ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. - The Fourth of July may be just another holiday for some, but the true meaning comes to light when you visit any of the historical sites in our region.
In fact, the process of becoming a free nation began here before the Declaration of Independence was signed.
The banner at the Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area says it all: "Where liberty began."
A tour through their newly-designed museum tells the story of living beyond what was at the time the colonies and outside the rule of England.
The settlers decided to form their own government. "That was in 1772 when all of these folks came together. They were looking for a way to have law and order on the settlement and to break away from the reigns of King George in England and have their own government," Jennifer Bauer with Sycamore Shoals says.
And when the country was expanding that event took place on these historical grounds. A land purchase from the Native Americans of 20 million acres all the way into the Ohio Valley was known as the Transylvania Purchase. "What is fascinating is that it happened on these very grounds right here on this land behind me. Over a thousand Cherokee, settlers, long hunters, all of these folks came together," she said.
But when the Revolution came it wasn't the British that were the threat for those in our region; instead, it was Native Americans armed by the British. "Subsequently, a year after the Transylvania Purchase with much encouragement from some of the British, Indian agents they began attacking these settlements all up and down this area," explained Bauer.
And when the English army made threats of coming to do harm in the region, it was a militia of settlers known at the Overmountain Men who marched to Kings Mountain and defeated the British. "Many historians often say that moment turned the tide of the American Revolution, where the British were strong up until that time," she said.
Over at Rocky Mount, re-enactors portray July 4, 1791 at the Rocky Mount Museum. As is tradition, the complete Declaration of Independence is read, complete with ceremonies to commemorate the country's independence. "The Constitution is where we get our laws today but it's the Declaration of Independence. Even though it doesn't really have any legal force besides saying we're independent from Briton, it defines who we are what our country is about, life and liberty," Dusty Sayers, the reader of the Declaration, said.
It's a definition that has been a part of our region since we first settled here.