Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of English

Degree Type

Master of Arts


Cumberland County, Kentucky, is situated on the Tennessee line just at the western edge of the Appalachian Mountains. The county's terrain is typical of land in the foothills of a mountain range and varies from flat farmland and good bottomland along the Cumberland River to steep, wooded hillsides and rough, rocky ridge tops. Areas often take part of their names from outstanding topographic features of the land. Community names such as White's Bottom, Howard's Bottom, Cherry Tree Ridge and Bow Schoolhouse Ridge are common in Cumberland County. On Pea Ridge, which runs along the north shore of Dale Hollow Lake, is the small community of Peytonsburg. To the casual observer, Peytonsburg would probably appear similar to other small communities scattered upon the countryside, but a closer examination of the area's culture will show that the people of Peytonsburg still cling to a lifestyle that disappeared in most of the United States more than half a century ago. A farmer who uses only mules as a source of power splits fence rails from hickory logs; two women still spin wool on their spinning wheels, and most of the women in the area make patchwork quilts, one man makes his living by such traditional activities as digging ginseng and sassafras roots and hunting and trapping; a traditional chairmaker and several broommakers still practice their crafts, a farm wife makes butter by hand in an old crock churn with a wooden dasher; and one family operates a sorghum mill to make molasses for community members each fall. A community in which people still retain this many elements of traditional lifestyles is unique, indeed. But even more remarkable is the fact that they all live on a one-mile strip of Pea Ridge, starting just above the Peytonsburg Post Office and extending to the backwaters of the lake. (Appendix one on page sixty-nine contains a map of this section of Pea Ridge.) The purpose of this study is to document the unusually rich folk culture of this small community and to discuss the reasons for the tenacity with which the folk cling to their traditional way of life.


Folklore | History | United States History