A Song for the Cumberland

The Cumberland Plateau is a part of the larger Appalachian Plateau in terms of Geology, but when speaking historically most often the Cumberland Settlement is being referenced. Culture in this region is unlike any other; it is rich in song, music, and artistry.  

Many of the settlers who came to the Cumberland Settlement are descendents or immigrants from Scotland, Ireland, and England. These settlers brought their own version of songwriting and singing with them. Many songs in their families had been passed down for generations. Their songs ranged from love to “dang-dabble,” which was about nonsense. Eventually their styles intermixed with that of the Cherokee.

One song was written specifically about the Cumberland County area, it beautifully paints a tale about arriving on the Plateau. It is said that her and her family came from the East Coast, as most settlers did in the late 1800s and early 1900s.  In her song the woman writes about the hardships and beauty they witnessed. This song is known by three names: “Old Cumberland Land,” “The Cumberland,” or “The Indian Tribes of Tennessee.”

The ballad is written as follows in her letter to a left behind love:

“The day that I parted away from you

In sorrow, grief, and trouble too,

You gave to me your parting hand, 

And wished me safe on the Cumberland.

Then on our journey we did steer,

O’er hills and valleys and rivers clear,

Through a desert place in a barren land,

We steered our course for the Cumberland.

When we got there, there was ice and snow;

It rained and hailed and the wind did blow,

Which caused us all to weep and cry,

Staying here with cold we all must die.

But thank the Lord our health we found; 

We landed here both safe and sound,

In happy land, Oh the fertile soil:

Here’s milk, here’s wine, both corn and oil.

We saw ten thousand human graves,

All walled in with mason’s sign,

Which made me think in the days of old,

Same human race had passed this place.

I’ve nothing more to write to you,

Since preaching’s scarce, and religion’s low,

We’re here in love, peace, and hope to be,

With the Indian Tribes in Tennessee.

My love to you I can’t unfold,

It’s like some lovely ring of gold,

It’s round, it’s pure, Oh: it has no end,

So is my love to you my friend.”

Is it possible that the beginning of Nashville’s music industry began here on the Wilderness Trail? There is no denying that the songs of the Cherokee and European Settlers on the Cumberland inspired generations to come. Today, Nashville brings travelers and artists from all over the world. Some of which still pass through the streets of Crossville on their way to the busy city, just as they did on the Wilderness trail many years ago. 

To give you an idea of the numbers in Nashville: 

  • More than $3.2 billion is paid out in labor income yearly.
  • On average those in the music industry make $72,382 per year.
  • Nashville’s music industry contributes $5.5 billion to the local economy.

“The streets are paved with tourist and the record companies flourish, Lord knows every singer wants to be the king. But some of them couldn’t take it and some good one’s didn’t make it. That’s the way it goes on The Nashville Scene.”  – “The Nashville Scene”, Hank Williams Jr. 

Sources: 

  1. Rural Life and Culture in the Upper Cumberland, Birdwell & Dickinson, p. 274 – 281
  2. https://www.riaa.com/reports/nashville-music-industry-impact-contribution-and-cluster-analysis/
  3. https://www.neonscience.org/impact/observatory-blog/getting-know-neon-domains-appalachians-cumberland-plateau
  4. Tennessee Virtual Archive
  5. https://lyrics.lyricfind.com/

Published by SmallBiz Staffing, LLC

Locally owned staffing company in Crossville, TN.

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