About the Byway

Cumberland Historic Byway in Tennessee

Settlement Patterns

Historic Map of Tennessee


The land had been home to Native American groups for thousands of years, and during the historic period had served as a communal hunting ground for several tribal groups, although the entire territory was claimed by the Cherokee.

The area was initially settled by migration in a pattern influenced by the difficulty of traversing the eastern escarpment of the Cumberland Plateau with its rugged terrain. Settlers followed easier inland and water routes into central Tennessee and worked their way onto the Cumberland Plateau from the west, where the terrain was much easier to negotiate due to the gentler sloping, irregular topography and more abundant drainage patterns.

The first European settlers of the region were mainly English, Welsh, Ulster Scots and Germans, who began to enter the region in large numbers after the signing of the Third Treaty of Tellico in 1805 in which the Cherokee Indians relinquished all claims to lands in the Upper Cumberland.

Communities began to develop throughout the region and subsistence farming was the principal industry of the area. Crops such as corn, wheat, rye and oats were grown, livestock was kept and the abundant natural resources of the area were exploited. In time timber, tobacco, small-scale coal mining, pottery and other industries based around the natural resources of the region became important to the economy of the region. The settlers who entered this isolated area quickly developed an individualized, self-sufficient culture, which remained largely unchanged until the 20th century.