All posts by sycamoreshoalstn

Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park presents Scary Stories at Fort Watauga

Thursday, October 27 at 7:30 pm

Keith Young, Jane Kennedy, and Chad Bogart

Strange things happen around All Hallows Eve, especially at an old fort by the river. But don’t be afraid, Fort Watauga at Sycamore Shoals isn’t haunted… or is it? Bring a chair, sit a spell, and join us for an evening of stories, songs, and tales that are sure to send a shiver down your spine and tickle your funny bone. On Thursday, October 27th at 7:30 pm, the park will be alive with tales of haints and happenings of days gone by. An annual event not to be missed, Scary Stories will be presented in inside the looming palisade walls of Fort Watauga providing a unique atmosphere for an evening of spooky tales geared toward the entire family.    

We are excited to welcome five exceptional storytellers to the stage this year: Dr. C. Keith Young, Catherine Yael Serota, Wallace Shealy, and the Front Porch Storytellers – Mary Jane Kennedy, and Chad Bogart. Each of these talented tellers is sure to raise goosebumps on your skin and bring a smile to your face!

Wallace Shealy

Dr. C. Keith Young, Raconteur, is delighted to have the opportunity to return to the Scary Stories at Fort Watauga. Having charmed audiences of all ages for more than three decades (since graduating from the ETSU Reading and Story Arts program), Dr. Young has been a featured storyteller/emcee at festival events such as Jonesborough Days, the Virginia Highlands Festival, the Erwin Strawberry Festival, the Stone Soup Festival in Woodruff, South Carolina, Roan Mountain State Park/Miller Homestead Days, Elizabethton’s Covered Bridge Festival, and many, many more. He is a favorite among programs that enjoy energetic, rib-tickling, family-friendly songs and tales.

Catherine Yael Serota is Southern-Appalachian born, from Asheville NC. Her career in human services lasted 42 years and took her from Greensboro NC across the state to Johnson City TN. She developed an interest in storytelling four years ago as a result of a lifetime of reading, a love of articulation and history, and now time to pursue these in retirement. Catherine is a board member of the Asheville Storytelling Circle, the North Carolina Storytelling Guild, and an alumna member of the Jonesborough Storytellers Guild.

Wallace Shealy, from Flag Pond, TN has the distinction of being named the 2010 Bold Faced Liar Champion by the Storytelling Arts Center of the Southeast. Wallace is active with the Jonesborough Storytellers Guild and has been involved with the National Storytelling Festival for more than 30 years. Whether he’s recalling a tale from his childhood, telling a story based on the Good Book or spinning a yarn you will be delighted listening to him stretch the truth all out of proportion.

Catherine Yael Serota

Mary Jane Kennedy spent 30 years teaching in Orlando.  She has a background in music, voice-over, historical research, and storytelling.  She is the co-founder of The Homespun Storytellers and The Overmountain Singers. Also, as a co-founder of The Front Porch Storytellers, she has presented storytelling and music programs at many schools, civic functions, senior homes, and organizations throughout the Appalachian Highlands for nearly twenty years along with the popular Historic Ghost Walks of Elizabethton.

Chad Bogart descends from a long line of Appalachian storytellers. His telling is enhanced by a background in music and historical interpretation. He has been featured as a historic interpreter and character demonstrator at over fifty historic sites across the eastern US. Locally, Chad has been a featured storyteller at the Mountain Makins Festival in Morristown, TN, the Bonnie Kate Theater in Elizabethton, and the campfire series at both Roan Mountain State Park and Rock Creek Park in Erwin. He is also a co-founder of the Front Porch Storytellers. His interest in scary stories stemmed from ghost tales told by his grandmother and are a favorite among his listeners.

The program will be presented inside Fort Watauga so be sure to bring your own seat. Also, make sure to dress warmly as the nighttime air along the Watauga River can be chilly and damp. This event is free of charge and is sure to be an exciting evening with family and friends! In the event of extremely inclement winter weather, contact the park about program cancelations and park office closings.

Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park – 1651 W. Elk Avenue- Elizabethton, TN 37643


360° House Tour of the Historic Carter Mansion

Click here to view 360 tour

The historic John and Landon Carter Mansion was built by Colonel John Carter, a wealthy businessman from Tidewater Virginia.  It is believed that the house was completed by 1780 and is reputed to be the oldest frame house in the State of Tennessee.  Although not a mansion by todays standards it would have stood in stark contrast to the humble log cabins on the 18th century frontier and thus earned the name Carter’s Mansion.  Based on recent archaeological assessment the land which the Carter Mansion occupies was once the site of a thriving native town from the late 16th century to the mid 17th century.  John Carter served as the chairman of the Watauga Association, an early frontier government.  He also served as Entry Taker (Register of Deeds) and Colonel of the local militia.  Carter died in 1781 leaving the property to his eldest son Landon Carter.  Landon served with distinction in the Revolutionary War and later served in the governments of the State of Franklin and the State of Tennessee.  Carter County is named in his honor and the county seat of Elizabethton is named for his wife Elizabeth MacLin Carter.  The house remained in the Carter family until after the Civil War when it was sold to the W.S. Thomas family.  The State of Tennessee acquired the property in 1973 and restored the house to its original 18th century appearance.  This gem of early Tennessee history is now maintained and operated by Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park. 

This 360-degree tour of the Carter Mansion is designed to offer an inside look for those who may not have a chance or the ability to visit.  As you take the 360 tour click on the highlighted areas to learn more interesting and historical facts about the house.  Contact the park for additional information concerning tours of the mansion and other interpretive opportunities.

“Death Comes to Sabine Hill” Early American funerary customs presented at Sabine Hill State Historic Site

During the last weekend in October Sabine Hill State Historic Site in Elizabethton, TN will present “Death Comes to Sabine Hill”, a unique event designed to resurrect many of the forgotten traditions associated with death and mourning in early America. Visitors can experience these arcane customs firsthand though several programs offered during the event including demonstrations of the jobs associated with death in the late 18th and early 19th centuries, special after-hours tours of the historic Taylor House, and a re-creation of an early American funeral service.

Our modern perception of death and mourning are quite different than that of our ancestors. Today we push through the funeral process getting it over with as quickly as possible. Those who came before us, however, took a much more intimate approach. Disease, war, infant mortality, and other causes meant that death was a persistent companion especially before the days of modern medical advancement. Prior to the advent of funeral homes, the process of preparing a deceased family member for burial was carried out at home, and all manner of traditions, superstitions, and ceremonies that had been practiced in the old world continued here in the new. These ancient funeral customs and mourning rituals, many of which may seem bizarre and macabre today, have been all but forgotten. At “Death Comes to Sabine Hill” visitors can learn more about these traditions and see just how differently death was viewed and accepted in the past.

There are three options to experience “Death Comes to Sabine Hill”. Daytime visitation to the event will be offered on Saturday, October 29th. Guests can register for a one-hour time slot to visit Sabine Hill State Historic Site and learn about funeral customs, superstitions, mourning attire, professions, funeral food, and other traditions of death & mourning in Early America. Demonstrations on the grounds will include a coffin maker, grave digger, sexton, professional mourner, burial society, & resurrectionist. Also, visitors can take a self-guided tour of the historic Taylor House as each room will be displayed with various death & mourning customs from the late 1700s through the mid-19th century. The daytime visitation times are 11:00 am, 12:00 pm, 1:00 pm, & 2:00 pm. General admission is $10:00. Ages 12 & under are $5:00. Pre-registration is required. Tickets can be purchased at

Those who have a curiosity for the more mysterious will be interested in the Twilight Tours & Wake. These candlelight evening tours will occur on Friday, October 28th and Saturday, October 29th, and offer a special after-hours guided visit to the historic Taylor house. Visitors will pay their respects to the deceased at the wake and meet historically dressed interpreters throughout the house who will talk about the funeral customs and mourning rituals of days gone by. As the tour progresses outdoors, guests will visit with the coffin maker, grave digger, professional mourner, and resurrectionist as they share the professions associated with death & funerals in Early America. These tours deal with subject matter that may be too sensitive for younger visitors. Parental discretion is advised. Tour times are 6:00, 6:30, 7:00, 7:30, 8:00, & 8:30 pm each night. Admission is $12:00 per individual. Pre-registration is required. Tickets can be purchased at
The final chance to experience the death and mourning customs of the late 1700s and early 1800s will take place at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park on Sunday, October 30th at 2:00 pm with the re-creation of an early American funeral. Visitors will have the opportunity to join the mourners in the funeral procession and attend the burial service of the “dearly departed”. 
Admission is free.

Please be advised that Sabine Hill State Historic Site only offers portable restroom facilities at this time. The historic house is only accessible by steps and an interior staircase. All programs are subject to cancellation in the event of significant inclement weather. Sabine Hill State Historic Site is located at 2328 West G St. Elizabethton, TN 37643. Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park is located at 1651 West Elk Ave. also in Elizabethton. For more information about this and other exciting events please contact Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park at 423-543-5808,, or

Sabine Hill State Historic Site is operated through a partnership between the Tennessee Historical Commission and Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park.