by Theresa Ramsey, FHAMC Treasurer/ WHT Leadership Team
The Folk Heritage Association of Macon County (FHAMC) has just completed a five-year grassroots campaign to raise funds for its Women’s History Trail sculpture that represents three of Macon County’s diverse women – a Cherokee woman (Na-ka Rebecca Morris), an African American slave (Salley), and a pioneer woman (Timoxena Siler Sloan) whose lives and cultures intersected in the early days of Macon County. These historical women are all connected by a specific piece of property that was on the Little Tennessee River across from the Nikwasi (Noquisiyi) Mound. This monumental statue entitled Sowing the Seeds of the Future was created by nationally renowned figurative sculptor Wesley Wofford who shared “it represents these historical women but also symbolizes each group of women and their cultural contributions.” Although the sculpture itself has been fully funded, FHAMC is still seeking donations as they work with the Town of Franklin to finalize installation and site prep to complete the project.
With much to celebrate, the FHAMC/WHT Leadership Team and Town of Franklin representatives, held a groundbreaking event on Friday, October 27 at 5 pm to officially mark the beginning of installation work at the sculpture site located near the bridges on Franklin’s East Main Street. This site has special significance as the three Last October, the Town of Franklin and FHAMC approved a MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) for the Town to receive this momentous gift of public art from FHAMC which will serve as the trailhead of the Women’s History Trail.
Representatives from the groundbreaking ceremony included these WHT Leadership Team Members who also serve on the FHAMC Board of Directors: Marty Greeble (WHT Co-Chair, FHAMC Vice-Chair) and Mary Polanski (WHT Co-Chair), Anne Hyder (FHAMC Chairperson), Theresa Ramsey (FHAMC Treasurer) and Claire Suminski along with Town of Franklin officials Rita Salain (Town Council Member), Justin Setser (Town Planner), Jack Horton (Mayor of Franklin), Amie Owens (Town Manager) and Macon County Commissioner Gary Shields. Unable to attend and not pictured Stacy Guffey (Town Council Member).
To kick-off the groundbreaking ceremony, Mayor Jack Horton welcomed all to the site and future home of Sowing the Seeds of the Future and Macon County Commissioner Gary Shields gave tribute to the late Barbara McRae and other strong women leaders who have paved the way. Comments followed by WHT Leadership Team Members that shared the connection between the sculpture project and these areas: FHAMC, WHT Trail, Community, Heritage, and Barbara McRae. Anne Hyder thanked the Mayor, Town employees and Council for partnering on this project with FHAMC, a 501 c (3) non-profit. She stated FHAMC’s goal is to provide living history experiences to educate, demonstrate and preserve the heritage of Macon County, and she expressed appreciation for all the work that has been done so far, thanking those donors who have helped make this dream a reality. Marty Greeble focused on the WHT Walk in Her Steps Trail which officially opened five years ago on October 27, 2018, making it the first walking trail in NC that honors women’s historic contributions. She added, “This sculpture of these three diverse women plus two young children will become the trailhead of our project and will be one of 16 current stops on the WHT.” Claire Suminski commented, “May the lives and interactions between the ladies in this sculpture grouping be an inspiration to our community members and guests to treat each other with kindness and mutual respect and to strive to work together for the good of all.” Theresa Ramsey discussed the importance of Macon County’s heritage and said, “the Sowing the Seeds of the Future sculpture will forever stand on this site as a reminder that our roots do run deep as we link our past to our future and strive to keep our heritage alive.” Ramsey quoted these words from John Rice Irwin, founder of the Museum of Appalachia: “To appreciate where we are today, or where we are going tomorrow, we must understand where, as a culture, we’ve been in the past.” Polanski closed the groundbreaking event by sharing words about Barbara McRae, WHT’s visionary and founder. “The Women’s History Trail sprang from her vision to share the history of important strong women from our past who stepped up to significant challenges. And so today, we are here to break ground at this site, continue our work, and help create a beautiful park for the sculpture.”
With an ending that could not have been more perfect – both spontaneous and unplanned, a white dove flew overhead just as the shoveling event concluded. Everyone breathed in sighs of awe, as they were reminded of the strong women who have gone on before whose presence was certainly there, looking down and smiling. Visit https://www.folkheritageassociation.org to find out more information or how you might get involved!