Something draws us to sacred soil. Something within us lingers. Is it the voice of our ancestors calling us to remember? Or is it ingrained within our DNA, as we walk in the shadows of yesteryear. There are those special moments as you drive towards your destination, that rises above the normal anticipations within your spirit. So it is with Amis Mill.
On October 7, 2017, the people gathered at Amis Mill (Rogersville, TN) to remember and honor those who have gone before. They walked on soil of legends, beginning with the Cherokee and other eastern tribes that hunted and frequented the area. This weekend honored them, yet in a larger sense it honored all that had walked upon the hallowed dust. This is the story of Amis Mill.
Thomas Amis was a man of vision. He fought in the American Revolution and served under Colonel Jethro Sumners. He was given the rank of captain and on December 22, 1776, was appointed Commissary for the Third regiment, North Carolina Continental Troops. It fell upon him to provide food, ammunition, clothes, shoes, and other supplies, often at his own expense. It was said that he even mortgaged his farm to do so. Soon the British came and confiscated his property. Thomas was able to escape with his family during the night.
After the war he moved to Big Creek on a land grant of one thousand acres. David Crockett, Sr. (Davy Crockett’s grandfather) had built a cabin on the property but was massacred by Dragging Canoe’s war party in 1777. Thomas Amis purchased the land from Davy Crockett’s uncle.
On that piece of real estate, Thomas was determined to open an Inn. He did so at the end of the Old Stage Road. In 1780, he began building a stone house on top of a rolling hill, along with a blacksmith shop, trading post, tavern, and distillery. He also dammed Big Creek with huge stones. It is the oldest stone dam in Tennessee. There he built a mill. A fortification surrounded the Amis house to protect those inside from possible Indian attacks. The stones of the home were eighteen inches thick. Many weary travelers stopped and stayed the night at the ‘trading post’ and Inn named after Thomas. Bishop Francis Asbury, Daniel Boone, William Blount, Elijah Wallen, Thomas Walker, Andre Michaux, Andrew Jackson, and John Sevier were among the known guests.
On November 6, 1863, the Battle of Big Creek occurred around the sacred soil of Amis Mill, Big Creek, and the Holstein River. The Federal troops held the area around Rogersville. The 3rd Brigade, 4th Calvary, and 2nd East Tennessee Mounted Infantry were under the command of Colonel Israel Garrard (7th Ohio). Colonel James Carter and LTC James Melton were on leave of absence, leaving the officer pool reduced.
General William E. “Grumble” Jones’ Brigade, along with the 2nd Cavalry and 8th Virginia Cavalry made up the opposing forces. His plan was to have one column under the leadership of Colonel Henry Giltner go along on the Old Stage Road while he traveled the Carter Valley Road. The 7th Ohio Cavalry, 2nd East Tennessee Mounted Infantry and 4 pieces of the 2nd Illinois Light Artillery were the bull’s eye of his attack. Federal commander Garrard suspected something and dispatched fifty men east on the Carter Valley Road. There they encountered the 8th Virginia Calvary capturing, “Some 40 of them, and dispersed the remainder of them in the woods.” Later, “Very near all of the men escaped and returned” crying out the news that the rebels were upon them.
Meanwhile Colonel Giltner ran into a patrol of more than 25 or 30 pickets. Though the action slowed down his column, Giltner continued his push towards his destination. Having encountered and engaged General Jones, Colonel Garrard ordered his men to defend their posts, “At all hazard”. But the element of surprise and sheer strength of the Confederates lead to a stunning defeat. Six hundred eight men were captured out of the eight hundred ninety-three men. Five had been killed and all of the artillery pieces were captured, along with valuable supplies and ammunition. The town of Rogersville and railroad storehouses were recaptured and remained in Confederate hands for the remainder of the war. According to John Byington, noted historian of the region, the warehouses were full of winter provision and the area was being used as a Federal foothold of east.
On October 7, 2017, a gathering occurred on the very land of their forefathers. Stone Wolf, a direct descendant of Dragging Canoe, orchestrated the event. The 2nd Annual American Indian Gathering proved to be very successful. Several Native American vendors were set up selling their wares. There was storytelling of the Cherokee of the region, legions shared, and representation of the Revolutionary days (Bill & Charlotte Pettis) well as discussions regarding the Battle of Big Creek (Dave Chaltas). Native foods were available, which included buffalo burgers, frybread, Indian tacos, and other delicacies. Walking Bear demonstrated and supervised a blow gun contest to the delight of the children present. The sound of Native flute music permeated the air. The Native American drummers paid tribute to America, Veterans, and a special prayer song of healing was offered, as several danced the traditional steps honoring all. Genealogy research was available and all buildings of Amis Mill were open to the public.
So, the Gathering was a celebration of American history. Special thanks to all you participated in organizing and sponsoring this event. Special thanks to Stonewolf, Walking Bear, Yellow Feather, Grey Wolf, White Buffalo, Jake and Wendy Jacobs, and others who shared their heritage and history with the rising generation.
Jake and Wendy Jacobs own the Amis Mill. Wendy is the 5th great-granddaughter of Thomas Amis. For more information about the history, tours, and upcoming events, go to the following: http://www.amismill.com/, email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 423-272-7040.
-By David Chaltas