Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park protects the land that was the location of several important historic events that occurred in the late 18th century. Leaving the English colonies, settlers began arriving along the Watauga Old Fields, in search of a new life on what was Cherokee land. John Carter, one of the primary political, military and business leaders of this era, and his son Landon, built a home, the Carter Mansion, three miles from Sycamore Shoals. This structure is the oldest standing frame house in Tennessee, dating back to the mid to late 1770s.
In 1772, leaders in the settlement came together to establish “the first free and independent community on the continent,” four years prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Three years later, the largest private real estate transaction on our continent, the Transylvania Purchase, took place at this site, when Judge Richard Henderson negotiated an agreement with the Cherokee leaders. In reaction to this event, Fort Watauga was constructed in 1776 to protect the settlers from Cherokee attack.
On September 25, 1780, Sycamore Shoals became the muster site of the Overmountain Men, who set out to find British Major Patrick Ferguson, who had threatened to “hang your leaders and lay waste to your country with fire and sword.” The Overmountain Men defeated Ferguson in just over an hour in the epic battle of King’s Mountain. Many historians believe that the actions of these men at Sycamore Shoals turned the tide of the American Revolution, and saved America from British rule and control.
Sycamore Shoals became a state park in 1976. The park’s visitor center features interpretive exhibits highlighting the history of this time, an Eastern National bookstore and gift shop, and park information. Located behind the visitor center is a reconstruction of the 18th century Fort Watauga, now the site of educational programs and musters presented by the Washington County Regiment of North Carolina Militia.
The park’s two-mile Mountain River Trail is located on the south bank of the Watauga River. The trail features interpretive signs detailing the historical events of the area.
The park offers an assortment of living history, recreational programming and events for the whole family from traditional arts and craft classes to military musters. The annual presentation of Tennessee’s Official Outdoor Drama, Liberty!. The Saga of Sycamore Shoals is a popular attraction. Held every July in the 240-seat amphitheater with Fort Watauga as a backdrop, the play tells the story of the colonists who settled in the area during the late 18th century and the significant contributions they made to American history.