by Jere Whitson

Printed in : Putnam County Herald, 30 March 1922, Page 7

It is but natural for us to say that "all roads lead to Cookeville," but as a matter of fact all the main or principal roads in the Upper Cum. berland and Caney Fork sections do literally lead to Cookeville.

Now, why or how is it they do?

There are two old and widely known roads that cross at or near Cookeville. They are the Walton road and the old Kentucky or Stock road, both having been established long before the Civil War, and before the county of Putnam and its county site, Cookeville was laid off and established.

The Walton road runs from east to west and the old Kentucky road runs north and south, the Walton road being the main, in fact the only road used and traveled by the pioneers from East Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina to the great Cumberland and Mississippi valleys and into Arkansas, Missouri, Texas and the geat [sic] West.

Cookeville is on the ridge dividing the waters of the Cumberland and Caney Fork rivers, the said dividing ridge running from the foot of the Cumberland mountains at the old "White Plains" place where the first store was kept in this part of the country, to the Cumberland river, furnishing the only practical way or route for a road leading through this section, from the east to the west, the Cumberland river hills and valleys being on the north side and the Caney Fork river, hills and valleys being on the south side of this divide.

A Mr. Walton, who lived at one time near Carthage, where the Caney Eork empties into the Cumberland river, located and built the Walton road, putting toll gates on it. It was not macadamized, but was kept up fairly well and in many places was kept up by having timber or plank laid across it. On this road were many inns or taverns usually called "Stands", where the travelers could spend the night, notably the one at Crab Orchard where President Andrew Jackson, on his way from Nashville to Washington and returning on several occasions spent the night. This building remains an old-fashioned two story brick, with but few if any changes having been made. Several years ago when the commissioners for the Bristol-to-Memphis Highway were making the trip trom Nashville to Bristol, looking for the best route or way to locate the highway, I with other members of the commission, stopped at Crab Orchard and while there climbed the hill on which the old tavern stands and were shown through it, having pointed out to us the room called “Old Hickory" room which had been occupied by Gen. Jackson.

The Kentucky road, like the Walton road, was and is the only main highway leading through this entire upper section of country from north to south and again we may ask, why so? It is this way: The Cumberland mountains are on the east and the river and creek hills are on the west, there is a narrow strip of land commonly known as the "flat woods" between the mountain and the river hills, and it is on or along this flat section that the old Kentucky or stock road is located. As above stated, it was over this road before we had railroads, that all the marketable stock was driven to the South, and it was practically all marketed in the South in the early days. It was by this means that the southern planters got the hogs for meat, the horses and mules to work on their plantations. They also got a large amount of cloth for clothing for their negroes, the cloth being spun and woven by the women of the Upper Cumberland section. 1 have seen trains of wagons loaded with these things - the old fashioned "schooner" wagon, the beds and bodies extending far out and up at the ends - and along with them droves of horses and mules, and very often several negro slaves, who were being taken South to be sold to the planters. These men on horseback on their return trips, with an old-fashioned pair of saddle bags in which were their clothing and the proceeds of their sales, often in gold to the amount of thousands of dollars were often held up and robbed and nearly always murdered when they were held up.

I have said that all the main roads lead to Cookeville, and that is because of the geography or rather the topography of the country, as the only direct road leading from the lower Cumberland counties to points east such as Crossville, Jamestown, Harriman and Knoxville, they would, go by Cookeville, and from McMinnville, Tullahoma, Manchester, Winchester or Sparta from the South going to the Upper Cumberland counties they must come by Cookeville if they go the direct route. Not only do all the main public roads lead to Cookeville, via the Tennessee Central which connects on the west with the N. C. & S. L. at Nashville, the Illinois Central at Hopkinsville, Ky. and the Southern for Chattanooga, Knoxville and Cincinnati, at Harriman; also with the L & N and Brushy Mountain road at Harriman. Cookeville is also practically in a central airline point between the cities of Nashville, Chattanooga, knoxville and Louisville, Ky.

Putnam county is almost 50 miles long from east to west and Cookeville is practically in the center. There are seven counties joining Putnam, with the county seats of each within thirty miles of Cookeville, which is the central town of the eight county-seats. Because of it's central location, Cookeville is one of the best horse and mule markets in Tennessee.

Last but not least Cookeville is in one of the best agricultural sections of the state. With the rich hills and valleys of the Cumberland and Caney Fork rivers and the rich coves and valleys of the Cumberland mountains. Every kind of grains and grasses are grown, and the soil is specially, adapted to all kinds of vegetables and fruits, and as a stock raising country it has no superior. The poultry raising industry is growing by leaps and bounds and is in reality the revenue producer of this whole section.

I have written this article mainly to call attention to this geat section of Tennessee, and especially to the central location, believing as I do that our little city has a gret future.