|The history of the Cumberland Highlands of Central Appalachia can be exceedingly difficult to unravel from the layers of oral tradition, legend, dearth of written (and preserved) records, and downright "wishful thinking" of its inhabitants. The foremost handicap to accuracy is the century -- or nearly two -- of widespread illiteracy among large segments of the population.
Even the official record -- in the form of governmental requirements such as deeds, land patents and surveys, birth, death and marriage records, and transcripts of judicial actions -- may be woefully inaccurate or insufficient to recount the lives of the pioneers of the highlands. The deficiencies of the public record were only compounded by the turmoil of the Civil War years, when courthouses were burned and civil government was effectively "on hiatus". The ravages of years of rough handling by the public and inattention to preservation techniques have also exacted a toll on some of the region's primary source materials.
Added to these impediments is the fundamental lack of formal means of mass communications -- telegraph lines, regular mail service, and printed local newspapers -- in much of the region. Except in the most populous towns, such "amenities" would not arrive until the dawn of the Twentieth Century. And the same conditions applied to mass means of transportation -- reliable roads and railroads that could facilitate travel and exchanges with the larger community and nation.
Finally, any serious researcher of the region's history must lament the lack of appreciation by some holders of family memorabilia, such as family Bibles, diaries, ancient photos, and legal or military papers -- the source material that enriches and validates the genealogies and raises them above the level of legends.
In this context, I am making a feeble personal effort to gather and present to Internet users a collection of historical and geographical sketches, and narratives of the people of Appalachia, that will be constantly filtered and tested by users to become a reliable lamplight into the past. To that end, I will: