Update: Due to inclement weather forecast for Saturday and Sunday, the Overmountain Victor Trail’s reenactment gathering for this weekend has been postponed. When a new date is set, it will be announced on elkintribune.com.
The Overmountain Victory Trail is one of the hidden gems of the Yadkin Valley. The trail runs deep into the lives and history of the people who once called this place their home. The trail was used as a vital part in the battle of Kings Mountain, as militia marched across the area on their way to battle for freedom, a turning point in the Revolutionary War.
“The Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail is a cornerstone in Elkin’s heritage tourism development from which many things can spring forth,” said Mary Bohlen, president of the Wilkes and Surry OVTA Chapter. “This trail and muster field was here before Elkin ever existed. It has had national importance since our colony became a nation.
“This is a National Park Service Trail, one of only 18 such trails in the whole country. President Jimmy Carter signed the legislation to make this a national trail in 1980. The bill was presented into Congress by our own Senator James Broyhill. This is part of our local roots and our national history. How important do you think this should be to Elkin and North Carolina, to have a national park right here in downtown? This is an extraordinary tool to have in our community that can be used greatly to our advantage,” she said.
The Overmountain Victory Trail has important significance to the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, as the trails intersect. It’s an important trail to the area, and the state.
“The Mountains-to-Sea Trail and the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail intersect here in Elkin,” said Bohlen. “I think that is pretty neat. Anyone walking the Mountains-to-Sea Trail is, for a while, following the footprints of patriots who in 1780 traveled this route in pursuit of the British and declaring our independence. It would be good to see the two entities work together to promote these trails. I think this weekend’s event is a good example of how different trails can work together for the benefit of all.”
On Saturday and Sunday, the Overmountain Victory Trail Association will hold a gathering in Elkin. The public is invited to attend all of the events that will take place throughout the weekend.
“The Overmountain Victory Trail Association is a friends group that works with the National Park Service to help promote and protect the national trail,” said Bohlen. “We were asked to participate again this year for the gathering of the MST to highlight the history and information about the OVNHT. There will be an 18th-century living history encampment for MST members and town folks to visit. We will also joined by NPS’s Ben Richardson, who will be here to talk with the public about this national treasure.”
The Trail to Victory: Wilkes-Surry in 1780 Living History Encampment also will take place in Elkin on Saturday and Sunday. The reenactment showcases life back in the days of the Revolutionary War. There will be living history interpreters, militia fare, and a variety of other activities that will take place throughout the weekend, including a parade.
“This is a very unique event,” said Taylor Osborne, a reenactor who is taking part in the Trail to Victory. “The closest Revolutionary battle to us is Guilford Courthouse. A lot of people don’t really know that we have a trail here in Elkin that was part of the war. Some people say that Kings Mountain was a turning point in the war, and we have a piece of that story here in Elkin.”
The reenactment is important to the area for a number of reasons, but the main reason is that is shows people how deep of a history runs through Elkin and the rest of the Yadkin Valley. Starting on Saturday at 10 a.m., the event opens to the public. At noon, there will be a parade down Main Street in Elkin, followed by Revolutionary activities throughout the rest of the day.
“There will be several military encampments, we have both Patriot and Loyalist forces,” said Osborne. “People can walk through the camps. We will have people talking about currency, and different demonstrations. We actually have some of the officers involved, we have people portraying Joseph Winston and Benjamin Cleveland for part of the event. We will also have British officers on hand for people to talk to. People can talk with the reenactors and step back in time and experience what life was like.”
At 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Saturday, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, there will be trail walks along the Overmountain Victory Trail. Along the way of the trail, there will be scenarios of the 1780 path that the Surry Militia took that show how life was during the Revolutionary War. On Sunday at 10:30 a.m., there will be a Colonial church service that will be open to the public.
“This is an immersive event for the public. We are trying to humanize these historical figures,” said Osborne. “You see portraits and hear stories, but we are showing that they were real human beings. They fought with each other, they argued with each other. We are showing how this war affected the citizens. Along the trail, we will have prominent colonial women discussing politics, we will also have a family who will be talking and arguing about their son going off to war and how he is not at home. We are trying to bring in, not only the military history, but also the social history. These were not just people in powdered wigs and in portraits. These were real people with real emotions.”
The Overmountain Victory Trail stretches more than 300 miles, through four different states, and has scenery that is breath-taking. The trail is now part of the National Park Service, and it came to fruition after six years of hard work from volunteers all over the area. Now, the trail is alive and well and serves as a place for history to be remembered.
“The OVTA wants to use this opportunity of partnership with the Mountains-to-Sea Trail to tell this amazing story of the Battle of Kings Mountain that had its starting point here along Elk Creek and the Yadkin River,” said Bohlen. “Each time we tell the story we honor and recognize those brave men who made great sacrifice for liberty. These men were the early settlers in this area many of whom have decedents still living here. This trail marks who and what we are. We want citizens to know that this trail is a national monument to our freedom. We want Elkin to take this place in our history and run with it. Think about what can happen to a place that has a National Park right in the middle of town?”
Kristian Russell can be reached at 336-258-4052 or on Twitter @YadkinElkSports.