Post Civil War Cumberland County

Post #6

“The native people have been greatly misunderstood by the outside world…

“The native people have been greatly misunderstood by the outside world… I must say that they have done wonderfully well for their advantages.. A more hospital people lives nowhere else.. Their kindness is spontaneous and large.” Rev. A.B. Wright 

Something many do not realize is that the way of life in the south hasn’t changed much, or better yet, many are going back to our ancestors’ original way of life by living off the land. Canning, smoke houses, farm ran sawmills, beans, corn, and so on. Our original settlers were looking for solitude and freedom to live where they saw fit, many of us are still looking for that in the same area or to get back to it. 

Growing up in Cumberland County my entire life (Morgan, Digital Media Manager at SmallBiz) I’ve come to appreciate the Southern Way that true Tennesseans have; a sense of pride, hospitality and faith. But I have also lived away from Tennessee on and off for the past few years, and each time I leave culture shock ensues. Many outside the south misunderstand us and we misunderstand them. Me being a true southerner and trying not to be rude, I will simply put it this way, there is no better place to live than the south, especially Tennessee. 

“After the war a large number of Yankees moved into Tennessee and into Cumberland County; the total population increased from 3461 to 8311 by 1900. The most dramatic increase was in the 1890s when population.” (Cumberland County Tennessee, W. Calvin Dickinson, p. 22)

Most notably, men like General Wilder and other soldiers who had been through the area during the war brought their families back to live because the area was unlike any other they had seen. 

Advertisements and marketing did not help in preserving the land or encouraging carpetbaggers to stay in their homeland. Newspapers like the Chicago Tribune and NewYork Sun made claims that the land could bring you health and prosperity. The Crossville Times even jumped on the bandwagon, “those of our northern readers cannot do better than to come to Cumberland County.. There is no healthier place under the broad canopy of heaven.” (Dickinson, p. 23)

“Buy a home in the Switzerland of America,’ advertised Aurther J. Forbes and John Q. Burnett, along with their general merchandise and abstracting services.” (Cumberland County’s First Hundred Years, Helen Bullard & John Marshall Krechniak, p. 76)

Now, the biggest talk and encouragement for settling in Cumberland County was the prospects of a railroad. One that many may not even realize that Crossville had at one time. 

“‘Cumberland County was set off in 1856. In 1855 a charter was obtained for a railroad from Nashville to Knoxville. The line was surveyed out and ran through Crossville via Lost Creek on the West and Crab Orchard on the East, which was an inducement to locate in Crossville.’” From the Crossville Times, written by George H. Day on February 21, 1889.

Despite the town still waiting on the innovative railroad to come through, telephones came to Crossville in June 1890. The Tennessee Times wrote, “‘HURRAH FOR CROSSVILLE!’… The Genesis & Obed River Telephone Company was completed from Sparta to Crossville last Thursday… 

In December came a heavy snow and the lines fell to the ground. Then every woman along the line threw away her old hickory bark withe or grapevine, and got her fine length of “Beecher wire” for a clothesline. This she  strung in the front yard and hung the family wash…

The company went broke of course. But Capt. Beecher had still another big project under way. This he had started soon after the telephone company was chartered, and it was actually his Number One idea– The Genesis & Obed Railroad. 

The dream of a railroad had seized the imagination of the boosters of Cumberland County apparently from the moment of the first track in the United States was laid in 1829. By 1840, there were about 2,700 miles of railroad in the U.S., of which 600 miles were in the South. Apparently, there was some expectation that a railroad would cross the Plateau, for in 1844 the post office at Crossville was renamed ‘Railroad Plains.’ Perhaps the hopes died quickly, for the following year the name was again listed as Crossville….

In 1887, the Times (Crossville TImes) had reported another venture,: ‘We learn from Gen. Dibrell’ it wrote on February 17, 1887, ‘that the first railroad survey made in Tennessee was from Nashville to Knoxville through this section running some 6 or 8 miles south of Sparta and going up the mountain at Lost Creek at a grade of 90’ to the mile The survey tapped the Dog Cave Coal mines, one of the finest coal veins in the state, and also the old Broan mines in Cumberland County, the vein of which is 14’ thick….” (Bullard & Krechniak, p. 78-79)

“The first railroad construction to approach Cumberland County was the Cincinnati Southern, completed in 1880. Financed by the city of Cincinnati, the rail line was to terminate in Chattanooga, connecting there with other lines. Passing over the plateau…” (Dickenson, p. 24)

Finally, after some fight, “On August 29, 1890, a “Great Railroad Celebration” was held in a special pavilion constructed for the occasion on the new ‘Depot Grounds’ opposite the Court House. A ‘railroad bridge’ was built over Main Street, connecting the two buildings.” (Bullard & Krechniak, p. 82)

From there our little town began to flourish and much history began on that train. 

*information received from the Cumberland County Archives

*photos received from the archives and Library of Congress

*books used are notated as well

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Locally owned staffing company in Crossville, TN.

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