The Cumberland Plateau is a geological wonder known to geologists as the Appalachian Plateau. It rises over 1000 feet above every other region around it. The layers of limestone, shale, coal, and sandstone make up the mountain at 1,800 feet above sea level. From the earliest settlements of Cumberland County it was clear that these natural resources were the key to survival and building an industrious town.
In 1828 lime was used at the Crab Orchard Inn. “The quality is said to have been so good that it attracted the attention of visitors to the stand. A very early kiln, operated by the Rose family, is reported to have been built of sandstone; wood was used as fuel and the kiln was filled from the top with hand-broken limestone.” (Cumberland County’s First Hundred Years, Bullard & Krechniak, p. 241)
Back in the early 1900s the limestone was used all over the southeast. Southern White Lime Corporation out of Spring City used the Tennessee Central to ship out the product to be used for industrial purposes.
Coal mining was attempted at numerous locations throughout the county from the late 1800s till the 1950s. On April 24, 1890 the Tennessee Times reported “The Great Cumberland Coal Field.” Multiple companies formed to mine: Cumberland Coal and Coke Company, Fall Creek Collieries, The Crab Orchard Coal and Coke Company, Clear Creek Coal Company, and others. Each tried their best to make a solid profit. Some were successful but most went under. These small businesses eventually went out when larger industry jobs came to light.
Sandstone, the resource we all know and see everyday throughout Crossville. “Crab Orchard Stone”, “Crossville Sandstone”, “Tennessee Quartzite”, “Tennessee Verigate Stone”, “Cumberland Mountain Stone”, “Tennessee Orchard Stone”, and many others are the various names we have heard our precious rock called. The name “Crab Orchard Stone” stuck when architect Henry Hibbs said it first around 1927.
The stone is a million dollar industry and is shipped all over the United States and even out of the county from time to time. The multicolored stone is only found in Cumberland County. Its distinctness is unlike any other sandstone.
Places like Rockefeller Plaza, University of Tulsa, Scarritt College, President Roosevelt’s swimming pool in Washington, and many others throughout the country are home to some Crab Orchard Stone. There is no denying that this stone is one of the first businesses to put Cumberland County on the map, and of course, built many of our town’s treasures.
- Cumberland County’s First Hundred Years, Bullard & Krechniak
- Cumberland County Tennessee, Dickenson
- Tennessee Virtual Archive (*all photos from here)