Meet Josh Dacey, Site Manager for Chester Inn State Historic Site and Museum

I grew up in a small mountain town at the foot of Blue Ridge. Tryon has no real claim to fame, other than being the birthplace of Nina Simone. The ancient movie theater and lone grocery store offered little in the way of entertainment. I spent most of my childhood tramping through the woods chasing dinosaurs or vanquishing  monsters, kept safe by my magic armor. When my gallant services were not required or it was pouring rain, comic books took me to other worlds filled with heroes and adventure. We were not a sports family. My parents were fierce advocates of the written word. My sister and I anxiously awaited our weekly trips to the library.The mesmerizing stacks containing thousands of books tantalized our young minds with endless possibilities. The smell is what I remember the most. Not musty. Not dusty. Old. I guess I have always been attracted to old things and old stories.

The first history book I stumbled across was, like many Southern historians, about the Civil War. I devoured everything I could find about the war. My parents and sister tolerated being dragged to reenactments on the weekends, despite the deafening cannon blasts that my dad swears are the reason he has to wear hearing aids. When I was 13 my grandfather agreed to a two week sojourn to visit every battlefield and fort as far north as Pennsylvania. Rambling around in his 25ft RV with his 31 pound cat, I was beyond the words in the books. I was there. The very sites of conflict and hardship. I developed an odd habit on that trip. My hand went into every stony crevice on every battlefield. It wasn’t an impulse so much as an obsession. I was searching, driven by the book I had just finished about a VMI cadet who fell at New Market called Ghost Cadet. Before the boy died he hid his pocket watch in a pile of stones.  Set in modern times, the story’s protagonist finds the watch and begins to see the specter of the fallen boy. So, to thirteen year old Joshua, I was going to find a watch and have lengthy discussions with a ghost. A perfectly normal thought  for a teenager of course. It was on that trip that I realized my purpose in life. To work at one of these places.

The only subject that mattered to me in school from that point forward was history. It was my major in both undergraduate and graduate school, although it did take a turn my freshman year. That year I discovered the world of museum studies and public history. This led to a four year internship in the Special Collections and Archives at UNC Asheville. Honing my skills as a curator and exhibition designer, by the time I graduated, UNC Greensborough’s Museum Studies Master’s degree was in my sights. Joining a cohort of nine other history fanatics, we worked tirelessly, not only learning the academic skills but the personal skills of connecting with individuals and a community. The vital connections that are required to share an individual or a community’s story with the world. Our crowning achievement at the end of those two years was a panel in the traveling “States of Incarceration” exhibition. The first and only exhibition to document the myriad problems with the U.S. prison system.

After graduation, I worked several years for North Carolina’s Historic Sites Commission, creating programs and community engagement at the birthplace of a former governor. After meeting my wife, New Hampshire became our next destination. During my time with NC Historic Sites I developed a passion for historic farming methods, heirloom vegetables, and 19th century foodways. We found 12 acres and an 1882 farm house just outside Hanover. Farming itch scratched and after four years of brutal winters, my teaching contract at Dartmouth College was over. We packed up and returned south. Over the convening months, we bounced around as nomads until I landed a gig with the National Park Service at Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. A season of interpretation and hiking everyday restored a part of me that had gone dormant in the frigid New Hampshire cold. We also realized the South was truly our home. It is where our families live. It is where our history lives.



When I am not at the Chester Inn, I am usually gardening, cooking groovy vegan grub, writing, practicing my longbow skills, or brewing beer. Yes, I am still an avid bookworm and love comics. Our three dogs keep me on my toes and in shape as I chase them around the yard constantly. Being puppies, they usually evade my attempts to tucker them out. The opportunity to join the Heritage Alliance family is certainly a highlight in my career. The constant support and unending encouragement, not to mention nerdy banter, are what makes this a joyful job. I hope to serve you all and the Jonesborough Community for years to come.

SRS Paranormal Investigation at Chester Inn State Historic Site

The haunted and historic Chester Inn State Historic Site will be opened to the public for two nights of paranormal investigations on May 7th and 14th. The S.R.S Paranormal team will guide the hunt as they use their investigative equipment and teach the public the methods of their profession. The night will begin at 6pm and end around 11pm. There will be a limit of 20 participants that must be 12 years or older. Please email to register as slots will fill quickly. Cost is $25 per participant. Chester Inn is a Tennessee Historical Commission State-Owned Historic Site.

Picnicking with History on May 21st at Embree House Historic Farm

Get close with local history on Saturday, May 21st as the Heritage Alliance hosts “Picnicking with History” at the Embree House Historic Farm in Telford. This event will include a tour of three, historic homes and a chance to have a picnic lunch on the grounds. Tickets include the tour, a special, period appropriate tasty treat at each of the houses, and a boxed, picnic lunch from Main Street Café.

The tour will start at the Embree House. Built in the 1790s by Seth Smith, this stone house was the childhood home of Elihu Embree, publisher and editor of The Emancipator, the first periodical in the world dedicated solely to the cause of abolitionism. Guests will have a chance to tour the original great room in the house as well as the enslaved quarters in the lower level where the enslaved people worked and lived. From there, guests will have a chance to tour portions of the Wassom House, an 1820’s brick home that is currently being restored. The tour will conclude at the Kyker House, a 1950’s home. It’s not every day that you get a chance to tour three different homes from three different centuries. The Embree House and the Wassom House are both listed on the National Register of Historic Places and the Kyker House received a Preservation Award from the Heritage Alliance.


The site as a whole is managed by Patrick Stern and is used for agrotourism. The event will conclude with a picnic lunch at the Embree House on the grounds where the Indigenous Peoples once lived and a Civil War battle was fought in 1863. Please note that these are historic houses and they include stairs, uneven ground, and tight spaces. During lunch, guests will have a chance to explore the grounds at the Embree House. Good walking shoes are required for this event.


There are four tour and lunch slots available on May 21st at 11:30 pm, 1:00 pm, 2:30 pm, and 4:00 pm. There are only 20 tickets available per slot, so make sure you book your tickets fast. The cost is $30.00 per person. This event is a unique fundraiser for the Heritage Alliance and the proceeds will help keep our museums free to the public. You can purchase tickets online through the Town of Jonesborough’s ticketing system at You can also call the Visitor’s Center at 423.753.1010.


History Happy Hour is Back In-Person at the Chester Inn Museum on April 21st

History Happy Hour is IN-PERSON and back at the Chester Inn State Historic Site and Museum on Thursday, April 21st at 6:30 pm!

Join us as we welcome back Dr. Ashley Rattner from Tusculum University. She’ll be sharing the fascinating history of “Shaker Dance at P.T. Barnum’s American Museum.” The program will begin at 6:30 pm and participants can join in-person or stream live on the Chester Inn Museum’s Facebook page at that time. The event will take place in the Chester Inn’s board room, located in the back addition of the building. The program is free and open to the public!


Based on a color lithograph of ca. 1826 by Anthony Imbert, entitled Shakers near Lebanon, via NYPL


History Happy Hour takes place on the third Thursday of the month through November at 6:30 pm. The full schedule for the year is available at and on the Chester Inn Museum’s Facebook page.  Put the dates on your calendar, because you never know what you’re going to learn at History Happy Hour. This program offers insightful history to the public, fosters a collaborative relationship with various individuals and organizations, and increases the role of the Chester Inn State Historic Site and Museum as a community meeting place.

This project is funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Historical Commission.

Chester Inn Museum Opens for 2022 Season with New Exhibit

The Chester Inn State Historic Site & Museum kicked off its 2022 season on March 4th. The museum is currently on its spring hours and is open Monday and Friday-Saturday from 11:00 am to 6:00 pm and on Sunday from 1:00 pm to 5:00 pm. Hours will expand for the summer on Wednesday, May 4th.


The Chester Inn is excited to partner with the Cedar Grove Foundation again in 2022. Our newest exhibit shares more stories from the Cedar Grove Community, which was founded by formerly enslaved and free African Americans in Elizabethton, Tennessee. The stories in this exhibit focus on three churches in Elizabethton that are important to the Black community, members of the community who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, and the Douglas School. Did you know one of the Tuskegee Airmen lived in Elizabethton for a time? Come and see the exhibit and learn more about Lt. Dempsey Morgan, Brown’s Chapel AME Zion Church, and so much more.



“We always enjoy providing museum space for the Cedar Grove Foundation,” says Heritage Alliance Executive Director Anne Mason. “They have so many wonderful artifacts to share and so many wonderful stories to tell. Their Director Jacey Augustus is always bringing us something new. The exhibit keeps growing because we keep learning as we go.” The current exhibit will be on display through the first of July, so make sure you stop by and check it out. There is no admission price for the Chester Inn Museum, but there is a suggested $2 donation per visitor. Keep up to date with the museum by following the Chester Inn on Facebook and YouTube!


Town tours are also back in full swing. Jonesborough’s Historic Strolling Tour is available every Saturday at 1:00 pm. Tickets are only $5.00. The tour leaves from the Chester Inn and costumed guides share the history of Tennessee’s Oldest Town and the people who called it home.


The Chester Inn State Historic Site and Museum is funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Historical Commission.

History Happy Hour Sixth Season Announcement

History Happy Hour is back for its sixth season. Programs will take place the third Thursday of every month at 6:30 pm. This program is free and open to the public. What will we learn this year? Specific topics will be announced for some programs as we get closer to the date. Check back here for more information as it becomes available.

April 21st – Ashley Ratner, Tusculum University – “Shaker Dance at P.T. Barnum’s American Museum” at Chester Inn Museum


May 19th – William Isom, Black in Appalachia at Chester Inn Museum

June 16th – Curtis Buchanan – Traditional, Wooden Spoon Making at International Storytelling Center Plaza


July 21st -Dr. William Kennedy – Historic Bricks at the Chester Inn Museum and Eureka Inn courtyard

August 18th – Rene Rogers, Birthplace of Country Music Museum at International Storytelling Center


September 15th – Leonard Pipitone – “Edison and the Origins of Recorded Sound” at International Storytelling Center

October 20th – Roberta Pipitone -Victorian Mourning Customs at International Storytelling Center

November 17th – Spenser Brenner & Mara Reynolds, The Reece Museum – Exhibits and Digitization at International Storytelling Center

History Happy Hour Returns for 6th Season on March 10th

The sixth season of History Happy Hour kicks off on Thursday, March 10th at 6:30 pm.


Join us as we welcome Mr. Charles D. Crowe, a student from Langston High School and a graduate of Science Hill High School. Mr. Crowe will speak about his time at Langston and his perspective on being the “Lost Class of 1965” – a name given to those students who were high school juniors when school integration occurred. Mr. Crowe served as Director of Procurements and Contracts for the Department of Energy. This program will take place online via the Zoom platform. It will also be livestreamed to the Chester Inn Museum’s Facebook page. The Zoom link is available on the Heritage Alliance’s website and on the Chester Inn Facebook page.


Mr. Charles Crowe


The Langston Centre was built in 1893 as the Langston Normal School. A 1925 renovation, made possible by Rosenwald funding, added a gymnasium to the school.  Named after Virginia congressional representative John Mercer Langston, it served as a school for African American students from 1893 to 1965. The Langston Education and Arts Development organization worked with the community and other groups to help restore Langston as a functioning community center for arts and education. Today, the Langston Centre offers a variety of classes and programs. They most recently launched the Langston Experience in February.


“We’re excited to welcome Mr. Crowe and share more stories from Langston,” says Heritage Alliance Executive Director Anne Mason. “They are such an important part of the community, and their students have so many stories to share.” The program will start at 6:30 pm on March 10th. It is free to the public.


Starting in April, History Happy Hour will be the third Thursday of every month at 6:30 pm. Topics for this season include Shaker Dance, “Edison and the Origins of Recorded Sound,” traditional, wooden spoon making, historic bricks in architecture, and much more. A full line up for the season will soon be available at the Heritage Alliance’s website,, and on the Chester Inn Museum’s Facebook page. History Happy Hour provides a space for the community to gather and engage with a variety of topics. Over its six seasons, the program has established a platform to showcase the many regional organizations that are engaged in historical work and research.


This project is funded under an agreement with the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation, Tennessee Historical Commission.

Heritage Alliance Awarded SHARP Grant from Humanities Tennessee

The Heritage Alliance is honored to be selected as a recent recipient of a Sustaining the Humanities through the American Rescue Plan (SHARP) grant, made possible by the National Endowment for the Humanities. SHARP grants are part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, and the stipends support and uplift humanities organizations affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to this program, Humanities Tennessee, located in Nashville, was able to provide almost $950,000 to over 90 entities across the state. The Heritage Alliance is one of forty entities to receive a SHARP grant in the East Tennessee division.




The Heritage Alliance qualified for the grant as a nonprofit organization with a primary mission of public humanities education. Opened in 2001, the Heritage Alliance manages several historic sites and museums throughout Jonesborough, as well as offers historical and educational programs, exhibits, town and cemetery tours, and school group experiences. “We are grateful that Humanities Tennessee acknowledges the relevance and merit of our work, and we are eager to use these grant funds to continue our mission of historical education and preservation in our region,” says Anne G’Fellers-Mason, Executive Director of the Heritage Alliance. Grant funds will be used to develop future organizational plans and respond to some of the challenges created by the pandemic.


Learn more about the SHARP grant, as well as the Heritage Alliance’s programs and historic sites/museums, at and like the organization on Facebook or Instagram for more information.


Exhibit Opening Celebration for Railroad Pop Culture Exhibit at the Chuckey Depot Museum

All aboard! Next stop, the railroad in pop culture! The Chuckey Depot Museum in Jonesborough will host a reception for its newest exhibit “Good Morning, America, How Are Ya?: Railroad Americana, A Pop Culture Phenomenon” on Saturday, March 5th from 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm. The railroad has been a part of American history, culture, and society since the mid-1800s. It has worked its way into books, music, toys, clothes, movies, art, and much more.


The exhibit includes pop culture artifacts from multiple decades. How have toy trains changed through the years? How many movie plots are focused on trains? What does a train lover take their lunch to school in? A train themed lunch box, of course, complete with matching spoon and fork. See all these items and much more on display in the museum. Come out between 1:00 pm – 2:00 pm on March 5th to view the new exhibit, enjoy railroad songs performed by local musician Scott Wild, and listen to a story from railroad historian Gary Price. The Chuckey Depot Museum is free of charge, but donations are greatly appreciated.


You can visit the museum in person on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm and Saturday from 10:00 am – 4:00 pm. The Railroad Americana exhibit will be on display at the museum through August of 2022. For more information on the exhibit or the Chuckey Depot Museum, visit, follow the Chuckey Depot on Facebook, or call the Visitor’s Center at 423-753-1010.

Useable Past Series of Workshops Returns on Feb 16th

Over 100 million visitors come to Tennessee each year, and the State typically earns over 20 billion dollars in revenue from tourists. The Usable Past Series returns in 2022 to explore the opportunities that exist in our own communities to meet the needs of our tourists, achieve the revenue and interpretive goals at our historic and cultural institutions, and create an environment where visitors feel safe and represented.

In historic Northeast Tennessee, heritage tourism is a large part of why people travel: they want to know their history. However, this is a field that has struggled to be inclusive and welcoming to visitors of all backgrounds. The Usable Past Series has engaged tourism industry leaders at all levels and from a variety of venues to discuss their best practices, their own challenges, and their successes in meeting their missions.

Speakers for the first session of the year include Beth Kelly, Vice President for Education, Research and Historical Interpretation at the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation; Kim Floyd, Site Manager at the Vance Birthplace Historic Site; and Gary Sandling, Vice President of Strategy & Chief Content Officer at Thomas Jefferson Foundation at Monticello. The panelists will also participate in a question-and-answer session after their presentations.

Presenters for this first session, Useable Past: Sites of Reconciliation: Empowerment Through Challenging Histories, will specifically focus on showcasing efforts and examples in Northeast Tennessee and the surrounding region pertaining to inclusive tourism, difficulties faced, as well as action steps all organizations can take to continue to move forward as a region in providing more inclusive interpretations.

This free workshop will take place online from 10:00 am to 11:30 am on Wednesday, February 16, 2022. Dr. Daryl Carter, Director of the Black American Studies program at East Tennessee University and Jules Corriere at the McKinney Center will moderate the Q&A session following the presentations. Participants can register for the event through the McKinney Center’s website at Participants must register in advance to receive the Zoom link. More information can be found at the Useable Past Facebook page, or by contacting

This workshop series is a collaboration between several organizations, including the McKinney Center, the Heritage Alliance of Northeast Tennessee and Southwest Virginia, the Langston Centre, and the Black American Studies program at ETSU. The McKinney Center at Booker T. Washington School provides a comprehensive program through Jonesborough’s Mary B. Martin Program for the Arts which teaches various art skills to all participants through a quality program of instruction open to all segments of Jonesborough’s population. The Heritage Alliance is a non-profit dedicated to the preservation of the architectural, historical, and cultural heritage of our region and to providing educational experiences related to history and heritage for a wide range of audiences. The Langston Centre is a cultural facility that promotes multicultural awareness and workforce development through arts, education and leadership activities. The Black American Studies program serves a critical role for the College of Arts & Sciences and ETSU by offering high quality academic course offerings, superb programming, and opportunities for personal growth through service.

You can find out more on our Facebook Event page

You can register here: