This ‘n’ That
By Jack Swift
In Elizabethton, Tennessee fronting on Sycamore Street is a somewhat large building known as the Bonnie Kate Theatre building. Opening in 1926, the Bonnie Kate was a leading place of entertainment for miles around.
As a young person traveling through Elizabethton, I often wondered about that name. But I never asked.
The theatre showed popular movies of that era of course. From time to time bluegrass bands would play there. A Saturday morning radio program called “The Barrel of Fun Time” took place on the Bonnie Kate stage. Now, before I had the opportunity to study much history I often wondered just who this woman Bonnie Kate was and why she had a theatre named after her. Her name was Bonnie Kate Sherrill. (some references spell her name Sherril).
It was only after finding her name listed in a number of history books and reading her story that I got to know a little more about this heroic woman. She was the second wife of John Sevier. Sevier was a frontiersman, military leader, and first Governor of Tennessee. Sevier County is named in his honor.
History books give varying accounts of her fame. But a common thread that runs through them is that she proved to be a brave lady. The story is told that during the long siege
of Fort Watauga, she ventured outside the fort and found herself chased by Indians. She ran
toward the fort but the gate was closed and she only had a short time to escape capture or harm. She ran to another part of the stockade and jumped over the top and fell into the arms of Sevier.
After Sevier’s wife died Bonnie Kate became his second wife and when Sevier became the first governor of Tennessee,
She became the first
“First Lady of Tennessee.” Bonnie Kate was originally buried in Russellville, Alabama but was later reburied in 1822 next to her husband on the lawn of the old Knox County Courthouse in Knoxville.
I understand that the Bonnie Kate Theatre is being restored and programs are already being held there.