Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tennessee - Rich in History

The Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee are rich in history, as is most of this state.  A brochure I picked up on a recent trip to Pigeon Forge, explains the territory far better than I can:

"Come up to the Tennessee Cumberlands, where whispers of the past tell of centuries of human occupation amid a land of free-flowing rivers, towering rock bluffs and deeply forested plateaus and hillsides.  Here you'll discover Tennessee's last frontier--a region of intriguing history, scenic beauty, cultural diversity and boundless recreation--and no crowds."

Some of the oldest roads and "traces" have been maintained as historical pathways and highways and are clearly marked.  Here are a few, along with a little history and link to more information if you are so inclined:  The Great Warrior Path, The Avery Trace, and The old Jacksboro Pike.

The Great Warrior Path: (Info and photo gathered from Daniel Boone Wilderness Trail)

Around 1775, Daniel Boone and his trailblazers established this trail through 200 miles of wilderness from the Cumberland Gap of Virginia to Kingsport, TN.  On the 9th of September in the year 2000, this pathway followed by thousands of pioneers to settlements in new areas was finally recognized as instrumental to the growth and development in Northeast Tennessee and proclaimed recognition justly due.”

The Avery Trace:  (Info and picture gathered from Wikipedia and Fort Southwest Point)

Settlers traveling from what is now the Knoxville area in East Tennessee to the location now known as Nashville in the time period 1788 to the mid-1830's used this road cut from Clinch Mountain (East Tennessee) to French Lick (now Nashville).  Named for Peter Avery, a hunter from and familiar with the territory, his name is prominent on signs along highways all throughout Tennessee.   Mr. Avery laid this trail from those used by Cherokee Indians (for war paths or seeking buffalo).  I'm fortunate to travel this road almost daily as it leads through the Cumberland Mountains into what is now Jackson County, TN to Fort Blount, directly to Bledsoe's Fort in Castalian Springs which is where I live.  From here, it continues on to what was Mansker's Fort near today's Goodlettsville, and finally to Fort Nashborough.  These forts provided protection and shelter for travelers.

Fort Nashborough

I found no historical information on Old Jacksboro Pike other than it ran through the Knoxville area and there are tons of houses for sale there.  *smile*

I was very interested to discover that until 1805, a large part of the Cumberlands was officially deemed Cherokee Territory, and the majority of early settlers were Scotish-Irish immigrants.  The coming of the Civil War and the arrival in 1878 of the first railroad, which ran from Cincinnati to Chattanooga, drastically changed the demographics. Towns, villages, and farms formed by American and European migration took root.

Although the railroad brought passengers to Tennessee, the trains carried out the rich natural resources (coal and virgin timber).  In my book, Ellie's Legacy, which is set in the area of Sparta, TN, part of the storyline centers around the coal mines and the abandoned caves.  Today, much of the natural resources are depleted, but this state has become rich in federal parks, forests, and wildlife reserves, along with plenty of recreation of visitors.  So, as they say here in TN...."Ya'll come!"

Collage of Pictures taken at the annual Fort Bledsoe celebration

Oh...and what would a post be without an opportunity for shameless promotion?

Here's a brief peek at my Tennessee story where Ellie is alone, looking for a place to practice shooting.  She's already been threatened by one of the greedy neighbors looking to take over her Pa's Ranch, and she's determined she's going to prove she can do anything as good as the new ranch foreman, Tyler Bishop.  Enjoy!

The road didn’t improve as she traveled back into the forest. Ellie maneuvered Chessie through the trees. She strained to see the trail and watched for familiar landmarks. The air wasn’t terribly warm but the humidity was unbearable.

Damp from perspiration, her shirtfront clung to her bosom. She wiped wetness from her brow and surveyed the area. If only she could remember the exact location of the old mine shaft.

The last time she visited, she was only a child. Back then, tents, wagons, mining equipment and men hungry to find a vein of gold ore crowded the area. Instead of gold, they found coal. In comparison to the hustle and bustle of those days, the silence was almost eerie.

When the trees fanned into a clearing, the area looked familiar. Ellie dismounted and led Chessie toward a small outcropping of rocks. She dropped the mare’s reins and left her to graze on what remained of summer’s greenery.

The area, although somewhat overgrown, was just as she remembered. Ellie shielded her eyes and scanned the area. Her lips curved into a smile. There, almost concealed by fallen branches, was the entrance to the old mine. As she pushed debris aside, she grimaced. Stringy cobwebs hung in masses and changed her decision to venture inside. She shivered. Perhaps this wasn’t the best place after all. Something might live here she didn’t care to meet. It was too early for bears to seek places to hibernate, but not for wolves or coyotes. She expected to see glowing eyes peering back from the darkness.

“C’mon Ellie. Stop being such a baby."

Visions of Jeb Bryant’s face played in her mind. “You’ve already encountered one dangerous varmint today,” she muttered. She swatted her way through the sticky mesh and stepped inside.

Just an end note...she does come to her sense and realizes that shooting inside an old abandoned mine isn't such a good idea.  *smile*

I hope you've enjoyed your brief foray into Tennessee.  As a transplanted Californian, I've already forgotten my previous roots, and I'm proud to say I'm definitely a southerner at heart.


Caroline Clemmons said...

Oh, Ginger, you caused a surge of memories for me. My mother's great grandparena were among the first anglo settlera in White County TN and my own grandparents were married in Sparta. My mom's father died when she was 6 and her family moved to OK. About 1991, we took her back to Spencer and she visited cousins for the first time since she was 18. I loved the beauty of those hills. I'd love to return and, like Anna Kathryn, will look you up for lunch if I come near.

Paty Jager said...

Ginger, this is one of the places on my bucket list to see. I've read so many books over the years set in this area and I want to see it.

Your book sounds like another great way for me to "experience" the area.

Devon Matthews said...

Enjoyed the post, Ginger. The hills in this part of the country (TN, KY, etc.) are so different than out west. They're lush with greenery and in some places almost jungle-like with all the wild grape vines and such. (and let's not forget all the kudsu that was unleashed on us in recent years) My roots are all solidly set in this region with my Welsh-English, plus a little Scots, ancestors. Thanks for the post! :)

Meg said...

Great info - lovely pix of TN! I see all that kudzu too, it's terrible stuff. Chokes everything. Hubby is from Eastern KY - all English/Scots/Irish through there.

Troy D. Smith said...

Hey, if any of y'all come to Sparta or Spencer you better give me a holler! I live smack between 'em. I am in the initial stages of writing a vast James-Michener-esque multigenerational novel about the area called "Cumberland." Several of my books are set in the area, actually... and let's not forget that Louis L'Amour's Sacketts were from Crab Orchard, TN... not to mention Sgt. Alvin York from up 'round Pall Mall. There really IS history everywhere here -and "the greenest land in the land of the free."

Jacquie Rogers said...

I've wanted to visit Tennessee ever since I watched Fess Parker play Daniel Boone. That's when my mom explained to me that the "west" was really way back east. LOL Believe me, that's confusing to a kid.