Tory Oak plaque

(Photo caption) Charles S. Williams/staff photo

TORY OAK RECERTIFICATION-Paul Carson, center, superintendent of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail for the National Park Service, presented a certificate of recertification for the Tory Oak as a certified protected site on the trail to R.J. Absher, left, representing the Wilkes Heritage Museum Inc. board, and Wilkesboro Mayor Mike Inscore, right.

The Tory Oak site, adjacent to the Wilkes Heritage Museum in Wilkesboro, has been recertified by the National Park Service as a certified protected site on the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail.

The official ceremony was held Saturday morning at the Tory Oak site. Paul Carson, the superintendent of the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail, presented a signed and approved application for certification from the park service to Wilkesboro Mayor Mike Inscore and R.G. Absher, representing the museum's board of directors.

Storms in June 1989 and June 1992 tore the branches from the tree, leaving only a 12-foot stump. That stump was removed in 1997 and replaced with a young oak sapling.

Carson told those on hand, "In September 1992, the Tory Oak site became a certified site on the trail. The original agreement for certification between Old Wilkes Inc. and the National Park Service was for a five-year period, which ended in September 1997.

"Technically the Tory Oak site was no longer a part of the trail. This year we correct that oversight and celebrate a new certification agreement which is valid for five years, and will automatically renew every five years thereafter as long as both parties have no objections."

He added, "It gives me great pleasure to know that the Tory Oak site is once more an official part of the trail. This is a trail which tells many stories and serves as a tangible reminder of important events from long ago."

History of the trail

Carson added that the national historic trail commemorates the campaign in the fall of 1780 which led to patriot victory at the battle of Kings Mountain on Oct. 7, 1780.

"It is a trail that tells a story by its twists and turns as well as the places and landmarks along its way," Carson added. "If you take time to examine all that is encountered along the route then you will learn not only the story of the campaign but also the history of what was once the western frontier."

Carson added that the Tory Oak site "is a place that evokes the tragedy of a people torn apart by war, and it reminds us that Americans during the revolution were not all united in the cause of independence. The original tree is now gone, but the stories associated with the site remain.

"Today we are not only officially certifying this place as a part of the Overmountain Victory Trail, but are also dedicating a wayside exhibit that will explain to visitors why this spot is so important. Hopefully it will also inspire them to learn more about the American Revolution and visit the Wilkes Heritage Museum to view the exhibit about the war that is located within its walls."

In 1980 the Overmountain Victory National Historic Trail was authorized by the U.S. Congress. For the next two years, information was collected and researched and compiled in a comprehensive management plan that is still used today as our blueprint for the trail. Along, with the route, the plan identified 34 sites along the way that were noteworthy enough to be eligible for certification. Twenty-two of those sites lie within the boundaries of North Carolina, according to Carson. The Tory Oak site is one of those places.

Carson, on behalf of the park service, expressed thanks to the museum's executive director, Jennifer Furr, and her staff for their help and support in this recertification.

"We would also like to express our thanks to the Town of Wilkesboro for allowing this property to be re-certified," he said. "Finally I would like to express my thanks to members of the Overmountain Victory Trail Association for the continued volunteer support of all that happens along the route."

 Inscore in his remarks, said, "It is always a privilege to stand on such hallowed ground as this. The Tory Oak is a legacy I commend all of the like-minded citizens who were a part of the campaign during the Revolutionary War. Had that not happened, we might not be here today. This site will serve generations to come."

Absher welcomed those present and introduced the guests. He also led a "brigade" of Revolutionary War re-enactors from the Wilkes-Surry chapter of the Overmountain Victory Trail Association, who fired a salute with their long rifles at the conclusion of the ceremony. The other members of the brigade were Charles Gilreath and Joe Hicks of Elkin, and Dale Swofford of Jonesville.

Museum open house

The ceremony was a part of the museum's annual holiday open house. The museum was open for free self-guided tours, and music by local choral groups was provided throughout the day in the museum meeting room (the former courtroom).

Nearby, in the Benjamin Cleveland cabin, Sheba Harris of Jonesville was demonstrating the art of hearth baking at the cabin's fireplace. She was assisted by her husband, William (Dub) Harris, and their granddaughter, Elizabeth Billings, 10, the daughter of Billie and Jody Billings of Ronda.

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