Transcribed by Polly King
July 23, 1953 p.4
* CAL’S COLUMN *
We have frequently referred to Mungle’s Gap in the publication of the old records. We mentioned that the fact that there was a difference of opinion as to whether the place now called Mungle’s Gap was the original Mungle’s Gap. On Saturday, July 18th, on our way home from Mace’s Hill, we decided to see for our own satisfaction just where the old road crossed the dividing ridge between the water of Lick Creek and those of Big Goose Creek. We left our car in the present Mungle’s Gap, crossed a fence and began to seek for signs of the old Fort Blount Road leading to that Gap. We found none. We then proceeded to another, now unused, Gap about a half mile further south and in the Gap itself we could not find any trace of the old Fort Blount Road. However, in descending the hill to the west of the Gap on the farm of Dave Sutton, we found unmistakable signs that the old road once passed through the south Gap instead of the present north Gap. The signs of the old road on the west side of the dividing ridge are so clear that we believe there can be no question as to where the original Mungle’s Gap was. The Gap there is considerably lower than the present Mungle’s Gap and there are signs of the old road leading eastward by the home of Bernice Oldham and following a well-defined route to the south Gap. Then on the west end of the road there is the old road just below the present black-topped highway and there is no dispute as to this part of the old Fort Blount Road or Trace. It began to ascend the hill at the south side of Sutton’s tobacco barn and signs of it can be seen nearly all the way to the Gap itself.
In standing in the Gap, the writer gazed about him and saw only weeds, grass and small trees, with now and then a large tree. An eight-inch locust tree stands in the very center of the Gap today. This old road bed is now part of pastures on the Sutton farm and the Oldham farm and is unknown to most of the younger generation as to its location; and, with many, its existence.
As we looked down to the east we saw in our imagination, the tired oxen pulling the heavy covered wagons of 150 years ago as well as later, up the incline to rest at the top. In our imagimation we saw the drivers of the oxen halt the cavalcade and all stop for a rest. We looked about in vain for a spring from which the weary travelers from the East might have quenched their thirst. We saw in our mind’s eye, the tired women dressed in the garb of pioneer days standing at the crest of the hill and gazing westward and almost heard them ask, “How much farther is it to our destination?” We saw the children, who were having perhaps a lot of fun camping out and eating in the open, gather around a real spread in that Gap where perhaps as early as 1790 travelers crossed the divide going toward the West.
In our fancy we saw the milch cows, the sheep, hogs and other livestock being driven by the boys of the party. We seemed to hear the tinkly of bells and the lowing of cattle, the cackling of hens and roosters, the barking of dogs, the neighing of horses in that gap which was very still when we stood there to actually hear no sounds except those of nature, and the singing of birds, the cawing of crows and the distant rumble of thunder. Many of those early pioneer travelers never returned but lost their lives in the conflicts with the red men further West.
We are informed that in the building of the black-topped highway through the present noth Gap, the highway department required that the old Fort Blount Road be used where possible, and not very more than a half-mile thereforom. Plans were considered for a time to make the new black-top right through the ancient Gap. We wish that such had been done.
The Fort Blount Road was the earliest road leading form the East to the West in all that ssection. It began at Southwest Point on Clinch River, not far from Knoxville, Tennessee, the road taking its name from Fort Blount. It led through Smith’s Bend, thence up amin Salt Lick Cree, thence up Litttle Salt Lick Creek, across the hill north of Kempville, to the water of Defeated Creek, thence down by the present Defeated Creek Baptist church, thence through the present Difficult, thence up the big hill to the west of Difficuly, over which the writer once carried the mail, thence along the dividing ridge between the waters of the Green Hollow and the hollow that led out at the Willie Williams home, thence over the dividing ridge between the waters of Defeated Creek and those of Peyton’s Creek, down the present Sloan Branch, through the present Pleasant Shade, thence up the present porter hill to Towtown Branch, up same to the top of the high Mace’s Hill, which divided the water of Peyton’s Creek form those of Dixon’s Creek; thence westward down Mace’s Hill, right by the writer’s birthplace, ownward to Dixon’s Creek which it crossed just below the present brick house of the Dixon’s Creek Baptist church, thence up and over the rocky, steep hill to the waters of Lick Creek, and westward by the present Good Will Baptist church, thence through the Gap above mentioned, as the old or original Gap, to the waters of Big Goose Creek. Its course led onward and onward until it finally reached into Robertson County. It is, in the opinion of the writer, the oldest road in all of Middle Tennessee. That it ought to be made a state highway from one end to the other is also our opinion. That its historical worthy of preservation, is another of our ideas. If all the events or a hundreth part of them that occurred on this trail or early travel route could be learned; no doubt it would make a very, very intersting reading indeed. It has been said that the very first settlement in the present Smith County was made by travelers over the old Fort Blount Road, who settled on the present Turkey Creek not far above thepresent Carthage. There they built their pioneer homes, not knowing that they had chosen a place where fevers and chills would overtake them. Here ruins of their early homes can still be seen. After months of wearisome existence with sickness dogging their steps, they decided to return to Virginia. They loaded their meager goods into wagons and soon were on the old Fort Blounty Road, going eastward. They were surprised when nearing old Fort Blount to find a group of their old Virginia neighors with loaded wagons, provisions, and a lot of livestock, on their way west. The former Turkey Creek dwellers changed their minds and decided to cast their fortune with the newcomers from Virginia and to go with them to seek a home further West. We do not know where they finally stopped, but would judge that this very group passed right through the same Gap where the writter on Saturday afternoon stood and listened, hearing only the sounds of nature.
We feel that parties interested in preserving the old landmarks should makeperhaps a national highway. If any of our reader feel, as does the editor, let us hear from you and space for your communication will be freely given in the Times.
We might add that many promiment men have traveled the Fort Blount Road. Among them we might mention: John Sevier, Andrew Jackson, James Robertson, and most of the early Tennesseans who hailed from Virginia. To travel the Fort Blount Road to Middle Tennessee Virginian and some from North Caronlina, crossed the Cumberlands at Cumberland Gap, came down the Cumberland River to Fort Blunt, there crossed the river and took the old trail now know as the Fort Blount Road.
The North Carolina settlers in Middle Tennessee, usually crossed at Indiantown Gap from North Carolina into Tennessee, thence down the Tennessee River to the vicinity of Rockwood, there crossing the western escarpment of the Cumberlands, known as Walden’s Ridge, thence westward through Crab Orchard, and thence to the present Chestnut Mound, and onward by way of the Walton Road. However, we are of the opinion that the Fort Blount Road is at least 10 years older than the Walton Road.
After the above had been written, we decided to investigate the origin of the Fort Blount Road. We find that in 1787 North Carolina provided for the cutting of a road from the Clinch River in East Tennessee to the Cumberland settlements by the most feasible route. We have not been able to learn whether this route led through Cumberland Gap as yet, but indications are that it crossed the Cumberland at the present Crab Orchard, although this has not been definitely established by the writer. History is meager in any of the details of the old route laid out in 1787 and 1788, which road was to be at least ten feet wide and of such nature that wagons and carts coulld be used over it. Three companies of North Carolina militia were employed to do the work of cutting the road, and each militiaman was to receive for a half years work 400 acres of land. Col. William Martin, later a leading citizen of Dixon Springs, was in charge of one group of the “road cutters,” numbering perhaps 100 men. The starting point of this road, then called the Cumberland Road, was at Southwest Point on the Clinch River, east of Cumberlands. It has been referred to as the Wilderness Road now and then in history. Later it became known as the Fort Blount Road.
We would like to correct the statement made above that, in our opinion, the Rort Blount Road was not less than 10 years older than the Walton Road. It appears that the Walton Road, first called the Caney Fork Road and later known as the Walton Road, was laid out in 1796, which would make it only eight or nine years later than the laying out of the old Fort Blount Road. We are not satisfied on all points in the above article and will try to establish more definitely the route followed by the road builders of 165 years ago. Any information will be highly appreciated. Please do not feel that a correction will be resented by the writer, for we want the facts. If we do not have them, we want them and will gladly correct any errors that we have made.
Mrs. Laura Garrett, of Dixon Springs, is perhaps as well informed as any other person on the subject of the “Fort Blount Road.” We wish that she wold consent to give us a typed account of her knowledge of the road, where it led over the Cumberland Mountains, its route from the present Trousdale County westward and where it ended. We would like to have an account of any particular event of more than ordinary interest that occurred on this old route that so many used in the long-gone years.
(To be continued)