About the Byway

Cumberland Historic Byway in Tennessee


In the early to mid 1800s, roads were built to facilitate settlement and commerce. Chief among them were Walton Road, Kentucky Stock Road, Fisk Road and others.

The coming of the Tennessee Central Railroad in 1890 opened the Upper Cumberland in ways that would not have been possible prior to that time. Manufacturing concerns began to move into the region, better roads were developed and new schools were established.

By the 1930s the Tennessee Valley Authority brought electricity, allowing for further development of the region. By the 1960s with the completion of Interstate 40, the economic and cultural transformation of the region had begun in earnest at a pace that has continued until the present.

Today, it is no longer an isolated area. People are moving into the region from many different places to take advantage of the cultural and economic resources, and the quality of life experienced is a powerful calling card.

The physical features seen around the Cumberland Byway were in large part responsible for shaping the cultural identity of the area and aligning it with the Appalachian highlands to the east rather than the plantation culture of the Central Basin. The highly dissected uplands and mountain areas of the area were not suitable for large-scale, labor-intensive agriculture, which in the antebellum period relied on slave labor. As a result of this, the minority population has remained relatively small.