Tennessee History Trail

In its fifth year, Tennessee History Trail is a unique heritage timeline event created in conjunction with Tennessee State Parks.  This event is held each October at Bledsoe Creek State Park.  It spans Tennessee history from 1500 to 1800 and offers programming not otherwise offered in middle Tennessee.  It also helps visitors grasp the concept of the past shaping the present, and create a personal connection to the past.  In addition to the annual event in October, smaller programs are offered the third Saturday of each month between January and May.  Hope to see you on the History Trail.
 
Current interpretive stations include:
 

Pre-Contact Woodland Indians

Long term plans for this station include the construction of representitive slice of a pre-European contact Eastern Woodland Indian village.  This will provide an up close view into what life was like for the first occupants of the land.

 

Hernando Desoto

DesotoDe Soto was arguably the best known of the European explorers, was a Spanish explorer who lead one of the first European expedition deep into the territory of the modern-day southeastern United States. His route is subject to debate, with many believing he passed through middle Tennessee in 1542. While little physical evidence remains to confirm the exact route, the impact on the native peoples is certain. Expeditions like De Soto’s paved the way for future exploration and eventually European colonization of North America in a quest to control the continents vast natural resources.

 

Fur Trade Cabin

FurtradeThe fur trade in North America began in the early 1600s and was big business in colonial America. There were four major European powers that had colonies in North America; the French, English, Dutch, and Spanish. All of these colonial powers wanted a piece of this trade, but by 1700 only the French and English remained. Yearly exports of furs and hides to England could exceed $30 million. Traders, merchants, clothiers, hat makers, blanket makers, lead foundries, gun smiths, and blacksmiths all made money off of the fur trade, and both the Woodland Indians and the colonist eagerly participated in it.

In 2016, the Middle Tennessee History Coalition completed construction of an 18th century trade typically found on the frontier between the colonies and Woodland Indians. Here we are able to provide hands-on and informative programming related to the fir trade.

 

Post-Contact Woodland Indians

IndianCampThe trade that took place between the Indians and colonists resulted in an exchange of ideas and sharing of cultures. The colonists learned from the Indians and the Indians learned from the colonists. The fur trade also tied the Indians to the global economy because they were trading for goods manufactured as far away as the Caribbean, Europe and China. The impact on Indian culture was significant. The way the expressed themselves in art changed as they got access to new materials like beads and vermillion powder. Their economy became much more focused on the fur trade and less so on farming and manufacture of items for everyday use.   For example, instead of making a clay or gourd bowl, they traded for a metal one.   Instead of making a bow and stone tipped arrows they traded for a musket, gun powder, and bullets. Of course, this changed the way they hunted as well. With access to muskets and knives it became easier to take and process deer and other animals.

This had an unintended consequence. American Indians eventually became dependent on the fur trade. Over several generations they lost the skills to make things like clay pots and stone knives. The entire Indian way of life was based upon skills that are passed down from grandparents to parents, and then from parents to children. When the Indians invested themselves in the fur trade began those skills began to disappear.

 

Long hunter of Tennessee

By 1765, long hunters from settlements in western North Carolina and Virginia were hunting and exploring throughout what is now central LonghuntergearKentucky and Tennessee. Long hunters were 18th-century hunters who made expeditions into the American frontier wilderness in search of fur and hides. Men like Casper Mansker, Joseph Drake, Isaac Bledsoe, and Henry Skaggs were the first true American frontiersmen to push west of the Appalachians and into Middle Tennessee and Kentucky.   They did not do this to bring civilization to the wilderness; they did it to make a profit off of deer skins and other furs. Deer skins equated to money back east; with tens of thousands of hides being exported to Europe each year.

We have recently completed the first phase of a representivie long hunter camp where demonstrate the industry associated with hunting as a profession and allow visitors to experience the sights and sounds that might have been present in a huntung camp in the 1760s.

Cumberland Settlements

Beginning as early as 1779, Americans of European descent began settling the Cumberland River Valley near what is now known as Nashville. Known as the French Lick, the area was teaming with game and other natural resources.

However, life was not easy for these early settlers. Upon arrival they were greeted by nothing but endless hard and privation. Land had to be cleared, crops planted, and homes built; all under threat of attack from American Indian tribes that contested settlement. In spite of the fact that hundreds of settlers fell victim to these attacks and by 1784 the settlements were stable. It be nearly twelve more years before success of these settlements was assured, but communities like Gallatin, Clarksville, and Nashville provide proof of their survival.

Long term plans for this station include the construction of a homestead typically found in the area between 1780 and 1800, complete with outbuildings and garden.