Union City, Tenn.—Discovery Park of America will mark David Crockett’s birthday on Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022 with interactive activities, live demonstrations and the opening of a new blacksmith’s forge at the heritage park’s turn-of-the-twentieth century town reproduction, Mill Ridge.
The new forge is the result of a partnership between Discovery Park and the Tennessee River Artist Blacksmith Association (TRABA), an organization that offers various opportunities for the public to learn about blacksmithing. Demonstrations of the new forge at Discovery Park will take place periodically throughout the year and will provide an opportunity for guests to experience blacksmiths using the forge to create various projects from start to finish.
Dr. Jared Teague, associate professor for the Department of Engineering at the University of Tennessee at Martin, also plans to use the forge for students taking classes in historic forging. They will learn about the crystal structure of metals, receive hands-on training in historic blacksmithing and interact with the public through visual demonstrations.
“We are excited about the partnership we have with Discovery Park to offer our students an extended classroom experience. It is a good opportunity for the students not only to learn about this historic trade, but also develop communication skills by explaining their demonstration to park visitors.”
Having access to a forge was crucial for early settlers like David Crockett.
“During David Crockett’s day, a blacksmith was one of the most important people to arrive in a pioneer community. In addition to keeping the workhorses shod, they provided all kinds of metal items for use in settlers’ homes,” said Jennifer Wildes, Discovery Park’s senior director of collections and exhibits. “Adding this new forge right across from our gristmill is another way we can remember the lives of the men and women who settled this area.”
Crockett was a celebrated folk hero, frontiersman and politician who made his home in Northwest Tennessee from 1822 until he departed for the Alamo in 1835. Crockett, known for his marksmanship, was one of the earliest non-Native American hunters around nearby Reelfoot Lake. A passionate advocate for the earliest settlers of West Tennessee, he served in the state legislature from 1821-24, then as a member of Congress representing West Tennessee counties in the U. S. House of Representatives from 1827-31 and 1833-35.
In addition to TRABA demonstrating the new forge, other activities during the celebration of Crockett’s birthday include:
- Performances by Mulberry Jam, a five-piece band that plays period songs of the past with traditional instruments and arrangements of the string dance performers of the 19th and early 20th centuries
- J.C. Stahlman’s The Living Historians
- Native American skills, crafts and cooking education with homemade fry bread available for purchase
- Operation of the Brewer-Austin Gristmill
- Birds of Prey program presented by Reelfoot Lake State Park
- The Family Community Education Crystal Club of the UT/TSU Extension Program demonstrating textile arts and sewing
- Demonstrations by the Reelfoot Area Flintnappers
- Presentations on 1800s natural medical practices
- Presentations on wildlife of West Tennessee during Crockett’s time in the region
- Living historians demonstrating traditional skills and crafts including candle and soap making and spinning and weaving
Visitors will also find many other ways to experience David Crockett at Discovery Park that are at the museum and park all year long. Included is a statue dedicated to the frontiersman, a congressional exhibit in Liberty Hall at Freedom Square, a reproduction of Crockett’s portrait by John Gadsby Chapman, a replica of his first and fondest rifle, the Regional History Gallery telling the story of Northwest Tennessee, a 20,000-gallon aquarium and tanks featuring the wildlife of Reelfoot Lake, a one-of-a-kind Earthquake Simulator, the Native American Gallery, an 1800s Tennessee log cabin community, Mill Ridge featuring a working gristmill and the new forge and more.
More information about the celebration of David Crockett’s birthday is available at DiscoveryParkofAmerica.com/Crockett22.
Photo caption: Broadway actor Bart Shatto with Jace, a big fan of David Crockett,
at the 2021 David Crocket Birthday celebration at Discovery Park.