The Heritage of Daniel Haston


The Caney Fork of the Cumberland
Indian Trails - Pages 3 & 4
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The Caney Fork of the Cumberland [Indian Trails & Paths]

The area around the upper Caney Fork was known to the Buffalo and the Indian long before the first white man saw Great Falls and in turn the river was probably known to some of the early French hunters and traders a hundred years ahead of the first settler.  It is probably true that the first settlers had some general idea of the country in which they planned to settle.  The Indians had their system of paths that crisscrossed the whole country; many of which had first been established by buffalo and other game.  Three great paths passed through the area.

The Chicamaugua [Chickamauga] Path crossed the Caney Fork at Rock Island.  It led north to White Plains (now Algood) and on into Kentucky.  From Rock Island it followed the route of Highway 70S for several miles, passing to the South of McMinnville and then turned south passing close to Beersheba, across the mountain and down the Battle Creek Valley.  The portion of the route from Algood to Viola became a part of the Old Kentucky Road (Also called the Alabama Road and Elk River Road).

The Black Fox Trail from the west passed on the south side of Short Mountain, followed Mountain Creek, crossing Collins River below the mouth of Cane Creek and continued in an easterly direction crossing Rocky River above the mouth of Laurel Creek, Dry Fork and Cane Creek.

The Cisco & St. Petra Indian Trail (Part of which was referred to as the Nickajack Trail came from the West into Warren County, running east to Smartt's Station, then turned south and from Scott's Ford to Viola ran with the Old Kentucky Road and thence on to Pelham, Monteagle and down the Battle Creek Valley.

There was one minor path coming south from the headwaters of the Calfkiller River, through Sparta, down Hickory Valley, crossing the Caney Fork at Butt's Ford, and thence southeast up the mountain crossing Glade Creek and down the mountain to Pikeville.  This path was established by Mr. Tyndale of Sparta from information in early grants and deeds.  This route was referred to as the Chickamauga Path but it was not recognized as the main path.  The Path is shown on a map prepared by Mr. Tyndale.  Mr. Tyndale told the writer that the above is the "probable route of the Chickamauga Path referred to in the ancient public records of White County."

A number of writers state that the Calfkiller River was named after Chief Calfkiller who lived on a tributary, Cherry Creek, north of Sparta.  The Rev. M. Seals in his "History of White County" states that Mrs. Mollie B. Johnson says her grandmother Horn knew a man named Calfkiller who lived at the head of the Calfkiller River.  There are remains of Indian settlements in that area.  The Indians hunted and had temporary camps in the area but did not have permanent settlements in the region.

The early explorers and settlers, like the Indians, found game very plentiful in forests on the mountain, in the numerous canebreaks along the banks of the rivers and in the vast area of "the Barrens."  They were covered with tall buffalo grass and covered large areas between the foot of the Cumberland Plateau and the edge of the Highland Rim.


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