September 23, 2019 -- Knoxville, Tenn. East Tennessee PBS is seeking support for an exciting upcoming project, a documentary film set to recount the critical role of the Scots-Irish in the history of Tennessee. The film, “The Preacher of Pistol Creek,” will be a half-hour in length, and shooting is planned to take place in Tennessee and neighboring states, as well as in Northern Ireland and Scotland. 


“This film poses the question of just who were the people who came to be known in America as the Scotch-Irish or Scots-Irish,” says Barbara Shipley, Chief Development Officer for etpbs. “We will explore how these incredible people fundamentally altered the history, character and culture of Tennesseans in ways their descendents today take for granted.” 


Some of the important topics the film will attempt to address include: 


  • Who were the people who made up fully one-sixth of the European population in America by 1776, but whose identity nearly vanished in the sweep of history?
  • Were these individuals valiant patriots who turned the tide of the American Revolution and blazed the trails across the frontiers?  
  • Were they hot-tempered, lawless, rustic religious zealots who battled and displaced native peoples on both sides of the Atlantic?  
  • Or were they learned yeomen who infused a new nation with democracy, religion and education? 


What’s more, the film will challenge conventional notions about the Scots-Irish and explore this group’s history in our state from the perspective of one remarkable Scots-Irish minister – Dr. Isaac Anderson, founder of Maryville College.


Isaac Anderson moved to East Tennessee from Rockbridge County VA in 1801.  The idealistic young Presbyterian divinity student confronted an appalling level of destitution, ignorance and lack of religion in the East Tennessee backcountry.  He founded a “log college” in Knox County and against great odds went on to found what would become Maryville College in adjacent Blount County, originally on the banks of Pistol Creek. 


“Few people realize that Anderson is credited with having such a strong and permanent influence on the people of the East Tennessee backcountry,” said Shipley. “From spreading religion, education and enlightened values that emphasized rational thinking, to taking up the charge for charity, equality and service to humanity, his contributions continue to shape our communities today.”


Anderson’s values grew out of his Presbyterian Scots-Irish heritage. Contrary to the stereotype of Scots-Irish frontier settlers as ignorant rustics, Ulster folk were among the most educated of America’s early immigrants.  Anderson exemplifies how the Presbyterian Church spread education through the colonial and early American frontier.  His progressive approach to education was inclusive of African-Americans, Native Americans and women. And his anti-slavery views reflected how the Appalachian regions of Southern states came to align largely with the Union in the Civil War.


The film’s epic storyline will span from St. Patrick’s Ireland to present-day Tennessee, and in some ways Anderson was the “St. Patrick” of his own time and place. Just as Patrick Christianized Ireland, Anderson promoted Christianity in the East Tennessee frontier. Just as Patrick and his monastic followers preserved classical education in the Dark Ages and eventually spread it through Europe, Anderson passionately championed education. And just as Patrick opposed slavery and strove to elevate the status of women, so did Isaac Anderson. His personal motto was, “Do good on the largest possible scale.”


THE PREACHER OF PISTOL CREEK will be a production of ET PBS in association with Redwine Productions LLC of Atlanta GA and Gullion Media Ltd. of Newry, Northern Ireland.  A fundraising campaign for the production is underway.  


For more information contact:

Barbara Shipley, Chief Development/Marketing Officer                                                     

 East Tennessee PBS                                                                                                                          

865-595-0244 (Office) bshipley@easttennesseepbs.org