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Volume 26, Number 4 — April 2019

History Through Stories in Abingdon

A living historian conducts a cooking demonstration at the Abingdon Muster Grounds.
A living historian conducts a cooking demonstration at the Abingdon Muster Grounds.
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Special Events at The Muster Grounds

By Leslie Grace / A! Magazine for the Arts | November 27, 2012

In Abingdon, Va., during the Revolutionary War, the militia leaders received a message from British Major Patrick Ferguson. "When he sent his threat that the frontiersmen should "lay down your arms and swear allegiance to the King, or I will march my army over the mountains, hang your leaders and lay waste with fire and sword your home and fields,' the local militia, who had built everything they had, decided to take the fight to him rather than wait," Leigh Anne Hunter, Abingdon Muster Grounds superintendent, says.

Each year members of the Overmountain Victory Trail Association, named after the Overmountain Men who marched 330 miles over the mountains to the Battle of King's Mountain in South Carolina, gather at the muster grounds in Abingdon to tell the tale of this pivotal moment in the American Revolution, which Thomas Jefferson said changed the course of the war.

"The war was rather stagnant at the time," Hunter says. "Each side was suffering losses rather than clear-cut victories or defeats. After the victory of the Overmountain Men, when in 65 minutes a group of frontiersmen defeated what was the most powerful army in the world, the course of the war changed." The 1,000 militiamen killed or captured Major Ferguson's entire command on Kings Mountain, S.C.

This stirring story is told every month during special events at the Abingdon Muster Grounds and to school groups at other times. In one four-day period, 1,500 fourth graders heard the story and saw demonstrations of everyday frontier life. Visitors also explored what it was like for the Overmountain Men, their wives and families, loyalists, slaves and Native Americans through the exhibits at the Keller Interpretive Center on the Muster Grounds.

Special public events are scheduled monthly and events for school children are held when requested. During those events living historians set up demonstration tents throughout the grounds to showcase the arts and crafts of the time. The living historians at the Abingdon Muster Grounds are all volunteers. They demonstrate colonial games, crafts and tell stories to teach the history and culture of the time. They also demonstrate military skills, such as the bayonet and the long rifle.


>> The William Cobb family welcomes visitors to Rocky Mount.

A lacemaker at the Abingdon Muster Grounds.

A pottery demonstration at The Muster Grounds.