"[The Library] had a combined 486 participants. The 43 teens read 546 books. Our younger group, a combination of 319 readers (elementary ages) and 124 listeners (toddlers and preschoolers), read a total of 7,360 books. Our 15 teen programs drew 100 participants while our 20 storytime programs had 1,666 in attendance.... We had nearly 30 volunteers helping us with everything from telling stories, presenting programs, dueling in medieval armor in the rain, to helping us shelve the books the program participants checked out along with the ones moms, grandmoms, grandpops, dads, aunts, etc. also checked out during June and July -- 34,797 items were checked out at our libraries during this time. We also owe a lot to all those who donate so generously to our program since our county budget includes no funds for this program. Thank you so much to the Friends of the Library whose donation of $2,500 formed the foundation of our program. The Jonesborough Kiwanis made a generous donation. Some local donors include Food City, McDonald's, Power's Coffee House, Susannah Wesley Circle, and Wetlands Water Park. A complete list of donors is posted in the libraries -- too many to mention, but all have our sincerest gratitude. We hope that you will see them on our list and say a thank you to them for giving back to our community...." -- Pat Beard, Director of Washington County/Jonesborough Libraries, in Library Chatter, Herald and Tribune, 8/11/09
"The life Doug and Judy Lowrie have shared together has been filled with adventures and blessings. From big business in Florida to raising horses in Tennessee, the couple said they felt like life has always been giving them gifts, and in return, they have decided to give back with another gift: $1 million to Niswonger Children's Hospital.... 'It's really a beautiful place, and we want to be a part of it,' Judy Lowrie said. 'The community has been good to us, and this is one way of giving back.'... Opened in March as a new home for The Children's Hospital at JCMC, which had been in existence since 1992, Niswonger Children's is a 69-bed facility treating patients from birth through 17 years of age. With scores of doctors covering nearly two dozen pediatric subspecialties, the facility is also home to one of only six St. Jude Affiliate Clinics in the world, where children receive cutting-edge cancer treatments. The design of Niswonger Children's has a focus on putting patients at ease the moment they walk into the door while treating both their physical and emotional needs. Doug Lowrie said because of what they saw inside Niswonger Children's, they knew it was where they should place their largest gift. 'You just should return to society some of the benefits life has given you,' he said." -- freely distributed The Johnson City News & Neighbor, 8/8/09
"[Jonesborough Mayor Kelly Wolfe has proposed that the town's] Booker T. Washington School be turned into a Center for the Arts and an interpretative area celebrating the contribution of the African-American community to the development of Jonesborough." -- Herald and Tribune, 8/11/09, editorial explaining that the envisioned McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School, named in honor of three long-time community leaders, would be funded and supported by the town, regional volunteers, and local commerce establishments
"John saw a city...that could not be hid./
John saw the city, oh, yes, he did/
John caught a glimpse of the golden throne./
Tell me all about it, go right on!/
Around the throne he saw the crystal sea./
There's got to be more, what will it be?/
I want to go to that city he saw, NEW JERUSALEM!/
According to the weekly Herald and Tribune, there is a controversy amongst Jonesborough citizens about results for a $50,000 marketing study which recommends use of "The World's Storytelling Capital" as a tourism "branding" motto for the town. Some other favorites are "Tennessee's First Town" and "Tennessee's Oldest Town," emphasizing its being both and also capital of "The Lost State of Franklin (not the band but the place)," having failed by one federal Congressional vote from becoming capital of the fourteenth state of the Union. In settling another controversy, memorial bricks for those who served the Confederacy are allowed now according to Mayor Kelly Wolfe on advice of counsel, to be intermingled in the Veterans Memorial Park with those who served in Union Armed Forces of all our wars. John Lyle, ACR supporter and contributor, has offered his vacant Main Street lot for Union reenactor encampments in reciprocal appreciation that the General of his ancestry will be there remembered, along with on Route 11E with its historical marker, while John continues to play his usual role as a foot soldier of Dixie in multi-state gatherings to replay strategies and consequences of the War Between The States.
Jerusalem, I want to walk your streets that are golden./
And I want to run where the angels have trod./
Jerusalem, I want to rest on the banks of your river,/
In that city, city of God!/
John saw the lion lay down with the lamb./
I wanna know everything about that Lamb./
John saw the day but did not see night./
The Lamb of God, must be the light..../
He saw the saints worship the Great I AM,/
Cryin' "Worthy, worthy is the Lamb"./
I want to go to that city he saw, NEW JERUSALEM!/
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, sing, for the night is o'er.
Hosanna in the highest, hosanna forever, forevermore!
Back to Chorus...."
-- Jerusalem by Paula Stefanovich
Tony Bowman, email@example.com, Minister of Worship
Trinity Baptist Church, Jonesborough TN, "Twenty Years of Singing Praise" CD $10
available through e-mail or 423-753-4394 (his office)
The kickoff dinner for Jonesborough Days festivities -- listed as a Southeast Tourism Society 2009 Top 20 event of the Southeast -- is held the evening of June 30th behind the town's old Courthouse, its larger and newest one having just been completed on West Jackson Boulevard with a green dome overlooking a bit distantly the busy town and county it serves. As a New England teenager listening, dancing and giggling surreptitiously with friends to Elvis 45s and black and white television appearances, I would never have imagined or believed that 50 or so years later I'd be sitting under a large tent with four very long rows of tables and chairs, munching on barbecued pork and boneless chicken breasts and cob corn, in a tiny historic Tennessee town and talking with friend Sandy's husband -- who rides his black street bike in his black leather to their Main Street Bathtastic shop every day where he sells the beautifully artistic soaps he makes before returning home to play perhaps his trumpet or create more artistic soaps -- and watching the young, handsome, well-built, blond, funny, Republican town mayor Kelly Wolfe, descendant of one of the area's oldest settling families and owner of Wolfe Development, confer with Alderman Dr. Terry Countermine, playing mandolin not banjo for this set, on whether or not the sunshine laws allow them to perform together on-stage. He then launches into his excellently ebullient and exuberant Elvis impression of "Don't Be Cruel," "All Shook Up," and "Blue Suede Shoes" backed by the Jonesborough Novelty Band, which had just previously played "Yankee Doodle Dandy" in a nice touch of "old home" for me, strumming and harmonizing along. And grinning. Along with a lot of other people. A t-shirt that says "Jonesborough, Land of the Free" with a flag waving and the head of an eagle over it in navy blue is available reasonably from some town stores. T-shirts from the Visitors Center read "Red Rockets (fireworks) White Lies (storytelling) and Bluegrass (music)," the theme for this year's celebrations, and with a charicature of performing Novelty Band members imprinted brightly on the front, cost a very reasonable $10 each.
Wednesday evening is the first year of an annual gospel choir competition to see whose voter donations sum the highest entitling that group to be the official donors of all contributed to be given for charity, our largest area food pantry stressed by current economic realities, especially in serving school-age children and their families. Appropriately, the event opens with a set by the Methodist Church Children's Bell Choir, which earns my vote and closes with the ringing of chimes to "Yankee Doodle Dandy" to much applause. The program ends with the Trinity Church Choir, so populous that I'm breath-holdingly concerned as they file onto the temporary stage to stand closely together beside their band of electric piano, drums and bass. But they survive by the grace of God and bring down the house and night sky's attention with the strenuous glory of harmonized enthusiasms of voice, strings and beat ending with the rousing acclamation of "Jerusalem!" my absolutely favorite piece. Their conductor then announces that the choir's CD is free to anyone making a contribution. "If you don't make any, you have to take two." I do both, saving one for my Goddaughter, and noting with pleasure that the last hymn is there recorded along with nine others also unfamiliar to me previously. In a "Jonesborough Land of the Free" navy blue t-shirt with its eagle's head over a waving U.S. flag and wearing a popular broad-rimmed "Tennessee hat," I talk briefly with Melissa, the town's marketing director, as I had earlier with Marion Light, originator of the recent Veterans Park upgrade and regional Democratic Party chair, before leaving.
Later my neighbors are also treated to those musical praise songs, particularly the last one performed before folks, including babies, then chattered away to cars and homes. Artist Margaret Gregg -- one-time nun and long-time social activist (see Mountain Sisters by my favorite former Anthropology professor and ex-chair of the Appalachian Women's Association, the multiply-awarded Dr. Helen Lewis), ACR contributor and fellow Green Party official -- and I parted company so many years ago frequently with the mutual promise, "Next year in Jerusalem!" although whether we meant spatially or spiritually or both isn't quite clear now, so that hymn has special layers of resonance for me, and no doubt others.
The glory of America and life in "The Lost State of Franklin" parades a little after 10 o'clock Friday morning through an enthusiastic throng lining Main Street sidewalks and occasionally rewarded with free bottled water, store coupons and candies for the children, with the State Farm Insurance Company tent giving away free flags also, and more candies. In the lead arm in arm are the copper-green Statue of Liberty with her torch and book and very tall-hatted Uncle Sam in the stars and stripes. Nearing entry review and judging stand, the adored Jonesborough Novelty Band secured on its float strikes up "Yankee Doodle Dandy" followed by reenactors marching in Union blue and then Confederate gray with two women in period dress walking behind them all. In an order of their own appear mounted horses, high school marching bands, the Intertribal Dancers and representatives, Little Miss Jonesborough reaching to climb off the back of the convertible seat and other regional beauty queens, The Overmountain Men from Fort Watauga in Elizabethon, Representative Dr. Phil Roe's two prize-winning floats -- a huge inflated eagle followed by T.C. and the High Road Band, a popular performing teen rock/country quartet, who later rouse a crowd most particularly in playing their rolicking version of "Rock Me Mama" with a lead singer sounding somewhat similar to the early Dwight Yoakam and an entertaining earringed bass player plus drummer and lead guitar -- and a wide assortment of shined and flag-decorated tractors steered by older men holding young boys on their laps or between their knees. Adults of all ages cheer, hoorah and wave the red-white-and-blue while children rush for goodies thrown on the ground and a wide assortment of groomed and leashed pet dogs watch and yip and prance under feet around chair, and other, legs. After an hour or so, the last entry rolls by and the crowd moves off disjointedly in cheery unarray for shops and cafes, vendor goods and live musical events scheduled at various venues including the covered porch before the Mary B. Martin (named after the wife of a recent million dollar private donor) Storytelling Hall of the International Storytelling Center and a large tent with two rows of set-up folding chairs in the large parking lot behind the old Town Courthouse, where also all the children's games and rides are aligned, along with unusually not-unpleasant "port-o-potties."
That evening at around 10 p.m. is the fireworks show, produced from the area around the Visitors Center, and it is pretty awesome too. I stand on the back deck stairsteps next to my Central American neighbor who is recording all of it. Right when we think there just can't possibly be any more color and light and shapes and bangs, there are, ending with a monumental finale explosion, triggered by machine I heard later, into the already smoky dark sky. Before and afterwards, and to the delight of adults as well as children, some neighbor/parents also set off an impressive number of spiraling white streamers and explosions high into the night from our central garden and play area.
The weekend is alive with music! And there is a wide assortment of choices to be had within easy walking. "We're very happy to be back in the coolest town in the world -- self-proclaimed, and it is really" says Noah Wells, lead singer/songwriter and fiddler for The Barefoot Movement, this time with a few new and excellent musicians on lead guitar and drums from NC, a woman on bass from Ohio, and a mandolin/banjo player from TN. They also play a very unusual, original piece written by their guitar player. These are folks who ... know their strings. And really can play barefoot. Little Fiddlin' Carson Peters cavorts backstage as any healthy five-year-old will while his band sets up and then directs the action for nearly an hour in comfortable and virtuoso style. While Dad tries to keep up on rhythm guitar with The Rockhouse Stringband, his Mom smiles and laughs delightedly from the hand-clapping, foot-tapping and finger-snapping audience. The banjo player switches to lead guitar and then back again. I decide Carson has to be the reincarnation of some extraordinarily well-educated and practiced, beloved violinist somewhere in the world who lived to a very old age still learning, exploring and performing. There just is no other explanation possible. Other than that he's a completely normal pre-kindergartner and seems to enjoy it all and just take it in stride. "Nothin' to it. What's the big deal with everyone anyway?" He first picked up strings hanging out in his home around the time he learned to walk also.
Sunday, I stroll down the hill and into the main drag where food and craft vendors are still set up under tents and the street is full of what the local newspaper later counts as the remnants of around 40,000 celebrants altogether convergent on this little town of under 6,000 full-time residents. I've run out of places to hang and arrange beautiful and reasonably priced jewelry from native stones and handicraft and other objet d'arts, so just wave and talk briefly with a few vendors I've gotten to know from as closeby as Erwin, Rocky Mount and Bristol and another from Greeneville, South Carolina. A small baby boy in his stroller taps one leg naturally to the rhythm of a bluegrass band of older gentlemen with guitar, mandolin, bass, banjo and fiddle performing under the roof of the International Storytelling Center's "Doc's Front Porch" stage while the roaming audience arranges and rearranges itself on straw bales set out generously and the comfortably-laid rocks of boundaries between grasses and bricked patios and walkways. Hovering clouds sprinkle intermittent drops on my black "Tanya Tucker" hat this Sunday as I pass the 12-year-old fiddler and his guitar-playing father with their open case for donations on the sidewalk. Vari-colored and styled ramblers on barricaded Main Street and in its shops and cafes have thinned.
But !Lightnin' Charlie beckons from the Presbytery and it's time for the "I love America Home of the Brave" show to begin with its choir, two outstanding pianists, a young teen fiddler and an older banjo playing choir member to begin a presentation of patriotic songs, beginning with a monumental classical piece that ends in bars from "Battle Hymn of the Republic" by a young concert-master who gives way to the older woman who usually plays there and no doubt elsewhere. There's a little history reenactment mixed with hosanna songs before Charlie appears to loud and beloved applause with his acoustic guitar and gets us all into a jazzy version of America The Beautiful to start his assemblage of unusual beat and sound that fills the auditorium sacristy. He ends, on request of the Choirmistress, with "An (not 'un,' he says) American Medley" of "Dixie," "Battle Hymn of the Republic," the black spiritual "All My Trials," and a triumphantly delivered version of "Battle Hymn" filling the room and skies reaching to the heaven he invokes and envisions verbally and musically.
Jonesborough Repertory Theatre is about to produce its final performance of "The 1940 USO Show," which has been presented to popular acclaim and sell-out audiences for the past few years with a changing selection of songs and dances accompanied by a six-piece band of drums, piano, trombone, trumpet, alto and tenor sax. On my way walking back home I comment to Janet Browning, peripatetic owner of the Museum Warehouse, in passing, "Your husband looks pretty good and happy in drag," and she smiles. "He does, doesn't he?" We are referencing one of the skits in which our long-time Town Manager and another town man dress in blouses and skirts and high heels to flutter and flirt with men in tux dancing with women in seamed nylon stockings and period dress, including hats and gloves. In another set his clear voice rings out in song, as it does also regularly within the Presbytery Church Choir.
But for that one Congressional vote, of course, "The Lost State of Franklin" comprising eight counties of East Tennessee would be what was and is spiritually an ever-Union state formally floating sometimes uncomfortably or awkwardly amidst the sea of the southern Confederacy with my adopted and long-time home town its governing hub, as it was of all of Tanasi/Tennessee briefly, standing firmly and proudly in its small shop and farm and abolitionist, free-state history.
To my ears bluegrass, although I overdose on it occasionally living in the heart of that country, is the true musical voice, along with gospel, of rural Appalachian people, while folk music is more of an echo of our origins across the seas harking back to a more ancient heritage as transliterated over centuries in style and tonality but not message. Even for an intrinsic and inveterate music lover, it's possible to develop a yearning need here for the "silence" of natural sounds, which fortunately are easily and readily accessible. So, "Music Capital USA" gives way to only the soft drumming of rain in starless damp darkness of an encompassing and cozy warm night. All the tents are folded and put away until Jonesborough's next major event "of, for and by the people," fall's world-infused Storytelling Festival when the public beat masses again onto this tiny town's old and storied streets.
One thing's been established again for sure. This is a town that knows how to throw a party right. As ever with Jonesborough public events and fund-raisers, volunteers have organized and staffed it all. If you live here, you understand very well why Tennessee is called The Volunteer State.
"The Transylvania Purchase, the largest private or corporate real estate transaction in the United States' history, took place March 17, 1775, at Sycamore Shoals. The Transylvania Company, led by Richard Henderson of North Carolina, purchased from the Cherokee Indians over 20 million acres of land -- all the lands of the Cumberland River watershed and extending to the Kentucky River -- for 2000 pounds sterling and goods worth 8000 pounds. Twelve hundred Indians reputedly spent weeks in counsel at Sycamore Shoals prior to the signing of the deed. Chief Dragging Canoe was firmly against deeding land to the whites, but the other chiefs ignored his warnings and signed the deeds amidst great ceremony and celebration. Fort Watauga, which had been built near Sycamore Shoals, became a refuge for the settlers in the summer of 1776. Dragging Canoe returned home after the Sycamore Shoals Treaty (or Transylvania Purchase) determined to drive the white settlers from Cherokee lands. He was aided by English agents whose plans called for the Indians to attack the settlers from the rear while the English attacked the colonists from the sea. A division of warriors under Old Abram of Chilhowee struck against Fort Watauga, where most of the settlers had already fled. Captain james Robertson (founder of Nashville in 1779), Lieutenant John Sevier (Tennessee's first governor in 1796), and other officers commanded the fort. The Indians laid siege to the Fort for about two weeks but, when the pioneers failed to surrender, the Indian departed.... A scenic trail [now] leads from the fort to the bank of the Watauga River and the historic Shoals".... Here [Sycamore Shoals] was established the first permanent American settlement outside the original 13 colonies, and the Watauga Assocation -- the first majority-rule system of American democratic government -- was formed in 1772.... In May of 1772, the settlers compiled the 'Articles of the Watauga Association' and elected five of their members to 'govern and direct for the common good of all the people.' This group, called a court, combined the legislative, judicial, and executive functions of the infant government.... ".... The John and Landon Carter Mansion is possibly the only remaining link to the Watauga Association, and one of the oldest houses remaining in Tennessee. In 1772, the Wataugans elected John Carter chairman of the court, under the terms of the 'Articles,' and the independent community functioned for six years in defiance of the British and colonial governments and the Cherokee Indians.... In 1796 when Tennessee attained statehood, Carter County was named for Landon Carter, and the county seat, Elizabethton, for his wife Elizabeth Maclin Carter."
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-- Sycamore Shoals State Historic Area in The Historical News, Hiram GA, Summer 2009