History

Carter County

Carter County, Tennessee, which encompasses serene Sugar Hollow, lies within the heart of the Appalachian Mountains. This territory is rich in significant American history, natural beauty, skilled artisans, and contagious Bluegrass and fiddling music. Within earshot of the present Sugar Hollow Retreat were significant settlements of the original Cherokee Nation, and arrowheads abound when fields are plowed in springtime. Early in the 1700's Daniel Boone resided in the area shortly before leading pioneers through the Cumberland Gap to Kentucky. Along the banks of the Watauga River in present-day Elizabethton, TN, the Watauga Association met under a huge sycamore tree in 1772 where they became the first Americans to declare independence from British Colonial rule.

The largest private land transaction in American history occurred at the Watauga settlements when Richard Henderson of the Transylvania Company purchased from the Cherokee Indians on March 17, 1775 20 million acres of land now in Tennessee and Kentucky for the equivalent of ten thousand pounds sterling.

In October 1780, 1,100 frontiersmen from North Carolina, Virginia, and present-day Tennessee met in the area around the same sycamore tree with weapons, ammunition, food, horses and equipment and traveled over mountain trails 196 miles in 11 days to turn the Battle of King's Mountain into a resounding American victory during the Revolutionary War. The patriots sustained 28 killed and 62 wounded while the British suffered 300 dead and 600 captured; this was the most significant battle in the Southern Campaign, perhaps in the entire War. The descendants of these "Overmountain men" still reside in this country, particularly those with the surname Campbell.

During the Civil War the area experienced small engagements in the midst of both Union and Confederate sympathizers. Andrew Johnson, 17th President of the United States, lived, worked, and died in Carter County.

Sugar Hollow Retreat

Sugar Hollow was once owned by two adjacent families, the Campbells and the Pilktons. The Pilkton place was said to be a prime farm for raising green beans, and the whole area was known as "the green bean capital of the world" before tractors moved the industry out of eastern Tennessee to the flatlands of the Midwest.

The Lodge at Sugar Hollow was originally built as a huge dairy barn and the milk was carried by hand down the hill to the Chestnut Farmhouse. Concrete walls 11 inches thick and 8 feet high in the original barn now provide a sturdy foundation for the Lodge. The Chestnut Farmhouse, which was originally built in 1929 by the Pilktons, was totally renovated by a master carpenter in 1995-96.

The Cherokee House, built around 1940, and Sequoia Cottage, a converted horse barn, stand on the Campbell place off Highway 321. There was previously a large garage in front of the Cherokee House which now has been replaced by the Overmountain Conference Center. The road leads further up the hill to the high meadow with views of Watauga Lake, the Elk River and the wide expanse of lofty Stone Mountain. On the ridgeline, three headstones of the Campbell family are enclosed by a small fence with two large white pines standing vigil.

Once the property was purchased in 1998 for conversion into Sugar Hollow, students from Charles University in Prague in the Czech Republic came each summer for 3 years to render labor for construction and clearing roads. Australians have also come to assist with design and furnishings.