Local finds ‘Liberty!’ respectful of historic settlers’ lives

Published 4:32 pm Tuesday, June 21, 2022

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By Angela Cutrer
Special to the Elizabethton Star
Leslie Brockley’s regular job is as a secretary at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park. It’s the perfect job, as Brockley knows her history.
Raised in Elizabethton, Brockley left the area with her husband to make their home in Houston before the park opened.
When she heard about the creation of the “Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals” drama, she said she was thrilled to see it, especially since her cousin Randy Curde and his son, Sterling, were a part of it.
Now Brockley can say she too is part of the drama and the history of the county as told through the story of the John Carter family. That family includes Carter’s wife, the former Elizabeth Hill, for whom Brockley’s hometown is named.
“The story deserves to be told,” she said of the area’s adventure story. “East Tennessee is wealthy in history and we always want to do [the founders] justice. It’s a real story that leads to so much — our freedom, our rights, our break from the monarchy and so much more.
“It deserves our honest depiction and our respect.”
Brockley and her husband, Randy, always planned to retire in Elizabethton, but that plan came sooner than expected when they were needed back home to care for aging parents. They moved back home and jumped right into all things Carter County.
“I started to research history even back in Houston,” she said. “It was just a thing for me. My maiden name is Curde, so I researched about the name and the more I found, the more I wanted to know.”
Some aspects were humorous while others are more serious. For example, she found out that she is descended from a personal body guard of Gen. George Washington, one who endured knife wounds and bullet holes to protect the general.
In researching John Carter and his family, the Brockleys have visited Tidewater, Va., where they toured the site of the Christ Church and the Shirley Plantation, an active farm now run by the 11th and 12th generation of the Hill Carter family. “And the more I found out about them, the more I wanted to know,” Brockley said with a laugh. “It was fascinating.”
Ironically, Brockley has now portrayed Elizabeth Hill Carter in the outdoor drama for the last six years.
“Liberty!” showcases important days of early American history by demonstrating the life of pioneers in a frontier settlement and is sponsored by Friends of Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park.
The story begins as hunters and settlers begin leaving the protection of the English Colonies by “crossing the Appalachian Mountains in violation of the British Proclamation of 1763. Historically, along the Watauga Old Fields, families soon made their homes, formed a new government, bought and traded land from the Cherokee, and ultimately, during the American Revolution, fought for the freedom we hold so dear today,” the Friends website said.
“The series of events that unfolded at Sycamore Shoals were critical to state and national history in the 18th century. These dramatic chapters in America’s westward expansion set the tone for a number of events that helped propel the British colonies towards independence and a democratic form of government. These stories are proudly shared with our guests during each performance of ‘Liberty! The Saga of Sycamore Shoals.’”
Many important inaugural leaders are embodied in the play, including John Sevier, later the first Tennessee governor; Bonnie Kate Sorrell, Tennessee’s initial first lady; John Carter and son Landon, from whom the county’s name originated; and Mary Patton, later a gunpowder provider to the Overmountain Men for their historic march to Kings Mountain.
“Liberty!” shows how settlers took refuge during Cherokee attacks by Chief Dragging Canoe and how the Overmountain Men militia defeated loyalists at the Battle of Kings Mountain in 1780, a turning point of the American Revolution.
The drama is presented at the amphitheater next to the recreated Fort Watauga at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park. The 2022 season also marked the 12th year for Carter’s Store, a venue named in honor of the original store opened by pioneers Carter and partner William Parker shortly after their arrival on the frontier in 1771, the group’s website reported. “A fine menu of mouth-watering treats will be offered each evening for Liberty! Guests,” it said.
Now in its 43rd season, the next performances are planned for June 23-25. They begin each day at 8 p.m., with doors opening at 6:30 p.m.; the concession stand opening at 7 p.m.; and pre-performance activities starting at 7:45 p.m. General admission tickets range from free for children five and under; $8 for students ages 6-17; $14 for seniors 55 and up; $19 for adults; and $10 for members of Friends of Sycamore Shoals, for veterans and first responders.
For more information, contact Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park at (423) 543-5808. Online tickets sales are available at www.TheLibertyDrama.com or tickets can be purchased at the door until all seats are sold.

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