The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.

AUGUST  2003

                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.

The People News
Special Report






The Primitive Settlement

A taste of the past.

by Alexandra Edwards

Being nestled among some of natures finest scenic landscapes of lush green forests, rolling hills, mountains, waterfalls, rivers and streams, it is understandable why Bradley County, Tennessee became home to many early American settlers.

Some families that were born and raised in this area have kin that go back several generations. Tracing a family's history can be as simple as doing a genealogy search at the Cleveland Library. Discovering the names of distant relatives and knowing exactly where they lived can be intriguing, but imagine being able to actually visit the home of  an ancestor to get a glimpse of how they lived.

For anyone interested in the history of Bradley County and how 19th century

Alexandra Edwards

locals lived "The Primitive Settlement," located at 693 Kinsner Road, just off  Hwy 64 in Cleveland is a must place to visit. The site contains several original log cabins and small buildings dated from around the 1850's. Displayed authentically on  10  natural and rustically wooded acres, the character of nineteenth century life has been captured. All but one of the cabins being preserved at the site were originally erected in the Bradley County area.

The Primitive Settlement was founded in the 1960's by Lanelle and Horace Thompson who previously owned  Thompson's Hardware at Five Points in Cleveland and since that time has been one of  Bradley County's major tourist attractions. Over the years the settlement has attracted hundreds of visitors from around the world but still retains that "just discovered" atmosphere.  For an  entrance fee of $5 adults, $2.50 for children 6-12, visitors are free to wander the grounds and enter the cabins, though a guided tour is available if requested.

The Thompson's purchased the individual cabins during the

1960's when many old log homes were being destroyed to make way for development.  They had them carefully dismantled and each piece numbered so they could be reconstructed on the settlement site without damage. Over the years, antiques and household items from the period were collected to furnish the cabins which  represent

several  different styles of primitive living.

Each cabin bears the name of it's original owner. They include the family names of Tanner, Kinsner, York, and McKenzie. The York building, once stood on Chestuee Road, just a few miles from its present location. Most of the structures are two storey buildings with fully furnished bedrooms.

Entering one of the cabins is like taking a step back in time to witness a way of living long past. Unlike most museums that depict life in the 1800's, the Primitive Settlement has a "just lived in" look that is extremely authentic. The fireplaces look as though they were just used, with bits of wood left scattered on the hearth. There is dinnerware laid

out on the table as if ready for a meal, a book placed casually on a side table, drawers and cupboard doors left slightly ajar, a garment or two hanging on a hanger or an old hat on a shelf.  The display of the old homes does not appear contrived with the musty smells of

dampness and burned wood adding a feeling of authenticity. In fact, it is almost like viewing somebody's home while the owners have just stepped out for a while.

Mrs. Thompson said that some people return many times to visit the actual home of their early ancestors and that the most revisited of all was the McKenzie building where two other families, the Carruth's and  Standridge's had also lived. "Fourteen boys and three girls were raised in that home," she said, which was originally constructed in Turtletown,Tennessee."
Also on the site is a blacksmith's barn filled with period equipment and woodworking tools, a small railroad building with narrow verandah, and the old

Post Office from Ocoee, Tennessee.

Grounds keeper,  Dennis Burgner who is kept busy maintaining the property was tending to some dazzling red Cana lilies and giant Hibiscus that surround the entrance to the settlement. He said "Mrs. Thompson likes to have an array of pretty flowers planted year

round and is very proud of them." Burgner, who stands in as a tour guide said that due to the rainy summer this year, they had not been quite as busy as usual, which has given him more time to tend to the grounds.

The Primitive Settlement is not only the site of historic cabins, in 1976 a large new log building was added as an entertainment and dance hall. Being keen square dancers, the Thompson's wanted to provide somewhere for local families to dance and enjoy some good wholesome entertainment. "The Primitive Settlement Hall" had a stage, snack bar and lots of room to dance and was popular on Friday and Saturday nights with people coming from as far as Calhoun and Dalton. Local entertainers provided the music and even

clog dancing classes were offered to those who wished to learn.

The dance hall is now closed and the building used as reception and antique store... but the memories of times past live on.

The Primitive Settlement is open through October from  9am - 4pm but it is recommended that you call first as the exhibit is closed on rainy days.

If you want to taste the way of life of the people who made this country, your history and your heritage, a visit to see these authentic log cabins and buildings, who's past is still contained in them  is well worth the trip.

For more details call (423) 476-5096