ATNIP: Upper Cumberland of TN (Smith, White, Warren, Cannon, DeKalb)


(Smith, White, Warren, Cannon, DeKalb Cos.)

1810 to Present-Day

Facing west up Raccoon Hollow towards Alfred Atnip house

Narration by D. Mitchell Jones, whose Upper Cumberland roots can be traced for several generations.

Migration Into Tennessee

When Joseph Inebenet/Atnip moved from the Sinking Valley, Buck Creek area of Pulaski County and the Cumberland River area of Kentucky, he moved to the Upper Cumberland area of Tennessee. Other families that migrated with the Atnip family included the Clarks, Dodsons, Hayes, McGinnis and Trapps. These families would remain closely associated for some time.

The Upper Cumberland area where the Inabnit/Atnips lived was in the three counties of Smith, Warren and White. Joseph was in White County by 1812, and lived on Pine Creek in Warren County in 1817-1820. Pine Creek flows through Smithville in DeKalb County, but DeKalb was not established until December 1837. At that time the location for a county seat was selected to be in the center of the county and it was named Smithville.

Early Settlement of Holmes Creek

By 1825, Benjamin Atnip was living on Holmes Creek in Smith Co., TN. This is an area which we normally associate with the early Atnips of DeKalb County. In 1825 the Smith/Warren County line ran through Holmes Creek. Probably by this time, settlers had already been living on Holmes Creek for about 20 years.

Prior to Janaury 1811, James Davis had built a mill on the east side of Holmes Creek. The mill was later owned by Thomas Megginson and the Megginson family owned land on Holmes Creek that was in both Smith and Warren Counties. This mill was probably located at what was known in the 1940's as the Citadel which was located south of the mouth of Atnip Hollow. Benjamin Atnip's land was just south of the Megginson land.

Holmes Creek flows north into the Caney Fork River. The river was the primary transportation route at this time and remained so until the 1940's as this area of Tennessee had very poor roads. Holmes Creek varies in elevation from 550 feet to 1000 feet and is primarily somewhat rocky hill land. This land was better suited for growing crops than was the poor flat woods land around Smithville.

Here we have two views of the home of Alfred Atnip. One was taken in 1974 by Thomas Webb and the other one just recently by D. Mitchell Jones. These pictures give us a very good idea of what the land was like that Benjamin Atnip settled on.

The Alfred Atnip homestead was in Raccoon Hollow - just across from Atnip Hollow on Holmes Creek. Atnip Hollow was on the East side of the Creek and Raccoon Hollow was on the west side. These pictures were made facing North East. The water in both pictures is Center Hill Lake which today covers Holmes Creek.

In 1825, about the only town in what is now DeKalb County was Liberty, but this would have been a difficult journey over steep hills for our ancestors. They would probably have gone down the Caney Fork River to Lancaster in Smith County for supplies, etc.

Daily Life in DeKalb County

By 1940, there was a one lane dirt road on which you could drive an automobile to Smithville. Our ancestors were primarily farmers and living in a remote area like Holmes Creek, everything they consumed was either grown or made by them.

Most of the homes in the area were initially log cabins, but by 1940 the Atnips and their descendants had two story wood frame houses. The house to the left is a picture of the Alfred Atnip home as it appears today. This is the same house that is in the pictures above.

In 1825, to farm, a farmer first had to clear the field of trees and brush. This was done by cutting them and then digging them out with a grubbing hoe. Most plowing was done with oxen.

Alfred Atnip Barn and Wagon (1974)
Courtesy of Thomas Webb

Compare the size of the barn with the size of the house in the pictures above. As you can see, it was quite large. Most days were spent working in the barn, garden or fields doing the various chores which meant survival for the family. Everyone, including the small children, had to do their share.

The women's life was especially hard as she bore children, raised them, cooked all meals over a fireplace, made all the family's clothing and washed them all by hand. The garden, also, needed to be planted, hoed and harvested. Then she had to can the food. Milk and butter had to be taken to the spring to cool. There were no electrical power and indoor plumbing in rural areas until 1950 or later.

Outside news was slow to get to this area until the advent of radio. The radio was a great event and if the family did not have one, then they would go to neighbors to listen, especially to the Grand Ole Opry on Saturday nights.

This lifestyle was still in existence in the area until the late 1940's. In 1948, the waters of Center Hill Lake covered most of the Holmes Creek area and families were forced to move out of the area. However, several just moved into Smithville or one of the surrounding towns.

Today - A County of Many Cousins!

Today, it is almost impossible to go anywhere in DeKalb Co., Tennessee and not find a cousin. Most are related several times over. They are a very friendly group of people who enjoy life and most are quick to tell you about the 'old times' and their family stories which have been handed down for generations. You won't be bored or a stranger for long.

A trip to DeKalb County, Tennessee is very worthwhile. Besides a journey into the past, you can see some very beautiful scenery. Try to picture yourself, wandering through those lush, green rolling Hollows. Imagine being there with the Atnip family through the generations! Now you just might now want to return home!


Hear some old classic Tennessee melodies that we love and treasure! Just click on link and midi below. Imagine yourself back in Tennessee and try to remain in your chair.

1st official state song (no music but - some beautiful words!)
2ND official state song (no music but - some beautiful words!) -adpt in 1935
3rd official state song (no music but - some beautiful words!) - adpt in 1955
Adopted as 4th official state song in 1965
As you listen - imagine yourself dancing away!
ROCKY TOP (Words to song that is playing!)
5th official state song - adopted in 1982
As you listen - try to stay in your chair!
6th official state song - adopted in 1992
As you listen - just imagine yourself in the TN country!
Chattanooga Choo-Choo
Click on melody and imagine you're on that train to TN!!!


Internet Sites - Personal Homepages (Middle TN Families)

Though not Atnip descendants, or researching all of one surname mentioned on our main In Aebnit page, we really believe that you will find these sites enjoyable and informative. We long ago discovered - if you are related to one family in this area of Tennessee, you are related to several!
  1. Trisha Carden's Homepage - Jones, Isbell, Barnes, Parsley, Prettyman

Books and References

  1. Arnow, Harriette Simpson, "Seedtime on the Cumberland," 1983, University of Kentucky Press & "Flowering of the Cumberland," 1984, University of Kentucky Press.
  2. UCGA, Vol. XII, #4 , 1994
  3. Record Group - 50 Early Tennessee Land Records (Roll 9 Entry Bk. H p 516)
  4. 1820 Census Warren Co., TN.
  5. Record Group - 50 Early Tennessee Land Records (Survey Book G, p. 272)
  6. Ibid. (Book. G, pp. 261, 285 & 301)
  7. Montell, William Lynwood, "Upper Cumberland Country", University Press of Mississippi,Jackson, 1993.
  8. Keith, Jeanette, "Country People in the New South of Tennessee's Upper Cumberland", The University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill & London, 1995. (Excellent on women in area.)
  9. Dickinson, Calvin, Editor, "Lend An Ear - Heritage of the Tennessee Cumberland", University Press of America, Lanham, MA, 1983. 10. Webb, Thomas Gray, "A Bicentennial History of DeKalb County, Tennessee, Bradley Printing Co, Smithville, TN,1995
  10. Baily, Bernard "Voyagers to the West - A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution".
  11. Baily, Bernard, "The Peopling of British North American - An Introduction"
  12. Meinig, D.W., "The Shaping of America" A Geographical Perspective on 500 years of History Vol 1, Atlantic America, 1492-1800

Internet Sites - General Tennessee

  1. Smith Co., TN - organized Oct. 26, 1799 from Sumner Co., TN (Smith was a vast county that underwent several boundary changes until being reduced to its present size in 1870.) The county seat of Smith is Carthage. To subscribe to the Smith Co., TN Mailing List, click here.

  2. White Co., TN - created Sept. 6, 1806 from Smith, Overton and Jackson Cos. The coutny seat of White Co. is Sparta. To subscribe to the White Co., TN Mailing List, click here.

  3. Warren Co., TN - created in 1807 in White Co., TN. Warren Co., TN at one time was a vast county. The county seat is McMinnville. To subscribe to the Old Warren Co., TN (Cannon, Coffee, DeKalb, Grundy, Van Buren, Warren, White) Mailing List, click here.

  4. Cannon Co., TN - created January 31, 1836 from parts of Rutherford, Smith and Warren Cos. Another excellent Cannon Co., TN site is the Cannon Co., TN Genealogy Project. The county seat is Woodbury. To subscribe to the Cannon Co., TN Mailing List, click here.

  5. DeKalb Co., TN - created Dec. 2, 1837 from portions of Smith, Warren, White and Cannon Cos. The county seat is Smithville. Information for subscription to the DeKalb Co., TN Mailing List is on the main page.

  6. TN GenWeb Project - Entry Page for ALL of TN counties! This is a MUST PAGE for anyone researching any TN county!

  7. TN Visitor Centre - GenConnect Boards - Click on County Researching!


Ann (Jobe) Brown
P.O. Box 475, 15B Orford
Copper Cliff, ON CANADA
P0M 1N0

[email protected]

Special Thanks

Thomas G. Webb (Historian of DeKalb Co, TN) and D. Mitchell Jones
Permission to Use Pictures