October 21, 2012

A view from the Cumberland Mountains of Tennessee with Ginger Simpson

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. The Great Warrior Path, the Avery Trace and the old Jacksboro Pike are a few along with 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.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avery%27s_Trace http://www.southwestpoint.com/atrace.htm

Settlers traveling from what is now the Knoxville area in East Tennessee to the location now known as Nashville during the time period 1788 to the mid-1830's used this road cut from Clinch Mountain (East Tennessee) to French Lick (now Nashville). The road is named for Peter Avery, a local hunter 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 as 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 to Fort Blount and then directly to Bledsoe's Fort in Castalian Springs which is where I live.  From there, it continues on to what was Mansker's Fort near today's Goodlettsville and finally to Fort Nashborough. Long ago, these forts provided protection and shelter for travelers.

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

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 Scottish-Irish immigrants.  The coming of the Civil War and the arrival of the first railroad, which ran from Cincinnati to Chattanooga, drastically changed the area demographics. With industrialization, towns, villages and farms formed by American and European migration took root.

Although the railroad brought passengers to Tennessee, the trains exported the rich natural resources mostly of coal and virgin timber. In my book, Ellie's Legacy, set in the area of Sparta, 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 Tennessee, "Ya'll come!"

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.

 (Pictures provided by Author-Collage of Pictures taken at the annual Fort Bledsoe celebration)


  1. Ginger and Tennessee? What could be better? I live in North Carolina so traveling to TN has long been one of my favorite trips each year. There's plenty of great scenery and lots to do. Thanks for the history lesson, Ginger. I'm heading west in a few weeks and I can't wait to get there. Best of luck with your books. I'm picking up a copy of Sarah's Passion.

  2. Ginger--oh, I love to drive through Tennessee from west to east,and on to Ann Arbor, our destination once or twice a year.
    Usually we go in middle or late October, and often we've caught the changing of the colors, which we don't have much of because we have live oak trees--that stay green all year. The Cumberland Mountains--beautiful. Imagine those pioneers treking through the forest, blazing a path for others. Truly amazing, and the mountains are a gift from God--very special. Thanks for the gorgeous photos, too.

  3. Terrific history lesson about Tenn. I'm so happy you talked about the heritage of the state and the beauty. Most people would speak about Nashville and Memphis. Lots of luck with your books.

  4. Ginger, you live in a beautiful state. I've been through Tennessee several times and I'm always impressed with its magnificent mountains and lush trees. I didn't know some of its history, however, so I really enjoyed reading your blog. Daniel Boone is one of my favorite historical characters.
    All the best to you...

  5. A wonderful bit about the history. But today you have wonderful shopping
    (Love Pigeon Forge), there's Dollywood, and although I don't ski, they tell winter is a glorious time.
    And of course there's Memphis. And,
    I share your love of the south.

  6. Enjoyed some time in your state, Ginger.

  7. Hey Ginger, great piece on the state. We're headed to the Great Smokey Mountains in a week for vacation. One of my favorite spots is Chattanooga and their wonderful aquarium.


  8. I loved visiting Tennessee through your eyes. SO much history. I must visit.
    debby236 at gmail dot com

  9. Ginger,

    Born and raised in TN, I agree the landscape is beautiful. Good luck in your writing ventures and life.


  10. Thanks to all who stopped by and those who commented. If you ever do come to TN, please let me know so we might have a chance to meet personally. I have a cheap guest room. :)


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