By 1780 the Big South Fork and its tributaries were being actively hunted and explored. By 1800 there were several permanent homesteads in the area. The land itself was quite rugged as local names still suggest. Names such as Troublesome, Difficulty, and No Business leave little doubt. Early settlement was confined to the river and streams where small sections of fertile land could be found. The first settlers came from Virginia and North Carolina and were primarily of English and Scotch-Irish ancestry. Local place names still give testimony to these early families.
These hardy pioneers thrived on the independence and isolation of the Cumberland Plateau. Through hard work and determination they established small, self-sufficient farms and eventually small communities.
For the next 100 plus years relatively little changed on the Plateau as progress seemed to flow around the region. The post WWII era saw a great exodus as young men returning from the war were no longer satisfied with the isolated life on the Cumberland Plateau. Many left lured by the promise of jobs and better pay in the industries of the north and once thriving communities slowly vanished.
Did You Know?
In the 1960's Congress requested the Army Corps of Engineers to study the feasibility of damming the Big South Fork of the Cumberland River just above the Devils Jump Rapid to create another reservoir. Had that happened Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area would never have existed.