Two hundred and forty years ago, strong and brilliant leaders, living in and around the Watauga settlement, came together under an old sycamore tree with the intent of providing a path for the future of the families living in the “Old Fields.”
Their purpose — to create a government that would provide for law and order — and the right of every free man to vote. Their fledgling democracy was a first for this continent, which came to fruition in 1772; four years before the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
Tennessee’s Official Outdoor Drama is presented each July by a cast that beams with pride as they portray some of the colonial frontier’s greatest early leaders and the people who made America strong. The story evolves through the 1770s as the people of the Watauga become a part of the largest private real estate transaction in our country’s history, the Transylvania Purchase; a negotiation which took place between the Cherokee and the settlers.
A year after the 1775 land purchases, under the leadership of Dragging Canoe, Cherokee warriors, angered by the loss of their lands, attack the frontier settlements. At Sycamore Shoals, Fort Watauga was constructed at the farm of Matthew Talbott, a miller, to provide protection to the families.
Several years later, the settlements suddenly found themselves in the thick of the American Revolution, when British Major Patrick Ferguson sent a warning over the mountains to those “rebels” who were living outside of the 13 English colonies. If they did not cease their opposition to the Crown, he threatened to “march his army over the mountains and hang the leaders and lay waste their country with fire and sword.”
As the Saga of Sycamore Shoals comes to a close, the story of the historic muster of the Overmountain men, on Sept. 25, 1780, highlights the evening’s production. The drama presents those thrilling moments as Overmountain Men take the fight to Ferguson and catch up with him at Kings Mountain, S.C. In just over an hour, with the death of Ferguson, they defeat the British forces.
Years later, Thomas Jefferson called the event “that memorable victory, the joyful annunciation of that turn of the tide of success, which terminated the Revolutionary War with the seal of independence.”
Liberty! remains an intriguing, fast-moving, theatrical production laced with special effects, music, horses, battle scenes and so much more. The public is invited to spend an evening with the cast by the Watauga River and become a part of the lives of these remarkable individuals.
Also, plan to eat at Carter’s Store, which offers a menu of pulled pork barbecue, turkey legs, cornbread and soup beans, and more. Saturday evening, by reservation only, you might consider coming early and enjoying the production’s dinner theater. An adult ticket of $22 will provide a great meal, entertainment and admission to the drama.
The 2012 season of Liberty! comes to a close this weekend. The final three performances will be presented Thursday through Saturday, July 26, 27 and 28. The ticket booth opens at 6 p.m. with the show starting at 7:30 p.m. Adult tickets are $12 for ages 18 and up; Seniors, ages 55 and up are $10; Students, ages 6 to 17 are $8.
For additional information or to reserve seats for Saturday night’s dinner theater, please call Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area at 543-5808.