Whether it’s through theater or photographs, historians in Washington County are working hard to preserve the area’s history for generations to come.
The East Tennessee Historical Society honored three Washington County initiatives among the 28 awards presented at this year’s Awards of Excellence, which took place at the World’s Fair Site in Knoxville earlier this month.
• Elaine Scott Cantrell received the Ramsey Award for Lifetime Achievement, the society’s highest honor. Cantrell’s home is full of thousands of photographs, organized in dozens of binders busting with photos of different landmarks throughout Washington County. It began in 2000 when Cantrell decided to drive across the county and take photos of all the churches, which turned into taking pictures of different buildings, railroads, rivers, roads, mountain views and all the historical markers on the national registry.
Cantrell has received numerous awards in the past, and her other endeavors include cemetery documentation, a three-year historic survey of the county, an obituary project, newsletter co-editor, director of the Jonesborough Genealogical Society and acting as the driving force behind the creation of the Washington County Archives.
• The Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia’s production of its first murder mystery, “Legs in a Barrel,” won an award of distinction from the society. The original play penned by Heritage Alliance Special Projects Manager Anne G’Fellers Mason, is based on a118-year-old murder mystery and a pair of legs sticking out of a barrel. The production, alliance director Deborah Montanti said, lets audience members become a part of the investigation as amateur detectives alongside cast members as they try to solve the mystery of who dun it . . . and how those legs got into that barrel.
The play premiered at Jonesborough’s Historic Eureka Inn in August 2017, but was received so well that Montanti said the alliance is considering bringing it back for a second run.
“We sold out all three shows,” Montanti said. “It was a load of fun.”
“Legs in a Barrel” raised more than $4,000 for the Heritage Alliance during its run last year.
• A second Award of Distinction went to the Heritage Alliance for the monthly History Happy Hour programs that began last year. Ever third Thursday of the month, the Alliance brings in experts from around the area to the Chester Inn to talk about anything from 19th century optical illusions to the life and legacy of Tennessee’s first historian, J.G.M. Ramsey.
Montanti said the idea of the program was to give community members a dose of history every month while foraging connections with surrounding organizations and colleges. Montanti said the most fun part about History Happy Hour is the wide variety of topics, and that’s something the community seems to appreciate, too.
“When we came up with the idea, what we envisioned was five or six people sitting around talking about things we love, and the very first one we did had over 40 people in attendance,” Montanti said.
History Happy Hour begins every third Thursday of the month at 6:30 p.m. at the Chester Inn museum in Jonesborough.
About the East Tennessee Historical Society:
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