Hi’story’cal: Volunteer collects artifacts for Shoals

Published 9:42 am Thursday, October 30, 2014

Photo by Brandon Hicks For more photos visit www.elizabethton.com

Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park is already one of the areas that showcases Carter County history, and thanks to the efforts of one volunteer, the site could have more historic information to offer to visitors.
Mary Jane Kennedy, a well-known storyteller, has been collecting historic documents involving Carter County or Carter County residents to start the archive library at Sycamore Shoals.
Kennedy has been working on the archives project for years, cataloguing found or donated materials. She is now calling on the public to help build those archives, but she is not asking for permanent gifts to the project.
“I am not looking for donations,” Kennedy said. “I am looking for the chance to copy these documents and piece together more of the history of the area.”
Kennedy is focusing her search on any historical documents, especially those that date back to the 1800s or later and that involve the leaders and founders of the county. She said important items include genealogy records, deeds, wills, photographs — especially if the people in them are identified — and letters, but only if the writers or recipients are well-known in history or the letter discusses a recognizable historic event.
“A lot of families have personal papers from centuries ago,” Kennedy said. “These papers are important to the family, and they could also be important to the county.”
She said she would meet with the owner of the document at Sycamore Shoals, scan and copy the document and immediately return it to the owner.
“This is so we can see the document and have it for our records, but the owner is never without it,” Kennedy said. “They will be able to take their document right back home with them.”
After the documents have been collected, Kennedy said she plans to organize a filing system so the information can be easily searchable. Any original documents that are a part of the archives will be stored in a secure location to protect them from damage.
Currently, Kennedy has amassed more than 1,250 documents to be a part of the Sycamore Shoals archives. She said many of the documents were “rescued” from the Alfred Moore Carter home during a renovation process. She is working through the process of organizing and storing the papers, both original and copies.
Some of Kennedy’s favorite items so far include a handwritten, 93-page family tree by Samuel P. Carter. She said the handwriting on the family tree was compared to a letter written and signed by Carter for confirmation. Another favorite is a handwritten note signed John Carter on Sept. 26, 1778, describing a property that was to be sold along the Doe River.
Anyone with historic papers they would like share can call Kennedy at 542-9360 to arrange an appointment.

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