Night Comes to the Cumberlands: A Biography of a Depressed Area

By Harry M. Caudill | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
A Harsh New Land Becomes Home Sweet Home

WITHIN the span of years mentioned in the last chapter, the Blue Ridge mountaineer had become a farmer, dependent upon crops and herded livestock rather than the forests for his livelihood, and willing, in some measure at least, to break with the old, unstable frontier tradition of hunting and Indian-style agriculture. Society in the Blue Ridge had undergone softening refinements, and there were few large tracts of new land to be found in the western mountains. So the long trickle of immigrants dried up, and the scattered inhabitants of the Cumberlands were left alone.

The trek from the Blue Ridge to the Cumberland Plateau was not an easy one, even for the rugged borderers. The escarpments of Pine and Black Mountains, straight as walls and almost as steep, were baffling barriers. Many passed through Cumberland Gap. Some came by way of less famous passes -- the Scuttle Hole, the Doubles, or Pound Gap. Some of their troubles were embalmed in songs which a wrinkled fiddler will still occasionally saw out:

In Cumberland Gap it got so cold
I couldn't keep from freezin' to death to save my soul.
Cumberland Gap is a dry old place,
Ye can't find water there to wash ye' face.
In the Cumberland Gap the cattle all died,
The men all swore and the women all cried.

-11-

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