We just had our annual John Sevier Days Living History Weekend at Marble Springs, along with our “Sevier Soirée” fundraiser. Thanks to everybody who stopped by; I think both events went over really well.
It gave me a good excuse to take a brief respite from doctoral work and do a little public history. I really enjoyed the time I spent working in museums, and interpretation was always my favorite part of the job. Part of me has always missed it, so it was nice to get to do it again this weekend.
Plus, there’s nothing like sitting on the step by the door of the Sevier cabin and listening to an afternoon rain shower. Rain doesn’t do much for visitation, but something about the way it sounds against a two-hundred-year-old roof is just wonderful.
We’re throwing a bash at Marble Springs State Historic Site in three weeks, and you’re all invited. Here’s the deal.
Sept. 20-21 is our annual John Sevier Days Living History Weekend. On Saturday from 10:00 to 5:00 and Sunday from 12:00 to 5:00 we’ll have reenacting, demonstrations, crafts, food, historic presentations, and tours of the buildings. Admission is $5.00 for adults and $3.00 for kids aged seven to fifteen; kids six and under get in free.
Saturday night there’ll be a little something extra. We’ll be having our second annual Sevier Soirée fundraiser on Sept. 20 from 6:30 to 8:30, with a BBQ dinner, open-hearth appetizers, live music, and a silent auction. Tickets to the soirée are $50 per person. Reserve your seat before Sept. 15 online, by mail (P.O. Box 20195 Knoxville, TN 37940) or via phone at (865) 573-5508.
It’ll be a blast. Hope to see some of you there!
The second oldest home in Knoxville is the James Park House, located downtown on Cumberland Ave. Google Street View doesn’t really do it justice, but it’s better than the photo I tried to take with my phone while stopped at a red light a couple of days ago.
I wanted to snap a picture of the Park House because it’s got an interesting connection to John Sevier. “Nolichucky Jack” didn’t live here, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.
Sevier purchased this downtown lot and started building a home there in the 1790s, around the same time he was serving as Tennessee’s first governor. Construction didn’t get very far. Nothing but a brick foundation and part of a wall had been completed before a financial setback forced Sevier to abandon the project. For a man so accustomed to winning, whether on the battlefield or in politics, it must have been an irksome disappointment. He sold the lot to his son G.W. Sevier in 1801, and it passed out of the family’s hands six years later.
James Park, an Irish immigrant and Knoxville mayor, bought the lot and built the current structure on Sevier’s foundation in 1812. The house stayed in the Park family for a century; after that, it served time as a Red Cross facility and a medical academy. Gulf & Ohio Railways acquired it to use as a headquarters building a few years ago and undertook an extensive restoration.
Although Sevier never got to build the home he wanted on the lot, it’s just a stone’s throw from the courthouse lawn where his remains were reinterred in the 1880s. One fellow who did get to spend some time in the Park House was Sevier’s mortal enemy Andrew Jackson, who stopped by for a visit in 1830.
In a sense, the story of the house lot on Cumberland Ave. mirrors the larger story of Sevier’s place in Tennessee’s history. In both cases, Sevier secured the land and laid the foundation, but it was left to others to build up the structure, which obscured and overshadowed the contributions of the man who made so much of it possible. And in both cases it happened around the same time. While James Park was building his house in 1812, Sevier’s great rival was on the brink of national fame and state preeminence, but Sevier himself was in the twilight of his long and very eventful life.
If you’re in the Knoxville area and you’re looking for something to do this weekend, stop by Marble Springs State Historic Site for Statehood Days. They’ll have living history demonstrations, food, and tours of the historic buildings. Here’s the schedule.
This hard-working trio is on duty 24/7 at the home of Tennessee’s first governor.
…and John Sevier.
Follow them on Twitter, or stop by the site and pay ’em a visit.
It turns out the famous Confederate spy had relatives living at Blount Mansion during the war. Pretty neat!
Eight Tennessee sites have joined the National Register of Historic Places, including Crockett Tavern in Morristown, just down the road from my hometown. Davy Crockett’s family moved to the site when the famous frontiersman was still a boy. The present structure is a replica built in the 1950s, during the Crockett craze whipped up by the Disney series.
I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t been there yet, but I’m going this year, as soon as they re-open for the spring. It’s not that uncommon for history buffs to spend years driving all over the country to visit sites and let the ones in their own backyards fall through the cracks, but the fact that I’ve gone this long without crossing Crockett Tavern off my bucket list is downright scandalous.
Also, the East Tennessee Historical Society is hosting a Brown Bag Lecture on Jan. 16 at noon about an interesting archaeological site in downtown Knoxville: the home of Peter Kern, a remarkable guy who turned a run of bad luck into a fortune in the food business. Kern was a German immigrant who settled in Georgia and signed up to fight for the Confederacy. Wounded in Virginia, he went back home to recover. While returning to the front by train, he ended up in Knoxville just as the city fell into Union hands. Stuck in town for the duration of the war, he made the most of his situation and established a bakery and ice cream parlor. Kern’s bread business was quite a success (you can still buy baked goods with the Kern’s label here in East Tennessee) and he stayed in Knoxville, running successfully for mayor in 1890.
So on behalf of my fellow East Tennesseans to whichever Yankee soldier managed to knock Kern out of the action—thanks for all the awesome sandwiches.