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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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."