What a great time in Lonesome Valley! I can’t tell you how much fun we had. First off the characters in this story are Freddie, my cousin who lives in Claiborne County, my sister Rhonda who was visiting from Colorado, and myself. Whenever my sister says lets go on a road trip, I am in! Our similar goals on our trip are 2 fold, experience God’s beautiful outdoors finding old things. The differences between us is that Rhonda is looking for herbs and I hunt dead people! LOL Hang in there, I promise it gets better!
I have had an infatuation with this area for a couple of years. It started as I was researching for information for the book I co-authored with Betty Russell, The 125-History of Underwood Grove Baptist Church. Two of the 4 elders who organized the church were my ancestors. Rev. Henry Burrow Poore was my 3rd great-grandfather and Rev. John Thomas Freeman, Jr was my 4th great-grandfather. This my mother’s heritage and not my Chumley history, but it is so worth sharing.
Both of these men lived and raised their families in…wait for it…you guessed it, Lonesome Valley. In fact there are Freeman and Poore cemeteries in several areas of Lonesome Valley and in the surrounding communities of Combs, Bacchus, Goins, and Blair’s Creek areas. I find the history so interesting and with the help of many of my Chumley family in the area and from our Chumley Research Group members, I found so much information that I just had to visit the area. So, when my sister, Rhonda was onboard with a road trip, I knew the place to go and then I knew the person who could get us there, our cousin Freddie.
Freddie shares my love for our family history and the history of Claiborne County, Tennessee. He is an amazing historian in his own right and we can really come up with interesting theories about both subjects; family and area history. Freddie had taken the Chumley research members on a couple of other road trips in the past and we are never disappointed what we find on these trips.
I had already done some preparation for the trip before I left Virginia. I had created a map of the area with a legend of cemeteries, mills, schools, homesteads based on my research of these families that I did for the Underwood Church book. I had taped the map on a piece of cardboard and mapped out our itinerary, best as I could from the research I had found. I had no idea how accurate it would be, but I figured that Freddie’s knowledge of the area would make up for what errors I may have made on my map.
We turned off the highway between Cumberland Gap and Tazewell and headed West to get to Lonesome Valley Road. Just before our road, we passed the location where Cline’s Shop was located. Of course the building has been long gone, the sign serves to remind us where it once had been.
The deeper we get off the highway, the more narrow the road gets and eventually we are on a one lane, dirt road and I started to feel like the adventure had begun. I had taken the trouble to mark the roads on my map that we would pass along Lonesome Valley Road, giving us a point of reference to places we were looking for. Not far into the ride, we came to Holt Cave Spring and the remains of an old grist mill.
The spring was evident, but it was hard to see the remains of the mill, due to the high overgrowth over the years.
According to my research, this is the area where Mayes Elementary School had been and it was just before where the town of Duo had been. Edgar A Holt wrote Tennessee county history series : Claiborne County in 1981. There were a series of these Tennessee County History books published by Memphis State University Press, but by different authors.
Edgar Holt dedicated his book to the people of Lonesome Valley:
“This book is dedicated to those whom I hold especially dear: ToFull text of “Tennessee county history series : Claiborne County / by Edgar A. Holt ; Joy Bailey Dunn, editor, Charles W. Crawford, associate editor” https://archive.org/stream/tennesseecountyh13holt/tennesseecountyh13holt_djvu.txt
the hard working farmers; operators of grist, flour and carding
mills; doctors, Civil War veterans, teachers, ministers, and merchants
who created a vigorous community in historic Lonesome
Valley, centering at Duo, the post office, and at the general store.
This community was exemplified in the hearts and minds of
its people who combined industry and religious faith with an
insight into themselves and the future furnished by dedicated
teachers in a one-room country school. Nothing seemed
So this tiny town of Duo, long forgotten, even by the locals who live there, was at one time a thriving community. The general store was the hub of the community. This is where you could get your mail, trade what you had for dry goods and clothing, and where town meetings were held. Mr. Holt writes that many incoming settlers had knowledge of grist mills that could be powered with water. Early settlers built their home along the creeks and rivers, which also offered means to transport products to market at little cost. He writes that the talents and hard work of these people helped them to develop an industry, a way of life, to provide for their families and improve their community with religion, schools, and social life. I was so excited to see a group photo in his book, “Good Friends and Leading Citizens.” This photo included a distant cousin of mine, Pleasant H. Poore, Duo Postmater. There were other thriving communities around Lonesome Valley. Combs, Goin, Bacchus, and others, but none of the communities were ever incorporated and eventually outlived their usefulness.
Our next stop was at the lonesome valley train trestle. The impressive structure was first built in 1889 and provided a route connecting Knoxville, Tennessee to Middlesboro, Kentucky. According to an article in The Claiborne Progress, Wednesday, January 21, 1987, the trestle was was constructed of Georgia Pine and had 3 tiers of wooden construction, costing $30,000. This article was written about the trestle collapsing in 1892.
The wreck made news in Indiana, when the Madison Daily Democrat printed an article of the incident on June 16, 1892, the day of the accident.
Lonesome Valley, TN Trestle Collapse, June 1892
Submitted by Stu Beitler
Tennessee | Train Wrecks and Accidents | 1892
THE DEADLY RAILROAD AGAIN GETS IN ITS DEADLY WORK.
Knoxville, Tenn., June 16. — A horrible railroad accident without a parallel in this section, occurred on the Knoxville, Cumberland Gap and Louisville road, forty-five miles north of this place, Tuesday morning at 9 o’clock. At Lonesome Valley, Weird Mountain gorge was spanned by a trestle 300 yards long and 139 feet high. The structure was made of wood and approached each side by heavy grades and sharp curves. Trainmen have been suspicious of the trestle for some time, but it was recently inspected and reported in good condition.
A long and heavy loaded coal train pulled by two engines struck the trestle while running about twenty miles an hour. The timbers gave way and the engines and the cars fell to the narrow rough bottom below. The engines and cars were crushed into a shapeless mass. Engineer, ANDREW ALLISON and Fireman JAMES SHELTON, were instantly killed. Conductor DUCKWORTH, was fatally injured and two brakemen received serious injuries.
Madison Daily Democrat Indiana 1892-06-16
The Tennessee State Library and Archives had photos of the train trestle, including one of the rebuilding of the trestle in 1893.1
This massive structure is so impressive, despite the history of its collapse and it is haunted. Yep, ghostly noises in the night, train whistles and such. We didn’t stay around to prove that theory, but it adds a bit of interest to the story. It was a beautiful day for taking photos of the bridge and we lingered here for a bit, admiring the engineering
Tennessee State Library and Archives, Keyword search: Lonesome valley in Claiborne, County, page 10https://tnsos.org/tsla/imagesearch/index.php?find=-natural%5C%5C%5C%5C%5C%5C%5C%20bridge&page=10
Freddie drove us all the way to the end of Lonesome Valley Road. There were some beautiful scenic views and my sister and Freddie would periodically point toward the side of the road or woods and yell out, “There’s some ginseng.” or “Go back, I some some blood root.” I admire their knowledge of the Tennessee plant life and the healing properties of the various herbs and roots. A long forgotten knowledge of our ancestors, but they care enough to hold on to that knowledge and share for future generations and I think that is admirable. Meantime, I will keep looking for dead people, that’s my thing, and we are all good with that on this trip.
One of the things I most wanted to find was where the Poore homestead was located and find the graves of some of my oldest Poore ancestors. The Powell River was flowing over it’s banks and I kept thinking we were at the end of our journey several times, but Freddie pushed on toward the homestead. My sister took some amazing photos along the way.
We made it to the homestead, where Rev. Henry Burrow Poore and his wife, Lavin Caylor, made their home and raised their 7 children. A beautiful farm it must have been, located on the Powell River.
The 3 of us searched all over the place, trying to figure out where they were buried, but no luck. We were disappointed and feared the worst, that someone might have tossed the headstones in the woods to make room for farming land. However, a couple of days later, I discovered that we had not gone far enough and the cemetery was there, probably just 1 more field away from where we were! (I feel another road trip coming on, who’s with me?)
On the way out of Lonesome Valley we had time for one more stop. We took a turn back where the town of Duo would have been and headed North a couple of miles to visit the Poore Cemetery located at Logan and Shipley Roads. This is where one of Henry’s brothers, Richard Turner Poore’s family are buried. There were a lot of stones that had worn away with the weather and no longer had writing on them, but there were a few that you could read, and I made sure to give them a memorial on Find-A-Grave.com.
What a great day. Despite the very hot and extremely humid weather, we had a great time and experienced some history together. My sister and I did a little more exploring before we headed back to Knoxville to our mother’s house. Freddie was the perfect guide and I couldn’t have been happier with his hospitality.
At the end of the day, I just had to ask my sister, Rhonda, “What was the highlight of the day?” Her answer was finding the herbs. She ask me in turn what the highlight was for me, which I replied, “My map worked!”
Til next time…happy hunting!