For Tim Hyder, employment as a Seasonal Interpretive Ranger at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park has felt like “coming home again” to an area rich in Hyder family history.
Although born in upstate New York in Uttica, both his parents were originally from southern California. At age two, he moved back to California and grew up in the Los Angeles area.
One of his direct paternal ancestors — Michael Hyder Sr. — owned a historic mill in the Powder Branch community of Carter County.
“The Hyder family helped settle Northeast Tennessee,” Hyder said. “I grew up to understand my family’s contribution’s to this region’s history.”
So, a job at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park offered him a “dream come true” that has left him free to tread in the family footsteps this summer.
The son of John Stephen Hyder and Barbara Jensen, he has a younger sister, Emily Gardner. He also has a step-brother, Ben Jensen, and a step-sister, Tina Burke.
His grandparents, John and Lili Hyder of Florence, Ore., also influenced his love of family heritage.
“My grandpa John is the reason I have a degree in history,” Hyder said. “I can’t over-emphasize his and my dad’s influence on who I am.”
Hyder received his undergraduate degree in history at the University of LaVerne in LaVerne, Calif.
He is currently completing his graduate degree at the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
Hyder originally selected the University of South Carolina because he thought he wanted to pursue an emphasis in museum studies.
“It wasn’t a good fit,” he admitted.
Hyder is now getting his master’s degree in public history with a historic preservation tract.
“It’s almost perfectly serendipitous,” Hyder said of landing the summer internship with Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park.
He noted that the park offers examples of almost every facet of historic preservation work. “It’s been nice to see practical examples of my school work that I can interact with,” he added.
Hyder said that three aspects — re-creation, refurbishment and restoration — are key elements to historic preservation.
Ultimately, his education should equip him with the knowledge and skills to do consulting work with a variety of public or private preservation projects.
Hyder said he had a difficult time “latching onto a focus” for his master’s thesis.
However, his topic came to him while walking around in an old cemetery. “I’ve always liked exploring and hanging out in cemeteries,” he said.
He plans to write his master’s thesis on cemetery preservation.
“Old cemeteries can be very fragile places, and they’re not a place a lot of people go,” he said. “Not a lot of people are making a career our of cemetery preservation— it’s sort of a niche in the market.”
He joked that a career in cemetery preservation might not offer a lot of competition.
Part of his job as a Seasonal Interpretive Ranger with Sycamore Shoals will be to conduct tours of the Carter Cemetery on the grounds of the Carter Mansion.
Hyder will be leading cemetery tours every Saturday at about 3 p.m. after the day’s 2 p.m. tour of the Mansion.
He has been excited by recent discoveries at the historic cemetery. “One of the things we’ve discovered is that there are at least 20 people buried in the Carter Cemetery whose graves are unmarked,” he said.
Hyder said he would love to get access to ground-penetrating radar that would let him look for broken or collapsed headstones and markers.
He said the park is hoping to get the necessary permission to conduct such a probe. “The families of those buried there deserve to know,” he noted.
Before the summer’s end, Hyder also hopes to appropriately clean all the cemetery’s stones and markers.
He visited his family’s own cemetery — the Hyder Cemetery — in December of last year. “Meaningful doesn’t begin to describe how I felt about that visit,” he said.
His work at Sycamore Shoals State Historic park should last through the second or third week of August.
He got a “baptism by fire” while helping out with the park’s recent Native American Culture Festival. The festival is one of the biggest held at the park each yard.
Hyder and the 54 Seasonal Interpretive Rangers employed at state parks across Tennessee this summer gathered for a week of training at Natchez Trace State Park prior to reporting to their respective parks.
The post this summer at the park will fulfill the required 145- hour preservation internship that he must complete in order to receive his master’s degree.
He learned about the seasonal post from Chad Bogart, an employee with a long affiliation with Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park.
Hyder said a friend recommended he attend a Civil War Encampment in Elizabethton.
The event was affiliated with Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park and afforded Hyder the opportunity to meet Chad Bogart, a park employee and a veteran re-enanctor associated with the Washington County Regiment of the North Carolina Militia.
Hyder said that Bogart learned of his family heritage and announced, “So, you’re a powder-maker’s son!”
Bogart referred to the Hyder family’s involvement in the struggle for American independence as owners of a gunpowder mill that was located in what today is the Powder Branch community of Carter County.
Hyder’s ancestor — Michael Hyder Sr. — owned and operated a farm and powder mill from about 1760 to 1790 in what was then still part of North Carolina. He died on June 25, 1790, and was buried in the Hyder Cemetery in Powder Branch.
Bogart and the descendant of a famous local powder-maker began to correspond through email after meeting during that Civil War Encampment. The networking paid off when Bogart informed Hyder about the opening at the park for a Seasonal Interpretive Ranger.
In addition, Hyder made additional visits to the area, including a week-long trip with his girlfriend, Kary Pardy, who is in the same graduate program at the University of South Carolina. She is completing a museum studies internship this summer in Worcester, Mass.
Hyder will conduct a variety of tours and programs this summer as part of his duties as a Seasonal Interpretive Ranger.
For more information on tours and activties at both Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park and the Carter Mansion, call 543-5808.