On-Site Activities

On-site educational activities are available to all classes. Depending on the size of the group, components will not necessarily be experienced in this order. All classes will see the Orientation Program if not viewed prior to their arrival, view the exhibits in the Visitors Center and tour the Vance family home and outbuildings. This will take approximately 1 ½ hours including a stop at the gift shop. Other components may be added if time is available. Every effort will be made to satisfy your requests. However, staff reserves the right to alter planned programming due to inclement weather or unanticipated staff shortages.

  1. Exhibits – Inside the Visitors Center, students will see exhibits on Zebulon B. Vance and his family, life in rural western North Carolina during Vance's childhood and Vance's military and political careers during the Civil War and Reconstruction. (20 minutes)
  2. Birthplace Tour – Students will be led on a guided tour through the reconstructed 1795 Vance family home. This two-story pine log structure was built around the original double sided chimney with a fireplace in the family room and in the kitchen. The program focuses on the Vance family and their slaves and how they made a small community on the 900 acre farm in the Reems Creek valley. Students will also experience six log outbuildings: the corn crib, springhouse, smokehouse, loom house, slave house and tool house. The use of each structure and its importance to the self-sustaining community will be discussed. (1 hour)

If the group has additional time for its visit, they may wish to utilize one or more of the following supplemental program components. All demonstrations and special programs must be requested in advance in order to insure that adequate staff is available.

Farmstead Demonstrations – Teachers can chose from the following list of demonstrations: (15 minutes each)

  • Weaving – An interpreter will demonstrate on a 200-year old loom from Watauga County. The interpreter will explain the building and its contents as well as go through the fabric making process of wool and flax using historic artifacts in the building.
  • Woodworking – An interpreter will explain why the tool shed was important and how the tools were used on a 1830s farm. The interpreter will demonstrate the use of the draw knife, shave horse, foot adze, axe, scope, auger and sheep shears.
  • Tape loom – An interpreter will demonstrate on a reproduction 18th century tape loom explaining the pattern process and the uses of tapes in the 18th century.
  • Spinning – An interpreter will demonstrate on a reproduction spinning wheel how wool is turned to yarn. Students will learn the entire process from carding of the wool to spinning of the fibers into yarn. Students will learn the difference between a drop spindle, walking wheel and dual drive band wheel.

Rifle/ Weapon Demonstration – A costumed interpreter will demonstrate the flintlock style hunting rifle and why it was important to the settlers of western North Carolina. (15 minutes)

African American History: Behind the Big House – This is a special program designed to examine in some detail, the life of the slaves on a western farm such as the Vance's. Students will explore the differences between slavery practiced on the large plantations of the lower South and that practiced in the mountain regions such as western North Carolina. This program challenges students to consider the complex topic of slavery as they examine primary source documents including letters, census records and wills. This program must be scheduled in advance. (1 ½ hours)