Tennessee Mountain Stories

The Upper Cumberlands of Tennessee

I mentioned last week that we’d begin a tour of the small towns dotted across the Cumberland Plateau and today I’d like to introduce this series with a booklet that was produced many years ago for the purpose of promoting those towns.

The booklet is entitled, The March of Progress in the Upper Cumberlands of Tennessee.  It is undated and appears to have never intended to be a series, nor is there a copyright date.  However, there are clues to its age. 

On the back of the front cover it introduces and salutes the Honorable Cordell Hull, Secretary of State.  He served in that office 1933 through 1944. 

In an article about area dams and lakes, reference is made to a report “which is expected late in 1941”. 

The few photos in the book that include automobiles show at the latest 1940’s models.

Finally, no mention is made of World War II, nor of the many soldiers that haled from the Upper Cumberlands.

All of these hints seem to point to a publication of the early 1940’s 

An awful lot has changed on the plateau in three-quarters of a century; this shows a little snapshot of the best the area had to offer in that day.  And it’s a beautiful picture.  More than a dozen towns are highlighted from McMinnville to Jamestown with special articles for the Tennessee Central Railway, The Tennessee Walking Horse and Tennessee Polytechnic Institute as well as other noteworthy institutions. 

Perhaps the most intriguing part is the community spirit that this document communicates.  All of these small towns have clearly worked together, contributing information and financing in hopes they will be rediscovered.  The introduction actually asserts that all of America is being rediscovered by the tourist traveler newly equipped with the automobile.

I want to share the final paragraph of the introduction:

Here in the Upper Cumberlands, we have resources:  We have intelligent manpower; we have rich soils; we have vast timber lands; we have unmeasured mineral resources; we have charming scenery; we have a delightful and livable climate.  We have a section whose scenic grandeur is surpassed only by the chivalry and heroism of her sons and daughters.  This publication is dedicated to the worthy task of heralding to the whole world the story of the Upper Cumberlands.  It is devoutly hoped that the effort may prove to be a graphic and ripping statement, succinctly and reliably presented in a sympathetic and enthusiastic mood by picture and story.

Wow.  I read that and I can’t help but think how similar was their purpose to my own.  Sure, they were aiming to recruit business, industry, and tourism while I simply intend to share the history and beauty of my home. 

As we’ve just finished the big Highway 127 sale and lots of folks have visited the plateau who may never have been here before, this seems the perfect time to explore all of these little towns.  I’m really excited to share them with you as they were seventy-five years ago.