Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

August 13, 2013

Much of TN once an ‘open range’ state

By Old Uncle Gib
Chronicle correspondent

— Driving around the county I've noticed several remnants of old gateposts in various places. It occurred to me that maybe some people didn’t know what they may have been, and were curious as to why they were standing all alone in someone's front yard, or out in a field.

All of Cumberland County as well as much of the state of Tennessee, used to be an “Open Range” state. Open Range is the roaming of livestock freely regardless of land ownership. Anyone's cattle, sheep, hogs or other livestock could freely eat grass or mast from any property. It was up to each individual family to erect their own legal fence to keep other animals out, and also their own animals inside their lands.

Last week our article was about Henry Oren Cox Jr., whose mother, Amy Young Cox, shared this note about her memories of Open Range, “Cattle, sheep and hogs were not fenced in but kept on open range where they fed on wild grass and acorns.” We also have Open Range Road, in the Homestead community.

In order to keep animals out of your “front yard” and thus enable you and your family as well as visitors to come and go from your home without having to keep their eyes always glued to the ground being careful where you walked, people would fence their yard as well as also fencing their fields.

These gateposts are the remains of the entries to homes during the open range years. Most of these homes also had some kind of walkway up to the house, which were usually made of flat native stone. The walkways were especially useful in times when you had as much rain as we had this year, so you kept excess mud out of your home. If you look closely, or dig down under the ground a few feet it is possible that you might find some of this native stone walkway still in place. In many cases the walkway was dug up when the fence was taken away, or eventually was removed for ease of mowing the lawn.

It would be interesting if those reading this article would contribute photos of old gateposts they find across the county. Email your photos to the Chronicle with the location of the community where you have taken your photo.

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Old Uncle Gib is a weekly historical feature published each Friday. Old Uncle Gib is a pseudonym that was used by S.C. Bishop, who founded the Chronicle in 1886. Bishop actively published the Chronicle until 1948.