October 13, 2018
By: Dwayne Page
What could be more fun on a cool crisp fall day than a hayride coupled with a little history, mystery, and theater?
That’s what audiences were treated to Saturday during the 13th annual History Hayride at Edgar Evins State Park.
After boarding the hay wagons, riders were taken on a two and a half hour journey throughout the park where along the way stops were made for costumed characters to share a story about a person or event of historical significance to the park or the community.
Among the characters was James Edgar Evins, portrayed by Tennessee State Naturalist Randy Hedgepath. Evins is the man for whom the state park is named.
This year’s hayride also featured an appearance by Charles T. Burton who lived on the Caney Fork River near Table Rock Island, which today is near the dam. He was almost 30 when he witnessed the 1872 hanging of 17-year-old John Presswood for the murder of Rachel Billings, an event that remained vivid in his mind for the rest of his life. The role of Burton was portrayed by Carl Halfacre, former park manager.
Other characters (according to the program) were:
*Luke Denny, Illegal Moonshine Hauler, who was never caught by law enforcement, portrayed by attorney Gerald Melton, active in the Cannon County Arts Center.
*Ida Hale, midwife, portrayed by Marcia Melton, member of the Cannon County Board of Education.
*Elizabeth Dale, Black Widow of Hazel Green. A serial widow and daughter of Adam Dale, portrayed by Lori Christensen, retired Warren County High School Teacher.
*Amon Pack, Grave Digger, who exhumed graves for relocation to Mt Holly Cemetery before construction of the dam, portrayed by J.R. Tinch, Assistant Chief of the Tennessee State Parks, Junior Rangers Program.
*Milton the Moonshiner, whose real name was withheld as per a family request, was a well known local distiller of illegal whiskey, portrayed by Road Supervisor Danny Hale.
*William C. “Bill” O’Neal, Manager of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers who assisted with the establishment of Edgar Evins State Park, portrayed by William Freddy Curtis, Director of Cannon County Schools.
*Adam Dale, Revolutionary War soldier, early settler, and founder of the town of Liberty in the early 1800’s, portrayed by Charles Robinson, a descendant of Dale’s sister and a U.S. Postal Service employee in Liberty.
*Paleo-Indian Woman, who lived in the area long before the earliest white settlers, portrayed by Holly Taylor, wife of Park Ranger Mark Taylor.
In addition to the hayride, homemade cookies and brownies were offered for sale at the park office along with complimentary coffee and hot chocolate and there was a campfire in front of the office for roasting marshmallows.
The annual Hayride serves as a major fundraiser for the Friends of Edgar Evins State Park.