Tag Archives: Cumberland River

Cumberland Nomenclature

6 Jan

I work at Cumberland University. A few blocks away sits a Cumberland Presbyterian Church. Around town, there are numerous businesses named Cumberland, including Cumberland Animal Hospital. Just north of town flows the Cumberland River. A geological formation called the Cumberland Plateau is east of here. Cumberland County is on top of the Cumberland Plateau. In Knoxville, the students at the University of Tennessee hang out on Cumberland Avenue. Lake Cumberland is a recreational area in Kentucky. Pioneers, including Daniel Boone, made their way through the Appalachian Mountains at the Cumberland Gap.

In other words, there is a lot of stuff in this area named Cumberland. It is a word that people in these parts use on a daily basis. However, I have a question that I have never heard anyone ask.

What is Cumberland?

It turns out that there used to be a county in northwest England known as Cumberland. It came into existence in the 12th Century and was abolished in 1974. Interestingly, Graham and Bell were the most common surnames of the area. The Bell name is of particular importance to me. Also, I wonder if Alexander Graham Bell had relations in Cumberland County.

Despite the great names, I would be surprised if all of the stuff in this area was named after a defunct county in England. There must be something else. Lo and behold, more search engining proves that to be the case.

In 1644, the title Duke of Cumberland was created and named after the county from the prior paragraph. Several men held this title, and things in America tended to be named in honor of titled folks. Therefore, it stands to reason that things began to be called Cumberland for that reason. However, that leads to another question. Which Duke of Cumberland has his name all over this area?

More search engining led me to Prince William Augustus, grandson of King George I; son of King George II; and uncle of King George III. He fought in the War of Austrian Succession and in the Seven Years’ War. The Cumberland River and the Cumberland Gap were named in his honor, and, one would assume, the rest of the Cumberland named places and things followed from those.

Prince William, Duke of Cumberland received many honors in his lifetime. However, one posthumous recognition stands out. In 2005, BBC History Magazine named him the worst Briton of the 18th Century. Presumably, this was for his role in the Battle of Culloden. It was after this battle that many of his contemporaries began calling him The Butcher.

Yep, the common use of Cumberland in these parts is derived from this guy.Duke

My thirst for knowledge has been quenched.

Many Rivers to Cross

30 Nov

Last week, my friends and I drove to Missouri for a football game. To get there, we had to drive through Kentucky; across southern Illinois; into St. Louis; and over to the middle of the state. It is a route that I have driven many times to begin a road trip into the West, but this was the first time that I noticed the rivers. We crossed a bunch of them.

Oh yeah, the title of this post is also the title of a great song by Jimmy Cliff.Cliff

I have always been fascinated by rivers. Their power. Their constant movement. It is interesting to watch a loaded barge being pushed along the way. However, I am mostly fascinated by their history. The rivers of North America have shaped the lives of everyone who have encountered them.

That is what interesting about the drive to Columbia, Missouri. It was like we were driving through a nautical version of American history. We crossed rivers that are not just any rivers. We crossed rivers that have had a huge impact on my state and our nation.

Cumberland River

Tennessee River

Ohio River

Mississippi River

Missouri River

The Cumberland River has had a huge impact on Tennessee. The first settlers made their way to its banks when they came to Middle Tennessee. Nashville, the state’s capital, was the result of their journey. It is the same river that flooded downtown Nashville a few years ago.

At one time, the Tennessee River was a wide and uncontrollable waterway. Then, the Tennessee Valley Authority, known better as the TVA, dammed the river. This made it more navigable and provided electricity for people throughout Tennessee and Alabama.

The Ohio River was the original way into the West. I am not writing about the Trans-Mississippi West. I am writing about the original West, which is now known as the Midwest. It also served as the western extension of the Mason Dixon Line. Yes, it was the border between slavery and freedom.

The Mississippi River is one of the longest rivers in the world, and it has a history that is just as long. At one time, it was the nation’s western boundary. It has been a vital target in the War of 1812 and the Civil War. It has inspired literature and music. In other words, I cannot write enough about it.

The Missouri River is the longest river in North America, and I have been lucky enough to see different parts of it. As we crossed the bridge in Missouri, I thought Meriwether Lewis, William Clark and the Corps of Discovery. In 1804, they started their journey somewhere near our crossing, and they had little idea of where they were going. Two years later, they returned with tales of the West and started our nation on a history of expansion.

Each day, thousands of people take the route that we drove. I wonder if they realize the stories of the rivers that they cross. Without those rivers, history would have turned out quite differently.

 

The County of Wilson

25 Apr

A new bridge is being built across the Cumberland River, and, the other day, I drove across it for the first time. I guess that means I drove across it twice. First, I went over it. Then, I came back. It was that return trip that I noticed our county seal displayed prominently.

This took me by surprise because I have lived in Wilson County all of my life and had never seen it. Heck, I did not even know it existed. However, that was not the only thing that surprised me. It did not look like a typical seal.County Seal

Most seals that I have seen have symbols that represent the area. There may be some sort of plant that grows in the area. There may be a farmer. There may be some representation of industry. The Wilson County seal looks like something you would see at the post office. The bald eagle is patriotic, but I have not seen many bald eagles around here lately.

It made me think that this must be a more recent creation. The seals with crops, farmers and industry are from a time long past. This one looks more modern. With this on my mind, I called the Wilson County Archives to find out when this seal came into being. They had no idea but agreed that it must come from more recent times.

Anyway, I am on a mission to find out when the Wilson County seal was created and why it does not represent anything special about the area. It is American, but it is not Wilsonian.

That brings me to something that has bugged me for a long time. Why is Wilson County named Wilson? I know why our city is named Lebanon. The settlers saw all of the cedar trees and thought of the Cedars of Lebanon in the Bible. Unfortunately, they are not cedars. They are junipers.

Here is something else. Lebanon, Oregon is named after Lebanon, Tennessee. Some guy from here hopped on the Oregon Trail and named his new town after his old one. That means there is a city in Oregon named for a city in Tennessee that is named after the wrong kind of tree.

Now, back to Wilson. The county is named for Major David Wilson, a prominent man who lived in Sumner County. That is the county that sits on the other side of the new bridge. He was born around Charlotte, North Carolina and fought in the American Revolution. He settled in these parts, which was the western part of North Carolina, and involved himself in many activities of a landed gentleman. Politician, surveyor and other jobs that do not require strenuous labor.

I am sure he was a great man. Wilson County was named in his honor in 1799, a few years before his death. However, I am wondering something. Did he ever make his way across the river and into the land that would bear his name? Did he own property here? Did he help create the new county? What role did this man play in our county’s history?

It is like the seal that really does not represent anything about Wilson County. Did the man who it is named after represent the county?

I guess it does not matter, but it still makes me wonder.