The Gap Gazer: July 2018
Greeting loyal readers!
This month is an unusual Gap Gazer but a timely one.
For locals, it provides an insight into and a reminder of the beauty which surrounds us here. It is so easy to not stop and look up and feel the longevity and serenity of the majesty which protects our little village. For those who are not fortunate enough to live here, perhaps this issue will encourage a visit to the National Park or at least provide details not known before on your prior visit here. Where else can one get a brief history of the area and the National Park's role on one page? Use your zoom button to enjoy the pictures and the text if needed!
Enjoy this issue and continue to enjoy your summer!
Editor: The Gap Gazer
616–540-7532 or 281-754-3457
News tips are appreciated!
Volume 9, Issue 7
Left: Re-roofed by the Amish as settlers did long ago. Hensley Settlement is preserved by the National Park
Right: If only the bones could speak! Here rest the bones and lives of those occupied Hensley settlement
July National Park Edition
The town of Cumberland Gap is a giant’s thumb-print in the Cumberland Mountains, surrounded by the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park. One theory is that the flattened Middlesboro Kentucky area was a result of an ancient meteor strike which created a crater devoid of mountains. This provided a pathway from the gap to the ‘Narrows’, an opening carved by the Cumberland River near Pineville. Long after the meteor hit, settlers heading west passed through a natural gap in the towering Cumberland mountain ridge. First, the buffalo had wandered west through this fortuitous opening and then the Indians used it as a conduit for wars. With this unique combination of geology and discovery, the westward pioneers could travel through a portal in the mountains directly to the beckoning western lands!
The area of the actual Gap was a flashpoint throughout history. Indians from the north and the south passed through to battle, followed by the white man once again invading Indian lands as they sought western opportunities. Then the Civil War was fought on these now borders of Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky. In most Civil War confrontations, land changed hands without a shot being fired. This edition of the Gap Gazer will deal with the encompassing entity of the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park, established on June 11, 1940 by Franklin Roosevelt and dedicated on July 4, 1959. (Happy 59th Birthday!)
Colonists in the Gap
The Gap area was mapped in 1750 by Dr. Thomas Walker. Daniel Boone was then hired to hack a road through in 1775. With a crew of 30 men, Boone carved out a trail of 208 miles. By 1800, over 300,000 settlers had traveled through in search of fertile land ownership in the West. Their products of tobacco, hemp, hogs, cattle and corn whisky traveled back through to Eastern markets.
—-When the Civil War broke out, southern Union sympathizers used the gap area as an opportunity to join the Northern forces so the Confederates established a fort there . A superior Union army approached in 1862 and the Southerners retreat-ed without a fight. Due to increased action in Kentucky, the Union abandoned their fort, taking out the entire side of tri-state peak by blowing up their munition stockpile. The Confederates then marched in and settled down for a year. Eventually they were forced to surrender when much larger Union armies converged from the north and south, again without a major battle. In April of 1863 the Confederates were removed to prisons and the Union retook the gap. For the rest of the war, the North occupied.
—-Cumberland Gap was one of the most contest-ed sites of the Civil War, yet very few lives were lost there. The land and the settlers who remained suffered more damage than the troops passing through. Most of the trees were cut, leaving the stumps (as to discourage a stealth attack) and the land was scarred with breastworks and trenches. Constant foraging for food by both armies left those who had settled there impoverished and struggling.
Gap Cave: Cleopatra’s Pool—Sand Cave—White Rocks. All Carved by through God’ plan.
Natural Formations & Human Usage
There are three major cave systems visible to the public within the National Park. Gap Cave has had an eclectic past. Once occupied as nomadic housing for Indians, it was used as a hospital and troop quarters during the Civil War. Then various private promoters wove stories about Solomon’s pillar mailbox and a runaway boy named Cudjo. Now the cave is in the hands of the National Park and is being returned to its original state and further mapped. The Park offer tours; historic lanterns and electric tour lights have been replaced by strong flashlights. The convoluted ownership of the water flowing out of Gap Cave down a cascading waterfall currently has the Park owning the cave, Lincoln Memorial University processing the water and owning the water rights outside the town boundaries and Gap residents and the Coca Cola company paying the college for water usage.
The smaller Starlight Cave located behind the National Park campground has been closed to exploration in recent years in an attempt to prevent the spread of white nose bat syndrome. The gaping Sand Cave can be reached by a four and a half mile hike. Its mammoth mouth is 80 ft high and 120 feet wide, framed by rock and a 80 foot waterfall, and shielded by rhododendrons. Just a short hike to the northeast will bring one to the White Rocks overlook at the far reaches of the National Park. The rocks of reflected white color are the result of white pebbles of quartz embedded in the gray granite. The panorama seen is spectacular. Likewise, the view from Pinnacle on the southwest end of the Park surveys three states. This overlook can be reached by car, winding up a road which starts at the Park Headquarters in Kentucky.
Through A Time Portal
The restored Hensley settlement is another Park unique highlight. The restoration of the actual settlement atop the mountain is a work in progress. Recently an Amish group volunteered to re-roof cabins, making and installing shingles the way the original inhabitants did. All work on the settlement must be done in accordance with the time period of the settlement. The next public event which opens this world is on June 30th. The settlement will be alive in another era as the road up will be open to the public.* Time travelers step back into the unforgiving world of life atop a mountain ridge experienced by the Hensleys and Gibbons. Daily settlement tours are also available through the National Park.*
Why choose such a busy time in the town of Cumberland Gap to look at the area which immediately surrounds us? With all the people-created activity in the town during the event-filled month of June, it is easy to forget God’s order and beauty we see each day by just looking upwards at our embracing mountains. As these ever-changing palettes protect our town, the National Park protects them. One only has to look at the neon frame of the Smoky Mountains to realize how blessed we are here. As a resident, a hiker and a park volunteer, I do have an appreciation for what the National Park offers us living here which (despite decreasing federal funding) preserves our mountain home.
Upcoming Events Cumberland Mountain Music Show featur-ing the music of mountain life. June 23rd & July 14th @7:30 pm - LMU Convention Center. $12 at the door.
White Lightning Trail Festival June 30th (8 am downtown Cumberland Gap). Fast cars, moonshine trail info, quilt show, art and family fun!
Harvest Moon Gala Oct. 13, 2018. Art, food, music, children’s activities Seasonal art for sale & wine tasting. . 11 am-8 pm Sponsored by Cumberland Gap Artists’ Co-op.
Pumpkin Lites Halloween. More info later.
Polar Bear Dip! Jan. 1, 2019 Noon In front of Little Congress Bicycle Museum.
*National Park Events
For reservations (always recommended!) Call Nat. Park @ 606-248-2817or buy in person at the Visitors Center (1st exit past Tunnel in Kentucky)
*Old Fashioned Hensley 4th June 30th; $10 a vehicle. Up traffic: 10 am-Noon. Down traffic: 2pm –6 pm. Celebrate as the settlers did!
*Gap Cave Tours & Hensley Settlement Tours Both tours held all days except Thursdays.
Gap Cave $8 adults, $4 Senior Pass and Children 5-12. Depart from Daniel Boone Parking area in the Gap at 1 pm. Return at 3 pm.
Hensley Settlement $10 adults, $5 children under 12 and Senior Passes. Reservation holders meet at Visitors’ center at noon, returning at 4 pm.
Gap Gazer Statement of Ownership and Responsibility The Gap Gazer is the creation of Kathy Jo Matthews, a Gap resident, and she alone is responsible for the content. The town government and other agencies have no responsibility for publication and distribution of the Gazer. All articles are based on research and are as factually accurate as the editor can present them. Contact the editor at the phone numbers and email address listed in this issue if any questions arise in the veracity of the news presented. The news in each issue is as journalistically correct and as impartially presented as possible. Events posted are all in the immediate tri-state area and if an event is missed, that usually means no one contacted the editor with the information. The ”Matthews’ Musings” is an editorial and, while still based on fact, may contain editorial comment and opinion. Distribution is via email and through stacks of newspapers distributed to the Gap Post Office, the Gap Creek Coffee House, The Pineapple Tearoom, The National Park and the Cumberland Gap Artists’ Co-op. The Gazer contains no advertising and is responsible to no one for funding. All printing is at the editor’s expense, eliminating any connections with another entity. The Gap Gazer is produced monthly and is in its 8th year of continuous publication.