Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

September 17, 2013

Apple Festival preserves Homesteads' history, culture


CROSSVILLE — The Cumberland Homesteads Tower Association (CHTA) will hold its annual Homesteads Apple Festival Saturday, Sept. 21, from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. and on Sunday, Sept. 22, from noon to 4 p.m. on the grounds of the Homestead Tower Museum and the Homestead Elementary School at the junction of Hwys. 127 S and 68 in Crossville. The festival is a wholesome, old-fashioned, fun-filled event for the whole family.

Highlights include music live from the pavilion stage both days, a variety of good country cooking for a picnic meal at the festival or to take home, over 100 artists and crafters demonstrating and selling their fine handcrafted items, activities especially for kids, storytelling and admission to the museum. Apples will be in abundance with fresh apples for sale in bulk, fried apple pies, apple cider and a variety of baked goods made by the areas’ finest cooks.

The Homesteads Tower and House Museums give the public an opportunity to experience the history and culture of the Cumberland Homesteads community, a project of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s National Recovery Act, Division of Subsistence Homesteads. The Homestead projects, which numbered more than 100 across the United States and its territories, were intended to stimulate job opportunities, provide affordable housing, and restore hope to a population that continued to suffer the devastating effects of the Great Depression.

When the Cumberland Homesteads project was announced, more than 2,000 families applied for the 252 properties. Those families dealt with adversity and with shortages with a spirit of cooperation, forging community ties that have lasted through time. Others found work here to support their families by clearing land, building roads, and in the construction of the homes and community buildings. The men emerged with trades skills that were in demand throughout the country.

Apples were an important food staple for the homesteaders and remnants of orchards can still be seen on some of the farms today. Apple saplings had been brought by many of the homesteaders from their former homes plant on their new farms. June apples were especially favored for frying. Apples from a bountiful harvest were preserved by drying in the sun on clean bed sheets, by sulfuring, being made into applesauce or apple butter, or kept in a cool cellar until needed.

The federal government ended its involvement in the Cumberland Homesteads Project in 1946. Homesteaders who had paid for their homes and land were given deeds. Those who had not completed purchase were given five years to do so. The Cumberland Homesteads has been designated a historic district since 1984 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

On the weekend of July 4, 1984, the Cumberland Homesteads celebrated its 50th anniversary. The Cumberland County Playhouse premiered an original production of A Homestead Album, researched and written by Jim Crabtree and Dennis Davenport, and the Homestead Tower Museum was opened to the public. The tower had been vacant since 1962.

The Cumberland Homesteads Tower Association, under the leadership of president Miles Clark, wanted to do something to preserve the history of the community. An agreement was reached with the Cumberland County Board of Education for the CHTA to lease the tower for the museum. The displays were created with the help of Playhouse staff and original artifacts were donated by many of the original Homesteads families. During the first years, Doyle and Emma Jean Vaden operated the museum with one of the rooms set aside as a gallery for Doyle’s art works.

In 1997, the Homestead House Museum was opened as an ancillary facility to the tower, giving the public an opportunity to see first-hand the craftsmanship that went into building the little stone houses that comprise the Homesteads. Several of the pieces of furniture in the house including beds, chairs,and mattresses were made in the Homesteads. In 2002, the house suffered a direct hit by an F3 tornado, but it was restored by community volunteers donating many hundreds of man-hours.

The success of the Apple Festival is due in large part to that same spirit of community and volunteerism of area residents who give so freely of their time and talents to preserve and promote the legacy of the Homesteads Community. For more information about the Cumberland Homesteads, visit the museums, visit Cumberland Homesteads on Facebook, or at the website ( The Apple Festival is a fund-raising event of the Cumberland Homesteads Tower Association, a non-profit 501(c)(3) equal opportunity organization.