GREENEVILLE – Tusculum University faculty members and students are inviting residents of the Horse Creek Community to share their stories as part of an update to a 1980s research project on that section of Greene County.
The research team is scheduled to begin the new interviews in February. These oral histories, which will pay special attention to the subjects of land, community and sustainability, will supplement interviews the last academic group compiled 35 year ago and will be part of public presentation at Tusculum and Rural Resources at the conclusion of the research team’s work.
“We are thrilled to enter this next phase of researching this wonderful community and learn from those who intimately know Horse Creek,” said Dr. Katherine Everhart, an assistant professor of sociology at Tusculum, who serves as the initiative’s principal investigator. “Horse Creek has a fascinating history, and we welcome the opportunity to hear firsthand accounts from those who live there.”
Horse Creek residents who are interested in being interviewed can contact Dr. Everhart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-636-7472. To see a list of those who were interviewed in the 1980s, please visit https://bit.ly/3q642Jd.
In addition to Dr. Everhart, today’s research team consists of Dr. Peter Noll, associate professor of public history and museum studies, who is serving as the project’s archivist, and Wayne Thomas, dean of the College of Civic and Liberal Arts. Dr. Everhart and Dr. Noll also picked two students to assist with this project – Samantha Nelson, a sophomore history major, and Maggie Vickers, a junior, who is pursuing bachelor’s degrees in history and English.
This will be Nelson’s second research project in Greene County. As a member of the 2021 class of Ledford Scholars, a prestigious program of the Appalachian College Association, she studied burley tobacco’s impact on the county’s economy and identity.
“I like learning new things, so I feel like there is a lot to explore in the Horse Creek project that I wasn’t previously exposed to,” Nelson said. “Like always, my goal with this project is to look for new perspectives and learn something new. I look forward to participating further as we discover more about the Horse Creek community.”
One element of the project is particularly appealing to Vickers – church history. She said she has learned about the pre-Civil War and Reconstruction eras of church history and found that enjoyable. She is excited to now examine history in more recent times.
“I’m really interested in church history right now,” she said. “It’s a broader scope of religious history in America that I am focusing on. I just wrote a paper about church history in East Tennessee, and I’m going deeper into it. This project is just another piece to that. Horse Creek’s church history is really interesting because it’s unique, and it’s unique in the way that they built their community around the churches.”
The Horse Creek project, formally called “Horse Creek Then and Now: Comparative Oral Histories from Rural Appalachia,” became possible through a $10,000 Humanities for the Public Good grant Tusculum received in the spring from the Council of Independent Colleges. This initiative is generously supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, with supplemental funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
The research group met weekly during the fall semester and participated in multiple workshops, including one about Appalachia led by Dr. Angela Keaton, professor of history at Tusculum. They also mapped important places in Horse Creek, such as churches and schools.
The team also digitized the archive and transcribed some of the 30 oral histories conducted during the 1980s research. Those earlier interviews covered the way of life for community members from Horse Creek’s inception in the late 1700s to a more commercially driven and manufacturing economy after World War II. Nelson and Vickers will finish the transcriptions during the spring semester.
A national grant funded that earlier two-year project, which Dr. Donal Sexton, professor emeritus of history at Tusculum, directed with assistance from students. Wess duBrisk, associate professor emeritus of communications, served as the photographer, and Clem Allison, professor emeritus of art, led exhibit design and construction.
In preparation for the next phase of the newest research on Horse Creek, Dr. Everhart, Dr. Noll, Nelson and Vickers drove to the community Thursday, Dec. 16. The group became even more acquainted with Horse Creek as the team embarks on the remaining research components.
“Our project is tremendously exciting and is enhanced greatly by the rich archival material we have from the 1980s research,” Dr. Noll said. “We welcome the opportunity to build on that excellent work and examine the new developments in Horse Creek in the 35 years since. All of this will produce a comprehensive history of this community and provide insight into what makes Horse Creek so special.”
For more information about the university, please visit www.tusculum.edu.