Rebecca Morse

Publication Date


Advisor(s) - Committee Chair

Lynwood Montell, Camilla Collins, Ann Sharp


Original department Folk & Intercultural Studies.

Degree Program

Department of Folk Studies and Anthropology

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Tinsley Bottom lies adjacent to the Cumberland River in Jackson and Clay Counties in north central Tennessee. The rich rolling bottomland totaling approximately two thousand acres on the south bank of the Cumberland River lured several families to purchase land and take residence there in the late 1700s and early 1800s.

The history of Tinsley Bottom is not found in written records or annals of Tennessee history. No person of reknown sprang from the cultural context of this community. Yet tales are told of how Daniel Boone hunted in the Bottom and slept in a cave overlooking the River, and legend has it that Abraham Lincoln's relatives are buried in one of the four cemeteries in the Bottom. Through collection and analysis of historical narratives such as the ones mentioned, a human history emerged. Combined with personal experience narratives supplied by individuals closely associated with life in the Bottom, an oral history developed which provides an interpretative reconstruction of significant historical items at the grass roots level.

This thesis is based primarily upon the historical and personal experience narratives of persons residing in or formerly associated with Tinsley Bottom. These oral narratives were recorded on cassette tapes and the interviews transcribed and edited. Corroborative materials, such as letters, memoirs, local histories, state and county records and census reports substantiate and supplement oral testimony.

Chapter One of the thesis describes the theoretical and methodological bases of the study. It includes an explanation of the narrative forms embodied in the thesis. Chapter Two portrays the modern culture landscape of the Bottom with reference to geographical topography, vestiges of buildings, and important landmarks including cemeteries. Chapter Three concerns the early history of the Bottom, its initial settlement, occupational bases of the community, and the impact of the Civil War. Chapter Four traces the history of the social institutions of the community. Chapter Five concerns the reasons for the demise of the community and the interpretive and theoretical considerations which are paramount in viewing an historical reconstruction based upon oral accounts.


Anthropology | Arts and Humanities | Folklore | History | Oral History | Social and Behavioral Sciences | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Social History