The Hensley Settlement


During our fall break adventures we visited the Cumberland Gap State Park.  Used by early settlers as a primary route to the westward settlement of Kentucky, Cumberland Gap is not only beautiful, but full of history.  

I had the opportunity to take a trip to the top of Brush Mountain and visit the Hensley Settlement.  Sherman Hensley, and his brother-in-law, Willy Gibbons, came to the top of the mountain in 1903.  They brought their families and the population, at the top of the mountain, peaked in 1925 to about 100 residents.  



This settlement never had indoor plumbing, electricity, or running water.  Sherman Hensley was the last resident to leave in 1951.  That was only due to health concerns and he went down the mountain to live with his daughter.  He was 70 years old at the time and lived another 28 years, making it to 98 years of age.  Quite a feat in any day and age.  



The Job Corps restored this area in 1960.  The park service maintains all buildings and continues the work of restoration as time deteriorates the structures.   



This is the blacksmith shop and we were allowed to explore inside the structure.  Many parts of the buildings here are original.  


Chestnut beams, some 40 feet long, continue to hold up porches and other parts of cabins and barns.  Though the American Chestnut was wiped out due to an airborne blight, some small trees attempt to regrow from the original root stock, on top of this mountain.  


Arrangements were made for a teacher to provide schooling to the children on this mountain.  Though the schoolhouse is a restored version, the slate board you see is the original used by the class.  The school teacher met, and married, and nice Hensley man and became a part of this wonderful settlement.  




The family cemetery is contains many unmarked graves and just a few that are marked.  Many children did not make it to their adult years.  Sherman Hensley and his wife had 19 children, 9 of whom survived to adulthood.  



I should mention my adventure in getting to this place.  I paid a $10 fee to take a park ranger led tour.  We, six of us including the ranger, took an hour long drive through the back roads of Bell County, KY.   The drive also included making it up a path to the top of the mountain.  A path for horse, bike, and foot traffic.  Very steep, narrow, and with straight drop-offs, it made for some harrowing moments.  The road is locked/gated and a good portion of it is private property.  The park service provides maintenance for the privilege of using it.  

Our ranger, Sharon, had been making this trip for the past 20 years.  She was full of information and provided us with many stories as we hiked around the mountain top for 2 hours.  

The drive down the mountain was even more harrowing than the drive up......

My alternative in getting here was an 8-mile round trip hike.  

$10 + four hour adventure = awesomeness  







Comments

  1. Oh how interesting, Michelle. I'd love to venture there. And, that they turned such a place into a park in itself is amazing.

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  2. beautiful homestead! the cemetery shows how tough life was.

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  3. I love the history of this place. The pictures are beautiful and you have chosen well among many sites, I'm sure, to tell the story of the people that lived here long ago.

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  4. Definitely worth the money, what a lovely tour. Is there a national park also? I went out there many years back and climbed a trail where one could stand in 3 states I believe.

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    1. The Hensley Settlement is part of the Cumberland Gap National Park. My husband and daughter did the, "stand in 3 states hike", while I was taking this trip.

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  5. What a wonderful place! Life must have been so rough in those days!

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  6. What a wonderful place to visit.. I imagine you felt like you'd time traveled back a hundred years. I'm happy to hear that they are preserving this time capsule of America. ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  7. Beautiful place ~ I could imagine the class room filled with children .., great environment for playing and learning in the nature, they're had!

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  8. Interesting place to explore.
    Merle........

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  9. So primitive, so much history.
    Great pics, great post.

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  10. That sounds like a great trip, and a bargain! Wonderful photos, Michelle.

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  11. What a wonderful outing!!! So much information and frugal!!!
    Your pictures are always stunning and make me long for more. You have a talent.

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  12. I love the strong history here and wonderful that it is being preserved.

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  13. what a great place to get lost in for a few hours!!

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  14. This sounds so interesting! I would love it, except for that drive!

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    1. Mari, the drive was just as interesting as the actual settlement!

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  15. What a great spot! I will have to try to get my boys there someday.

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    1. Lisa, the Cumberland Gap is really beautiful. Great hiking, too.

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  16. Morning Michelle, I love the place, school is so sweet. Thanks for sharing, loved the tour.Blessings Francine.

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  17. Wow...I really enjoyed this! Thanks for sharing!

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  18. Fascinating! Those folks must have been very hardy but it's such a beautiful place, they probably felt it was worth all the effort. I would not have gone on that trip with you, though, as I have a big fear of heights and can't imagine the road upon which you traveled. Yikes!

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  19. Good heavens, imagine not having electricity and even worse, plumbing, until you're 70 years old! No wonder Hensley lived another 28 years, he was used to the tough life and then everything would have been too easy 😊 Enjoyed the story Michelle!

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  20. I would have opted for the hike. : )
    What a wonderful place to visit. I'd love to go there.
    Amazing photos.

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    1. The day prior, we hiked several miles up Pine Mountain. The ride was just fine with me! lol

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  21. gorgeous fall views .. love history... what a great place to visit ( :

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  22. What a treasure . . .
    Sorry about the "harrowing part!"
    Thank you for sharing Hensley with us . . .

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  23. Great photos-I love history, especially when you can see remains of buildings and structure first hand.

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