Thursday, December 18, 2014

Year End Review

The end of the year is a nice time to reminisce about the great things that have happened at Marble Springs in 2014:

  • We had several successful hands-on workshops, including a new one about spinning.
  • Awards galore! Our 2013 Sevier Soiree won an Award of Commendation from the Tennessee Association of Museums, we won an Award of Distinction from the East Tennessee Historical Society for our Statehood Days event, and we won the Environmental Award from the Woodmen of the World, Chapter 803.
  • We had a great time learning more about John Sevier with Gordon Belt at our Annual Meeting.
  • The Sons of the Revolution helped us put on a great new 4th of July event.
  • Our Sevier Soiree took place alongside John Sevier Days with even greater success. We were able to make several new friends, have fun, enjoy some great weather, and benefit the site. Look for another slight move (to a Friday night!) on September 18, 2015. We hope you can attend.
  • Weather was much more in our favor for 2014 and allowed us to have some great events and Farmers Markets.
  • We were also able to meet with several museum and historic preservation professionals who were in the area for the Southeastern Museums Conference and the East Tennessee Preservation Alliance. We also were able to learn from the Anarchist's Guide to Historic House Museums alongside our fellow Historic Homes of Knoxville. We learned several new ideas at these events and look forward to implementing them as soon as possible. 
  • Our Farmers Markets had more vendors than previous years, and we hope this trend continues! We are planning some new programming to happen alongside some of the 2015 Market dates. Look for the Market to begin in mid-May 2015.
  • And finally, we have stocked some great new items in our Trading Post! From Gordon Belt's book to brand new ornaments and magnets (just stocked today!), and of course, new toys and games, there's something for everyone. 
With such a great 2014 almost over, we look forward to what 2015 has in store! We will be posting our 2015 calendar in the next few weeks, so be sure to check out our website

Saturday, November 22, 2014

That Time Congress Almost Left DC, and How John Sevier Was Involved

At Marble Springs, we are very lucky to have digital access to John Sevier's diary, especially as we can look back 200 years ago to see what he was doing on a certain day.

But we missed an important moment back in October:

"OCTOBER, 1814.

Sat. 15 . . . This day the H. of R. Negotiated a bill for the removal of the seat of Government."

But what does this mean?

During the War of 1812, the British attempted to burn down Washington, DC. They successfully torched the unfinished Capitol building, leaving it just a shell. The 13th Congress returned to DC for the next session and had to move their meetings to the Patent Office. 

Many of the legislators wanted to move the government out of Washington, DC. Legislation took a long time, and finally, on October 15, 1814, nine votes kept the capital in DC. Congress met in various places around the city for several years until the Capitol could be rebuilt. 

For more information about this, read the House of Representatives' blog post, "Leave No Forwarding Address: When Congress Almost Abandoned D.C.".

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Hey whatever happened to... doing it all by hand?

Back before everything became automatic, the Seviers (and everyone else living in the late 18th/ early 19th centuries) had to make things by hand and use candlelight to see! 

We are gearing up for our final two events of the 2014 calendar (have no fear-- our 2015 calendar will be released soon, and we have a few new events and workshops planned), and we are looking forward to both of them!

We are offering our popular Candle Making Workshop again on December 6. Be sure to call or email us soon for reservations-- spaces have been filling up quickly!

One of our favorite things to ask students who visit is "How are things different here compared to your home?" (or "What is missing?") It never fails-- electricity and video games/ television always come up quickly. During December, we provide an example of how the holidays were different during early statehood compared to today. We have our Candlelight Tours on December 13. Experience the historic site through the soft glow of candle light. The historic buildings will be decorated with fresh greenery. Music, open hearth cooking, baked goods & warm drinks will set your heart aglow with holiday spirit (Details are subject to change.) 

We hope you will join us for these fun events.

Friday, August 29, 2014

John Sevier and William Blount

Thanks to our former intern, Kristin Brig, for leaving us a few blog entries to keep posting!

When William Blount took up his post as Governor of the Territory South of the Ohio River in 1790, he was alien to the population living to the west of North Carolina. Blount, a North Carolina native, traveled across the Appalachian Mountains into this new southwest territory, present-day Kentucky and Tennessee. He set up his government in present-day East Tennessee and quickly made the acquaintance of the popular leaders of the region, most notably John Sevier.

Sevier and Blount got along well, considering Sevier’s heavy influence in the region and Blount’s high-ranking position in government. In addition to appointing Blount governor of the territory, President George Washington placed Blount in the position of Superintendent of Indian Affairs; given Sevier’s clashes with the Overhill Cherokee, Blount saw Sevier as an even more important ally in his new political position.[1] As such, Blount recommended Sevier and another popular territorial leader, James Robertson, to the position of Brigadier General. President Washington agreed with the recommendation and commissioned Sevier and Robertson to the post.[2] Sevier thus recovered his political image after the failure of the State of Franklin, for which he was the governor for a short term.

Political allies now, Blount and Sevier struck up a personal friendship as well. Sevier began recording activities related to Blount in 1793, three years after the governor had taken up his post. The entries began with mainly political relations between the two men, as in one entry discussing a talk Governor Blount gave relating to an event of scalping in Easternoly by Native Americans.[3] By late 1794, Sevier began taking tea with Mrs. Blount and dining with both the Blounts. Sometimes the dining contained merely politics, as when members of the Assembly including Sevier met with Governor Blount and drank wine together.[4] Yet sometimes Sevier and Blount (with Blount’s wife) spent time with one another outside the political realm, such as when they attended church together in September 1794.[5]

When Sevier became the first governor of Tennessee in 1796, the new state elected William Blount as one of its US senators. At first there was controversy over the admittance of the newly-elected Tennessee senators to Congress, since the majority of the state refused to support John Adams as a candidate for the next president after George Washington left the seat. In the end, however, Blount and his fellow Tennessee senator William Cocke took their seats in Congress as representatives for Tennessee.

Blount, expelled from the US Senate in July 1797 on account of illegal land deals with Spain, moved back to Tennessee and was elected to the Tennessee State Senate. John Sevier, still governor of Tennessee, picked up his friendship with Blount. The two visited each other frequently, taking more tea with one another and dining at each other’s houses in Knoxville. Sevier never writes of Blount visiting Marble Springs, but the close relationship of the men means that the Blounts may have been out to the farm to visit.

Blount suddenly fell ill on March 15, 1800. On the 17th, Sevier visited Blount, as he had just returned to the city of Knoxville after a visit to Marble Springs. Blount died on March 21. Sevier wrote of taking his family with him to Blount’s burial.[6]

While Sevier never wrote much of political events past a few words in his journals, he did record many friendly events with the Blounts. The fact that Blount’s death is recorded in the journal with some details indicates that Sevier and Blount’s relationship had transcended the political and became a personal affair.
As such, John Sevier and William Blount became fast friends, beginning with Blount’s rise to governor of the Territory South of the Ohio River and ending with a personal visit to the old governor’s burial by Sevier.

[1] Marcus Joseph Wright, Some Account of the life and Services of William Blount (1884), 9.
[2] Wright, Some Account, 11-12.
[3] John Sevier, Journal, October 24, 1793.
[4] Sevier, Journal, July 30, 1794.
[5] Sevier, Journal, September 21, 1794.
[6] Sevier, Journals, March 1800.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Upcoming Events

We are gearing up for our busy fall season here at Marble Springs State Historic Site!

Join us at the East Tennessee History Fair in downtown Knoxville on August 16. We will be there with the other Historic Homes of Knoxville.

On August 23, we will be hosting a Soap Making Workshop (10am-2pm).

On September 20 (10am-5pm) and September 21 (12pm-5pm), we will host our annual John Sevier Days. Join us for period demonstrations, militia drills, historic lectures, and more.

On September 20, come back to our site for our 2nd annual Sevier Soiree in the evening. This fundraising event will involve food, music, and a silent auction.

Details are subject to change. We will keep you posted about other fall events soon!

All money raised at these events benefits educational programming at Marble Springs. Programming assistance for these events is provided by the Arts & Heritage Fund and Knox County. Marble Springs is funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Historical Commission, and supplemented by additional funds raised by the Governor John Sevier Memorial Association.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Sevier Family Coat of Arms

This post was written by our summer intern, Kristin Brig. Thanks, Kristin!

In the medieval era, the coat of arms developed as a way for families to distinguish themselves and to broadcast ties to nobility or as well-to-do. All sorts of colors and shapes went into making a coat of arms, each with a specific task in mind. Even the background of the coat of arms meant something important.

On the Sevier family crest, two colors make up the background: gold and red. Gold indicates generosity and lifting one’s mind to higher thoughts than oneself. Red, on the other hand, demonstrates a belonging to a warrior class and to the military. Sometimes it means martyr.

Although no thick cross sits on the shield, the crest clearly divides into four areas. Such division therefore indicates a will toward faith and protection. In each of the four areas, there are symbols: two areas carry three boxes each in the same pattern, while the other two areas carry the same man’s head.

There are no indications of rectangular boxes carrying any significance on family crests, yet there is a symbol called the carpenter’s square that exists on certain crests. This square represents the family’s loyalty to the law of righteous and equity in society, which would further confirm the faith and protection division of the crest.
The most common question visitors give us when it comes to the crest, however, is why the human head with a turban is on there. According to family crest symbolism, this symbol points to prowess during the Crusades, actually naming the symbol the head of a Moor (a Spanish name for Muslim in the medieval era).

As for the writing at the bottom of the crest, “pro patria,” the phrase is Latin for “for country.” A flexible phrase for a flexible, ever-moving and ever-changing family.

If we read the Sevier family coat of arms via the meanings of these symbols, we discover something new about Sevier’s ancestors. Clearly the Seviers fought in the Crusades during the medieval era, due to the colors and Moor’s head chosen. They held true to their faith as well, even leaving their first homeland, France, in favor of a society in which they could practice their Huguenot faith. They believed in equality of persons, faith to their God and country, and even a warrior spirit in times of trouble. Each of these qualities showed in John Sevier during his life here in Tennessee, and his descendants still pass on these centuries-old qualities that we can find today in a simple coat of arms hanging in a corner of an old cabin.

Friday, June 20, 2014

The War of 1812: John Sevier’s Involvement

This post was written by our summer intern, Kristin Brig. Thanks, Kristin!

On the eve of the start of the War of 1812, Congressman John Sevier found himself in the middle of an on-going argument between pro- and anti-war advocates. Although pro-war himself, Sevier kept track of the argument through his letters to his son George Washington Sevier, discussing major players and key events in the days leading up to the war.
George Washington lived at Fort Hampton in the Mississippi Territory at the time with his wife and children. Like his father, George Washington served as a captain in the United States army, protecting the American frontier. John Sevier tried to keep his far-off son updated on the latest military events in Washington via posted letters. Unfortunately, George Washington failed to receive many of the letters sent to him; what he did receive, however, consisted of tales of his father’s doings in Washington, amongst the doings of other important leaders.

John Sevier had connections in Washington when it came to finding out news on the growing conflict between Britain and the United States. He dined with the Minister of France and attended Mrs. James Madison’s parties at the White House, where he met and talked with those in the higher ranks of Congress and of the Cabinet.[1] Sevier even lived on the same floor as Lieutenant Colonel Smyth, one of the major figures in the Army at the time: “The Colonel and myself have lived on the same floor all the winter, good part of the time in the same room, and on very friendly terms.”[2] With such important connections as these, Sevier determined collect what information he could and to share his information with his family and friends back home instead of waiting for the newspapers to break war news.
Sevier did not merely listen to the brewing wartime spirit in Congress, however. Sevier found himself at the core of the discussion. As early as January 1812, Sevier promoted the prospect of war with his colleagues and family members, warning them of the soon-to-come war with an almost excited fervor. In his letters to George Washington, Sevier stressed the importance of the US Army and for George Washington as well as other sons to look for promotions in the time leading up to war. Finally, along with seventy-eight fellow pro-war congressional supporters, Sevier signed the declaration of war against Great Britain on June 4, 1812, beginning the War of 1812. (His journal for the day read, “Thurs. [June] 4 [1812] Pleasant day wt to the House passed the declaration of war against G. Britain &c &c....")

While he never actually fought in the war himself, unlike in the American Revolution, Sevier maintained a constant presence in communication between anti-British Tennesseans and Congress. Such representative action gave him a way to help the war effort when others, such as his rival Andrew Jackson, gained glory in the battlefield.[3]

As a result, through his letters and rallying cries for war, Sevier involved himself in the war as much as he could, living through one final American-British war before dying three years after it began.

[1] “The Journal of John Sevier,” 1812.
[2] Letter to George Washington Sevier from John Sevier, April 26, 1812.
[3] Gordon Belt, John Sevier: Tennessee’s First Hero (The History Press: Charleston, SC, 2014): 146-147.