Doesn’t the name Sycamore Shoals sound inviting? It is a lovely setting on the Watauga River but was also the site of serious skirmishes between Patriots and Cherokees and the launching point for one of the most significant battles of the American Revolution.

In 1772, some fearless pioneers thumbed their nose at the British King and moved into the forbidden land west of the Allegheny Mountains (as the Appalachian Mountains were then known) and founded the first permanent American settlement outside the original 13 colonies.

But that land did not belong to the British, it belonged to the tribes of the Cherokee, and Sycamore Shoals became the site of the largest private real estate transaction in US history. After intense and controversial negotiations with Cherokee elders, Judge Richard Henderson completed The Treaty of Sycamore Shoals which transferred 20 million acres of Cherokee land to the Transylvania Land Company in 1775.  Daniel Boone was hired by Henderson to work on this project, communicating with the Cherokee and blazing a trail that would become known as the Wilderness Road. Because only the British were allowed to purchase land from Native Americans, both Virginia and North Carolina refused to honor the treaty, annexing the settlements, and awarding 200,000 acres of land to Henderson in compensation.

History in this area remained complicated after the Revolutionary War, with the founding of the short-lived State of Franklin and fluid state boundaries between Franklin, Tennessee, and North Carolina. But I am off-track and that’s a story for another time.

Fort Watauga. Inside the compound docents in period costume fill in historic background and answer questions.

Adding to the era’s conflict was the fact the Cherokee sided with the British, and younger members of the tribes, who had not favored the land treaty, continued to fight the settlers. Today you can visit the reconstructed Fort Watauga and learn about the rough life and battles of the time.

241 Years Ago

Patriots were not faring well during the Revolution in 1780, with the fall of Savannah, Charlestown, and Camden to the British. Settlers in the North and South Carolina backcountry had been given an ultimatum and knew British troops were on the way.  Deciding not to wait and to meet British Major Ferguson en route, close to 1,000 men mustered at Sycamore Shoals on September 25, and pursued Ferguson for more than 330 miles.  Known as the Overmountain Men their bravery and ultimate victory over the Loyalists at the Battle of King’s Mountain is considered a key turning point in the war.

Today the Sycamore Shoals State Historic Park recognizes this significant slice of history. The Park features a visitors’ center with interesting historic information, picnic areas, and walking trails along the river. The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail starts here and passes through much of Western Carolina, running near the Orchard at Altapass. Gravesites attributed to injuries during the battle are on the Sibelco factory property off 19E. For more about the Overmountain Men and battle, check out my older post with more details. Click here.

Walking along the Watauga River at Sycamore Shoals.

Cake, Whiskey, and Food, Oh My!

Treats in Hunt Country, VA

We worked up an appetite exploring Loudoun County, Virginia, and headed over to the much-acclaimed Red Truck Rural Bakery to remedy the situation. I coveted a slice of their Applejack Butter Pecan Bundt Cake. They have gotten a lot of national attention for their Applejack cake, and a key ingredient happens to be aged apple brandy from the local Catoctin Creek Distillery (so we knew we’d have to check that out as well). Brick and Mortar locations are in nearby Warrenton or Marshall, and you can also order online for pick-up or shipping.  Sadly, the Applejack Cake was not quite in season yet, so I settled for more-than-ample servings of their deliciously moist Meyer Lemon and Moonshine cakes, as well as few treats to share with family. These are Southern cakes at their best, y’all. Sandwiches are also available, but who needs protein when you can eat cake.

Note: When we visited the retail store, indoor dining was closed due to the pandemic, but as of this writing, the retail area is open and there is limited seating inside, as well as outdoor.  Apparently, there is no need for the walk-up window we visited to be open at this moment. Credit/debit cards only, no cash.

The Red Truck name is a tip-of-the-hat to the vintage pick-up truck the owners bought from fashion icon Tommy Hilfiger.  A big shout out to my friend Nancy for turning me on to the New York Times article that led us to the bakery; my tastebuds thank you!

Forgot to take a good picture before I started gobbling up the goodies.

Pick Your Poison in Northern Virginia: Beer, Wine or Whiskey

Pick Your Poison in Northern Virginia: Beer, Wine or Whiskey

Northern Virginia is dotted with wineries and craft breweries, but lesser-known are the distilleries in the area. Virginia has quite a robust distillery trail, and we chose the home of the state’s most awarded whiskey (Roundstone Rye) for our introductory visit. Catoctin Creek Distilling Company, located in Purcellville is open every day but Monday, featuring tastings of their single barrel and small-batch offerings. This is the first local family-owned distillery since before Prohibition and offers flights of whiskey, brandy, or seasonal cocktails.  We had the pleasant-tasting room all to ourselves as we sampled a brandy flight, coming away with a bottle of the pear brandy.

Market Station

Lunch in Historic Leesburg

Continuing our exploration of Loudoun County, Virginia, we took a break on a busy day to visit historic Leesburg, and lunch at the charming Tuscarora Mill. The restaurant is located at the site of McKimmey’s Mill, rebuilt after a fire in 1898, and in use as a mill and feed business until 1969.  Moved 300 feet from its original location by the W&OD Railroad, the multistory building has been restored and is part of an entertainment complex known as Market Station. BTW – our lunch was delicious; we will return.

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