Snapshot in time: Heritage tourism connects history and community

Taylor+Osborne+in+period+dress+in+front+of+Frazier+cabin.+The+museum%27s+goal+is+to+educate+the+community+about+the+history+of+the+area.+

Savannah Brewer

Taylor Osborne in period dress in front of Frazier cabin. The museum’s goal is to educate the community about the history of the area.

Savannah Brewer

Tucked away in the heart of Boone is the Hickory Ridge Museum, where visitors can travel back in time to experience the rich history and deep roots of the High Country.

In the main office sits Marrena Greer, who can trace her local family history back to the days of the revolution. 

“We’re here to educate about this region,” Marrena said in regard to the mission of Hickory Ridge. 

Split-rail fences and fallen leaves give the museum’s six historic cabins a whimsical feel in the crisp fall weather. Many of the cabins were moved to the location beginning in the late 1950s, but have ties to Boone and its surrounding counties.

 The museum outfitted the cabins to appear frozen in the 18th century. 

 “Each of our cabins portray a different theme,” Greer said. “In one cabin you’ll learn how people made their clothes; one cabin will discuss how a long hunter would have gone on his long hunt, like Daniel Boone.” 

However, Greer is quick to remind listeners that Daniel Boone did not actually have a homestead in Boone, but passed through and hunted in the area. 

Daniel Boone is not the only famous character drawing visitors to Heritage Ridge. The museum’s Frazier cabin, which is also the gift store, has recently gained popularity due to the Starz TV show “Outlander,” which follows fictional characters Jamie and Claire Fraser into the American frontier.

 According to Greer, guests will show up asking to see “Jamie’s cabin.” 

I show them the Tatum cabin,” says Greer, “because I said, ‘look folks, Hollywood tells you one thing, but this is real life, this is what Jamie lived in.’” 

 The Tatum cabin portrays what everyday life was like for mountain pioneers. It is the oldest cabin on the grounds, and five generations of Tatums inhabited the cabin in nearby Todd.

Captain James Tatum, a soldier who fought in the American Revolution battle of King’s Mountain, built the cabin between 1775 and 1785. 

“It’s never been changed since it was moved here, it’s always been portrayed as a home,” tour interpreter Taylor Osborne said.

Osborne is dressed in 18th-century style clothing and said they “try to keep it as 18th century as possible.” Just as Greer can, Osborne can also trace his local family history back to the American Revolution. 

Osborne’s favorite building at the museum is the tavern, Greer described how this building would “show the start of the community.” It was a place where fur traders, and preachers would have stopped in on their journeys. It was where settlers would get their supplies.  

The museum is also home to the first outdoor American Revolution play in the country. The Southern Appalachian Historical Association has hosted the show since 1952. 

“The drama itself is historical,”Greer said. “When you’re the oldest outdoor revolutionary war drama, that says something.”

This historical drama, Horn in the West, depicts the pioneers who settled in the High Country. It highlights famous frontiersman Daniel Boone, as well as depicting the struggles of the revolutionary war.

 “The first season, it was such a popular thing, the seats were filled and people were sitting in trees,” Greer said. 

The show presents in the summer, mid-June through mid-August, Tuesday through Sunday. 

The summer of 2020 would have been the show’s 69th season. However, the show was not possible with the covid-19 pandemic. This has not stopped plans from moving forward with hosting the show’s 69th season next summer. 

The museum opens for play watchers from 5:30 to 8 p.m. in the summer evenings.

 “We try to tell them when they come through the gates at the museum, they’ve stepped back into history,” Greer said. 

Audiences can go directly from watching the play to experiencing it first hand. 

 “You can actually see someone spinning and weaving,” Osborne said, “you can see someone blacksmithing, and you’ll have a tavern keeper talking about food and drinks that they’d be eating.” 

The museum’s latest project is a display room within its main office that will exhibit historical artifacts. Among the artifacts are eyeglasses, a wood splitter, a peg leg and Captain James Tatum’s sidearm blade, which he carried at the battle of King’s Mountain.

Hickory Ridge Living Museum is open for tours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (the last tour leaves at 3 p.m.) Tuesday through Friday  and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays. Tours last for 30 to 45 minutes.