By Dave Ongie
The Boones Creek Historical Trust has collected and preserved countless artifacts over the years, but Vicki Shell has a clear-cut favorite.
Shell, the group’s creative director, showed off her favorite item during a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Sounds of Boones Creek Museum and Opry last Tuesday night. On the surface, the item appears to be a simple piece of cloth, but in reality its much more than that. The cloth was woven out of flax in the 1700s, making it the oldest known surviving item from the Boones Creek community, which formed 260 years ago.
While the cloth has historical value due to its age, Shell instead stressed a symbolic lesson the item carries with it. Like the Boones Creek community, the cloth has been through wars, political divide, droughts and depressions, but it still remains woven together.
“We have both republicans and democrats on this committee, and politics never interfere because we remain single-minded and focused on our goal,” Shell said.
The tenacity of the Boones Creek Historical Trust was mentioned time and again during Tuesday’s festivities, which officially opened the Museum and Opry at 525 W. Oakland Avenue. In addition to collecting and preserving a bevy of items that tell the story of the Boones Creek community, the non-profit group comprised of 250 members has managed to open a temporary museum and performance space in a storefront that used to house a RadioShack.
“Never once has this group waivered from their perseverance to preserve the history, the culture and most of all the music,” said Brenda Whitson, executive of the Johnson City Convention and Visitors Bureau. “I think today you see evidence of that.”
The ultimate goal is to open a larger museum and performance space four times the size of the current location. During Tuesday’s festivities, the barn at Keefauver Farm was identified as an ideal place for the permanent home.
For now, the Oakland Avenue location is packed with artifacts in displays designed to illuminate the rich history of Boones Creek. Music is the tie that binds the museum together, so it is fitting that music is on full display every Saturday at 6 p.m. during “Opry night.”
Each week a featured musician will take the stage, and that performance will be followed by an open mic opportunity for anyone who wants to play.
“What’s unique about the musical space our museum is built around is that it’s open for everyone to come and participate or even learn to play,” said historian Edward Bowman. “It’s a people’s opry, and with so few family venues available on Saturday nights, this could very easily become one of the largest draws in our area.”
Dr. Ron Roach, chairman of the ETSU Department of Appalachian Studies, was excited for the start of a new school year so students from ETSU’s vaunted Bluegrass program could take the stage inside the new museum. Roach also marveled at how much the closeknit Boones Creek community had been able to accomplish on a shoestring budget.
“I first met the board members of this organization a couple years ago,” Roach said. “I’ve worked with a lot of local historical groups in several states over the years, but I’ve never seen one with more dedication, with more energy, with more determination, with more creativity. We can look around this room and you can see evidence of it.”