Local residents and film company tell the story of a controversial president

When “Andrew Jackson: Good, Evil and the Presidency” aired on PBS, Blount County residents may have recognized more than the images of the famous leader. The Smoky Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau (SMCVB) and local residents assisted Red Hill Productions with filming locations in Townsend. The two-hour documentary will feature scenes from filming locations in the area, as well as local resident Willard Abbott of Maryville.

“Blount County has had a history in working with production companies since the early days of the “Christy” series. We are always excited when we get a call from filming companies that are interested in coming to our community,” said Herb Handly, executive vice president of tourism for the SMCVB. “There are many benefits, including economic impact and national publicity of our area.”

The special aired on PBS on Wednesday, Jan. 2, from 9 to 11 p.m., The story, “Andrew Jackson: Good, Evil and the Presidency” conveyed the story of one of America’s most controversial presidents through the use of re-enactments, letters, lithographs and scholars. Narrated by Emmy award-winning actor Martin Sheen, the two-hour television event covered the life of Jackson, including his time as a general in the Army, serving as the seventh president, founding the Democratic Party and removal of Indian tribes, including Cherokee tribes.

Along with the SMCVB, Glenn and Tommy McCampbell, local residents of the Dry Valley and Townsend area, worked with Carl Byker of Red Hill Productions to scout filming locations in Townsend. The scene featuring Townsend highlights Rachel Jackson riding on a dirt road in the Dry Valley area atop a carriage provided by Abbott. In additional to lending the carriage to the production company, he was also recruited to drive the carriage in full costume.

“The carriage I drove was an old, old carriage called Plantation Victoria and was used for the purpose of hauling the plantation owner,” said Abbott. “I drove the carriage in the scene with Andrew Jackson’s wife, and I wore a costume from that time period.”

Abbott, a descendant of Cades Cove, is known in the area for his collection of carriages. Previously, he operated Willa-Jean Farms, which provided carriage rides in Knox and Blount County, as well as Blackberry Farms, where Abbott had the opportunity to drive President George Bush. Today, Abbott has a collection of farm wagons, buggies and carriages, some of which he has built himself.

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