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Gaffney may take on Kings Mountain activities

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Courtesy of Janet Phillips -
An Overmountain marcher explains frontier life in the 18th Century on Thursday to students from East Rutherford Middle School. The group of students came to an Overmountain encampment at Gilbertown near Rutherfordton. The marchers are following the 330 mile Overmountain National Victory Trail through four states to the site of the 1780 Battle of Kings Mountain near Blacksburg, S.C.

If the federal government shutdown isn’t resolved over the weekend and national parks remain closed, the city of Gaffney will host the annual Battle of Kings Mountain commemoration activities.

Events originally scheduled for Saturday and Sunday at the Kings Mountain National Military Park near Blacksburg included re-enactment demonstrations, lectures and music.

And on Monday,, the anniversary of the 1780 Revolutionary War battle, there was to be a wreath-laying there at the U.S. monument, the arrival of the Overmountain Victory Trail marchers and a keynote speaker. Also, the Overmountain group planned to spend several nights at the Cowpens National Battleground in Chesnee.

Now, the celebration focus is on downtown Gaffney. Officials don’t have a cost estimate for providing extra services, but said the city actively promotes tourism and welcomes visitors who’d hoped to honor Kings Mountain heroes at the actual battleground.

“We’re trying to provide them with an alternate venue,” said Gaffney’s City Administrator James Taylor. “Revolutionary War tourism is part of what we do and this is just part of that effort. We’re delighted to help out.”

Even before the government shutdown, Gaffney had planned to welcome the Overmountain group on Sunday. The nonprofit organization was started in 1975 to protect and preserve the route the Patriots took across the mountain to the Kings Mountain Battlefield. Today, that route is the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, a 330-mile trail through four states, Virginia, Tennessee and North and South Carolina.

Gaffney’s original welcome included a march down Main Street, a musket volley, storytelling and an evening program “The Night Before Kings Mountain.”

The city also planned to provide a grilled chicken supper for the marchers.

About a week ago, as the government shutdown loomed, Taylor said the city got a call from a Sons of the American Revolution representative who was also calling on behalf of Daughters of the American Revolution chapters, asking about the possibility of Gaffney hosting a major wreath-laying event on Oct. 7.

The proposed site for the ceremony was the grave of Col. James Williams, who was killed at Kings Mountain, buried on the battlefield and later re-interred. His grave is across from the Gaffney City Hall on the grounds of the historic Carnegie Library on North Limestone Street.

City officials agreed to the request and then began looking into the logistics of letting Overmountain marchers camp downtown. Taylor said one hurdle was closing the main street – a state road – for the festivities. Normally, it would take about two weeks to get S.C. Department of Transportation approval, but “we scrambled and got the permit in one week,” Taylor said.

LeighAnn Snuggs, Gaffney’s director of marketing, tourism and public relations, said, “It was a natural fit for us to step up and offer our properties because we’re located on the Overmountain Victory Trail route.”

About 18 Overmountain group RVs will park downtown in a city lot behind the replica log cabin of Michael Gaffney, the city’s namesake. The City Hall Park across the street will also be made available to the campers and they can use the restrooms and take hot showers at the nearby Gaffney Fire Department.

On Monday, weather permitting, all ceremonies will be held outdoors. In case of rain, events will move into Capri on Main, a historic theater.

Accommodating the Kings Mountain Battle celebration came easy because “we event-plan all the time,” said Snuggs. “Cherokee County is the only county in the nation with three national parks – Kings Mountain, Cowpens and the Overmountain National Victory Trail. Two hundred and 33 years ago these men fought for our freedom and we’re going to move forward to honor them.”

People involved in the commemoration are grateful Gaffney came to the rescue.

“If we can’t be at the monument at the battlefield, there is no better place to be than the grave site of Col. James Williams in Gaffney,” said Jim Cook, wreath-laying event coordinator with the Asheville-based Blue Ridge Sons of the American Revolution Chapter.

Marc Bowen, president of the Overmountain Victory Trail Association, said, “We’ve come a long way and we appreciate the offer.”

Revolutionary War expert Bobby Moss, 82, of Blacksburg had planned to stand in the public road at Kings Mountain National Military Park on Monday. His great-great-great grandfather fought in the battle on Oct. 7, 1870. If the park was closed Monday, standing in the road would be the only way Moss could connect with a battleground he’d been going to on that date since age 5.

“My grandfather said, ‘If you’re an American that’s where you ought to be then,’” recalled Moss, a retired history professor.

He’ll be in Gaffney on Monday for the Kings Mountain commemoration.

“But my heart will be at the battleground,” Moss said. “Always will be.”

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