Northeast Tennessee offers a rich cultural and historical experience for its residents and visitors. We recently took a day trip to the Sullivan County area, more specifically the county seat of Blountville, to discover the heritage and culture that have become longstanding traditions.
Northeast Tennessee was originally part of North Carolina until the formation of the State of Franklin in 1784. At that time, the counties of Washington, Sullivan and Greene organized the State of Franklin, which existed until 1788 when the territory reverted back to North Carolina. By 1790, the area became part of the Territory South of the River Ohio until 1796 when the State of Tennessee was formed.
Our first stop was the The Sullivan County Department of Archives and Tourism where Executive Director, Shelia Hunt, escorted us through the historical records. Housed in the archives is a collection of historical and genealogical records available for public research. A visit to the archives with clues to your past, such as a grandmother’s birthday or a marriage certificate, is only the beginning of the fascinating journey of discovering your ancestry as well as separating fact from fiction.
Although the archives are housed in Blountville, the extensive collection has made the department a resource for family historians and genealogy researchers from all over the country. Records from Tennessee, Virginia, Kentucky, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, Indiana, Arkansas, Maryland and more are located in the Blountville offices. Additionally, the archives also contain research materials for the Revolutionary War, Civil War and other significant historical events.
Not sure where to start? They have that covered, too. The department offers courses both for beginners and those who are further into their genealogical journey. For more information about how you can research your genealogy or learn more about the historical records of the region you can visit the website or call and set up a time to visit.
Researching the past worked up an appetite, and we could almost smell the sweet scent of slow smoked old fashioned barbeque from downtown Blountville. Luckily, Dixie Outpost was only a few miles away on nearby Hwy. 126. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see the bright yellow school bus, and the best part is that you even have the option of dining inside the remodeled bus.
Dixie Outpost offers traditionally smoked barbeque over a wood fire, accompanied by homemade sides like their delicious potato salad, slaw or old fashioned fried taters and onions. Step aboard the bus after placing your order and they will deliver the homemade goodness right to your school bus table. It’s truly a unique and delicious small town experience, and definitely brings back memories with the mix of home-style cooking and boarding the big yellow school bus as a child.
After lunch, we drove about five miles to the nearby town of Piney Flats for a thirst quenching experience found only in the mountains of Northeast Tennessee. Nothing says Appalachian history quite like a bit of moonshine! Owner and Master Distiller at East Tennessee Distillery, “Tiny” Roberson, is a Northeast Tennessee native and learned how to make moonshine as a “youngin’ growing up in the hills of Stoney Creek.” Later, Tiny joined the Navy where he gained further technical knowledge of the distillation process and continued to hone his craft working as a lab technician for two large corporations. Truthfully, however, the evidence of his skill is in the tasting, or as Tiny says, “The proof is in the bottle.”
Tiny and his crew welcome visitors to their still house to enjoy samples in the tasting room, adjacent to the bottling and shipping area where guests can see the entire process of distilling moonshine from start and finish. If you have never experienced the smooth taste of mountain shine, we encourage you to give Tennessee Mellomoon a shot (or maybe a sip). With flavors such as Caramel, Apple Pie, Banana and Coconut, how could you go wrong? If traditional moonshine is your preference, Mellomoon crafts a 150 proof product known as the “The Real Deal.” And, trust me, it had a smooth kick like nothing we’ve ever tried! Tiny will tell you the secret is in the water that’s used, as well as the crafting process he has developed which delivers a smooth taste. “This is your granddaddy’s shine, only better,” he says.
Whether you’re looking for key facts or ancestors in a genealogy search, craving classic southern food paired with a unique dining experience, or the smooth taste of a drink that has been crafted over time and tradition, the Blountville area of Sullivan County creates the perfect combination of history and heritage.
For more information on Sullivan County and Blountville, visit historicsullivan.com.