The Heritage of Daniel Haston


The Caney Fork of the Cumberland
Old Roads - Pages 67-69
Back Next

Old Roads & Historical Places on Them

Stage Coach Lines in the Rock Island Area

According to the Tennessee Gazetteer there were many established stage coach lines operating in Tennessee in 1833.  Rock Island was located where it had good connections East, North, West and South.  One route originated in Blountville and ran to Huntsville, Alabama (317 miles) by way of Knoxville, Campbell's Station, Kingston, Sparta, Rock Island, McMinnville, and Winchester.

Another line operated between Knoxville and Nashville by way of Kingston, Sparta, Rock Island, McMinnville, Danville, Readyville, and Murfreesboro.  Still another from Knoxville left the above route at Sparta and went on to Nashville, crossing the Caney Fork at Allen's Ferry and through Liberty, Alexander and Lebanon.

From Sparta one could go to Gallatin by way of Milledgeville, Mt. Richardson, and Carthage, crossing the Caney Fork on the lower river.  Another line originating at Sparta ran West and North to Glasgow, Kentucky by way of Milledgeville, Gainesboro, McLeansville and Tompkinsville, Ky.

It was a Mr. Lamb who drove the stage across the Caney Fork at Rock Island when the ferry man failed to answer his call. This was considered very dangerous.

Locating Old Roads And Trails

There is a great fascination in locating and mapping old roads and trails.  Many of these highways of Tennessee are less than 170 years old while others date back hundreds of years before the first white man ever saw the Caney Fork.  They were old when the first hunter trod over the then well-beaten way.  The old roads and trails can still be followed even where the routes have been abandoned.

In many instances they followed paths made by buffalo and other wild animals.  Sometimes they began as foot paths established by the Indians.  The early explorers and hunters found several well-established paths into the Caney Fork area.  Horsemen used these paths.

Then came the settlers with their ox teams, carts and wagons.  Trees were cut following the old paths and as travel increased the roads were improved.  As late as 1925 the road from Spencer across the Cumberland Plateau "meandered" from side to side.  It was not improved.  When a section became impassable, the traffic just wandered right or left and picked an easier route.

The first wagon roads were cut rather than built.  Crossing the Cumberland Mountain from Kingston to Carthage in 1800 was a 3-day trip by wagon.

The stage lines in the above area were operated at one time by General Price of Lebanon and later by Norman Griswald.  Griswald owned a store about 1/2 mile East of Quebeck.  Bill Hodgkins, a negro, looked after changing the horses at this location.  During the period when the stages crossed the Caney Fork at McElroy Ferry, Bone Cave was another station at which the 4-horse teams were changed.

The Old Kentucky Road

The Old Kentucky Road began at the town of Maysville, Kentucky on the top of the bluff above the Ohio River about 65 miles upstream from Cincinnati.  There are several very old buildings dating back to busy, earlier days.  The old Slave Block where slaves were sold could still be seen in 1954 and may still be there.  This was the main route to Huntsville and the Alabama settlements.

One traveled in a south-westerly direction, passing east of Lexington, thence to Somerset and through Monticello to Tennessee.  The road crossed Obey's River above the mouth of Eagle Creek.  Continuing in the same general direction it passed Monroe in Overton County and on to White Plains (now called Algood) and crossed the present Sparta-Smithville Road several miles west of Sparta.  From north of Algood to Darkey Spring and Rock Island it followed the old Chickamauga Trace.  In fact from the Kentucky Line to Algood the road followed the ancient Trace very closely.  The road ran east of Darkey Spring originally but was soon changed to run on the west side of the Spring.

Darkey Spring

This was a favorite camping place because of the very fine spring and abundance of water.  It is now called Camp Ground and in the earlier days church camp meetings were held there.  Thousands of mules and hundreds of slaves stopped over night at the Spring.  They were being taken to the Alabama settlements to be worked on the great cotton plantations.  Although the older generation remembered that many Alabama-bound settlers traveled over the road they could tell one more about the mule and slave traffic.  Monticello was an important place as many of the Kentucky slaves were assembled there for the trip South.

The Rock Island Roads

Going south the road forked at Darkey Spring.  One route lead directly south through what is now Walling and down the ridge to the Rock Island Ferry and/or bridge.  It passed the Stone Fort on the highest point on the ridge.  It then followed the general route of the present Hwy. 70S for several miles.

The left fork swung south-east toward what is now Quebeck and then turned south crossing the Caney Fork at Dillon's Ferry and/or bridge.  This section was referred to as the Dillon road and sometimes the Cook road.  The road continued south passing Bone Cave and then turned almost due west crossing Rocky River and joining the main route soon after making the crossing.

There was a great deal of competition between the two routes before the Civil War as the tolls collected were important.  The Warren County Chapter of the D.A.R. erected a marker in 1933 on the original road, on the Rock Island branch a short distance south of the original Hash home.  It caused considerable discussion at the time as many people clamed that the Dillon route was the correct one.  The answer is simple.  Both groups were right although the writer feels that the route selected was really the main road.

The present village of Walling was once known as "Teeter's Cross-roads."  It was later changed to Walling, being named after Mr. Thomas Walling who operated a store there and later became a timber buyer for the Singer Sewing Machine Co.  There was a long period prior to the Civil War when there were no houses from Camp Grounds to Dillon's Ferry.  After the War the roads were changed so that the Dillon traffic came by way of Walling and Quebeck instead of straight through.

The Old Stone Fort

The 1769-70 party of explorers came to the Caney Fork and found tall grass everywhere and a "Stock Fort" on a mound and thought the Cherokees had built it (Haywood p. 216).  Haywood in his N. & A. History, p. 239-40 and Reprint p. 225, states that before 1769 the Cherokees, retreating from Chickasaw Old Fields by way of the Cumberland and Caney Fork "enclosed themselves in forts as a safeguard ...."

Mrs. Jennie Hash Rucker told the writer in 1925 that the Stone Fort was in place when the first settlers arrived in the area.  She said it was built on the high point of the ridge in the bend of the Caney Fork opposite the mouth of Rocky River.  It was just a few feet from the Old Kentucky Road and was built of flat rock apparently taken from the bank of the river.  Older people told her that the walls were about 3 feet high or more but some rock was removed by settlers in building and a large part of the rock was used to fill mud holes in the road.  In her youth the outline of the wall was clearly visible.

About 1928 the writer located the Stone Fort.  The size and shape were determined by a few rocks still showing just above the surface of the ground and many just under the ground surface.  It was oval in shape, measuring about 100 feet by 60 feet.  There was a gateway in the northeast corner.  A ring of trees followed the line of the rocks.  At that time Mr. Fielding Yost owned the property in the bend and a tenant house stood within the fort area.  This property was used for a number of years by the Boy Scouts as Camp Boxwell.

There was a dripping spring near the foot of the ridge and opposite the Island where the Indians apparently made arrow heads and stone tools.  Several tons of flint and other stone chips were noticed around the spring.

Note: In spite of the facts given above the writer has noticed in several news stories during the past 25 years the statement that it is not known who built the Stone Fort but it was probably built by the early settlers for their protection against the Indians.

Continuing Southwest On The Old Kentucky Road

The road followed the general route of Hwy. 70S to within about 3.5 miles of McMinnville where it bore a little more to the south crossing the Collins River at Shells Ford, then past Poplar Tavern about 1.5 miles southeast of McMinnville and on into the present McMinnville-Viola Road.  The Kentucky Road crossed Hickory Creek at Scott's Ford and stage coaches stopped for a change of horses at Hammond Tavern just west of the ford.  Mr. Euclid Garner of Viola said that when he was a boy he often heard the stage driver blow his horn as he started down the hill to Scott's Ford.  It was the signal for the stableman at Hammond Tavern to get out fresh horses.

The road continued through the present town of Viola, passing the Jesse Colton House 1.25 miles from Viola on the Hillsboro Road, then through Hillsboro, Winchester and on to Huntsville and the Alabama settlements.

The road was changed after some years to pass through McMinnville.  The Rock Island-McMinnville section was later referred to as the "Stage Road" and the section west from McMinnville as the "Elk River Road" and still later as the "Viola Road."

Back Next