Among the attractions that make Knoxville, Tenn., a good place to visit are an outstanding regional history museum and four historic homes. Many of Knoxville's earliest settlers had direct ties to North Carolina.
Knoxville is approximately 260 miles from Charlotte, about a four-hour drive, one way.
To see and do
The East Tennessee History Center is a spacious, high-tech museum in a renovated 1874 federal custom house, Exhibits tracing the history of the region from early settlement through present day. Highlights among the many early 19th-century artifacts is a flintlock rifle once owned by Davy Crockett, and a powder horn carried by a member of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition.
James White's Fort is called the "birthplace" of Knoxville. Formerly of Iredell County, N.C., White moved to what was to become Knoxville in 1785 to claim 1,000 acres he had been given for his service during the Revolutionary War. He built a two-story cabin - considered at the time to be very elegant - and later added a separate kitchen and other outbuildings facing a common courtyard. A stockade protected the courtyard against panthers, bears and other wild animals. In 1791, William Blount, appointed by President Washington to serve as Governor of the Territory South of the River Ohio, bought land from White to establish a new capital for the territory. So began Knoxville, named for Henry Knox, Washington's Secretary of War.
Like White, William Blount was a former Tar Heel, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, and one of North Carolina's three signers of the U. S. Constitution. The territorial governor built a "civilized" home for himself and his family in 1792, a two-story framed house with additions. Its many windows caused Blount's Cherokee neighbors to call it "the house with many eyes."
Marble Springs Farmstead was the last home of John Sevier, a hero of the Battle of Kings Mountain. Sevier was actively involved in efforts to establish the state of Franklin and served as the one and only governor of this "lost state" (1784-1788). Fittingly, when Tennessee was admitted to the Union, Sevier was elected its first governor. The farmstead includes Sevier's original log home, several reproduction outbuildings and a representative roadside tavern.
The imposing plantation home of Francis A. Ramsey was built in 1797 of native pink marble and blue limestone. Its rooms are quite elegant, with handsome carved mantels, wainscoting, and wooden shutters in most rooms, along with an abundance of fine furnishings. Ramsey was one of the founders of the University of Tennessee.