Those attending were Harriett Caldwell, Jane Lucchesi, Gussie Ridgeway, Katy Tippens, Ina Kagel, Joy Harden, Laura Boyd, Ellen McReynolds, Mildred Maupin, Mary Nelle Thomason and Mariann Dietrich.
Speaker for the luncheon was Hamilton County Historian Linda Mines, whose topic was Bonnie Kate Sherrill Sevier’s, “The Brightest Star among Pioneer Women.” Mines presented Sevier’s life from the perspective of first person.
Also known as “Bonnie Kate,” Katherine Sherrill Sevier was the second wife of John Sevier (1745-1815), Revolutionary War hero, Indian fighter, governor of the State of Franklin and first governor of Tennessee.
According to legend, on July 21, 1776, Fort Watauga in East Tennessee was attacked by a large force of Indians. By one account, up to 500 women and children were crowded inside the fort, protected by only 40 or 50 men. While these men were outnumbered, they were well-armed and under the command of Col. John Carter, Capt. James Robertson and Lt. John Sevier.
At sunrise, Bonnie Kate was outside the walls of the fort milking a cow when the surprise attack began. As the men hurried to secure the fort, she suddenly found herself locked outside the walls of the fort, and at the mercy of the Indian attackers. She ran to the palisades, climbed to safety, and was caught in the arms of John Sevier on the other side.
Bonnie Kate and John Sevier, a young widower, married in 1780, when she was 26. At their home in Washington County, she made soldiers’ uniforms, cast lead balls for ammunition, and prepared food for her husband’s victorious campaign against the British at the Battle of Kings Mountain in South Carolina. On the eve of the battle, she thwarted a Tory attempt to murder her husband.
Bonnie Kate held the title “first lady” three times — first when her husband was governor of the State of Franklin, and also during his terms as the first and third governor of Tennessee. She always deemed herself safe when she was by her husband’s side. Many a time she said, “I could gladly undergo that peril and effort again to fall into his arms, and feel so out of danger.”
She was reinterred in 1922, next to her husband on the lawn of the old Knox County Courthouse in Knoxville. The inscription on her tombstone describes her as the “brightest star among pioneer women of this state.”