the local militia to a patriotic libation.
A gang of Tories broke up the party by showing up uninvited, more than a little irate that their property had been confiscated. The negotiations didn’t turn out well.
A good time was had by all—except for the Tories, I suppose—and I can finally scratch Carter Mansion off my bucket list. Totally worth the wait.