East Tennessee Historical Center

Saturday, 1 May 2010
East Tennesseans and people that enjoy history should visit the East Tennessee Historical Center on Gay Street in downtown Knoxville.  The center is the only museum in the state which goes into details about the specific settlement of East Tennessee.

Settlers pushed the Cherokee Indians out of their homeland in the late 1700s.  Eventually they were forced to leave the Tennessee Valley all together.  Some of the moves were amlicable but the more forceful treaties sparked hatred and war.  The British even became involved and the Cherokee Indians sided with the Mother Country because they hoped the white frontiersmen would be overcome.

Years later, East Tennessee was divided again by the politics of slavery.  There were many in the Volunteer State who agreed with the decision to end slavery and wanted to be part of Kentucky's Union forces.  Others thought it was there right to own men and women and sided with Confederate forces. 

In the exhibit, a piognant video plays on the wall of a genuine log cabin from the 1800s.  The short documentary chronicles the Civil War years of a poor East Tennessee woman who lived in the rural hills and supported the Confederates and a rich East Tennessee woman who lived in the city and supported the Union forces.  Both women had very hard lives for five years during the war.  They lost their husbands and sons and almost everything they owned.

I couldn't help but think of how modern day polictics mirror the historic divide during the Civil War.  It seems there are always only two strong camps of thought and only a narrow middle ground of diplomacy. 

Vanishing Appalachia is also currently showing at the East Tennessee Historical Center.  The exhibit was compiled by photographer Don Dudenbostel and journalist Tom Jester who set out to document the true Appalachian culture, which they fear is dwindling.  The two document cock fighting (which is now illegal in TN), moonshine brewing, Evangelical snake handling and the rise of the Ku Klux Klan.  I learned from the exhibit the hate group was formed in Middle Tennessee after the Confederates lost the civil war.

I found the most interesting secion of Vanishing Appalachia to be the profile of Pastor Jimmy.  He is a preacher in a small church in Cocke County.  He "speaks in tongues" and will even hold his hand to a flame  in front of his tiny congregation to test his faith.  He often preaches with two Copperhead snakes wriggling on his bible.  He has had one finger amputated from snake bites.  The pictures are truly amazing.  

Admission is $5.

1 comment

Anonymous said...

Sounds really interesting...