By Jeff Keeling
It was spring 1791 Saturday at Rocky Mount State Historic Site, and for dozens of children and adults visiting the original home of William Cobb, that made for an enlightening experience.
The Cotswold sheep that have the run of the property were being sheared, their wool processed into yarn and spun at Rocky Mount’s museum. Blacksmiths were smithing, Cobb “family members” were sharing their stories during living history tours, and volunteers like Tom Turner were helping visitors make candles the old-fashioned way.
Children crowded into the second floor of the Cobbs’ large log home – one of only two in the area that had glass windows c. 1791 – to see how 10 children could sleep in the back bedroom on three beds and a cradle. They learned a bit about the games children would play during that era, when William Cobb, a relatively wealthy farmer and surveyor, allowed Southwest Territory Governor William Blount to stay with him when he was in the area.
That hospitality turned Rocky Mount into the de facto capital of the Southwest Territory, which was later to become Tennessee. It also meant a need for plenty of official correspondence, and Dana Hewitt – portraying William’s cousin, Arthur Cobb – showed curious children how Cobb would stand at his desk and write, sometimes using ink derived from the green husk surrounding walnuts.
Outside, between the main home and the slave cabin, Turner helped 4-year-old Natalee Cutshall of Johnson City make a candle from tallow. Cutshall stood intently in the fire pit area for the “candle dipping” while Turner explained that in Cobb’s day, they had tools that allowed them to dip 25 candles at a go.
“She is loving this,” Melody Cutshall, Natalee’s mother, said of her daughter’s overall experience at Rocky Mount.
The same was true for another 4-year-old, Keldan Yerton of Johnson City, who seemed to greatly enjoy his turn at petting one of the Cotswold lambs that was just a few weeks old. Meanwhile, in a part of the barn, 5-year-old Raleigh Luttrell of Bristol tried his hand at blacksmithing, helping blacksmith Dave Williams begin the process of turning a rectangular shaft of metal into a curved and pointed coat rack hanger.
The site is open weekly. For more information visit rockymountmuseum.com or call (423) 538-7396.