Death Comes to Sabine Hill: Candlelight tours featuring Early America and mourning customs

Published 8:48 am Friday, October 6, 2023

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On October 20 and 21, Sabine Hill State Historic Site in Elizabethton 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 will experience these mysterious customs firsthand through special after-hours tours of the historic Taylor House.
Chad Bogart, museum curator at Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area, explained: “Two centuries ago, our ancestors perceived death and mourning quite differently than we do. Today, we push through the funeral process 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.”
The special candlelight tours will occur Friday, Oct. 20, and Saturday, Oct. 21, and offer guests a chance to experience the historic Taylor House after dark! 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 and 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, 6:30, 7, 7:30, 8, and 8:30 p.m. each night. Admission is $14 per individual. Pre-registration is required. Tickets can be purchased at
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. This event is subject to cancellation in the event of significantly inclement weather. Sabine Hill State Historic Site is located at 2328 West G St., Elizabethton.
For more information about this and other exciting events please contact Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park at 423-543-5808. Sabine Hill State Historic Site is operated through a partnership between the Tennessee Historical Commission and Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park.

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