We headed home on Thursday from Knoxville. But first we made a stop-over in Overton County in the Cumberland Mountains near the Kentucky boarder where my husband’s grandparents grew up.
We got our son David all excited about the trip before leaving by telling him we were going to see mountains. He was disappointed in both the Smokies and Cumberlands.
“Why do all the mountains have trees on them? Why aren’t they big?”
The only mountains David had ever seen before our trip were rocky, snow covered peaks and cliffs on TV. I guess he was expecting Mount Everest.
Our first stop in Overton was Cub Mountain Cemetery where a lot of relatives are buried. We were hoping to find answers to some questions that came up during genealogy research. Dave’s grandma grew up on the top of Cub mountain, and his grandfather at the bottom. But they didn’t meet until after they both moved to Michigan.
Driving up one side and down the other of the mountain it was easy to see why his grandparents never met. The modern, paved road is winding and treacherous. There are no guard rails and places where you’re an inch or two away from falling off the side into a gorge. The forest is so thick it would swallow your car, and no one would ever find you. There is one curve that is so tight you can barely turn the steering wheel far enough to make it around it. I imagine before there were paved roads you didn’t go up and down the mountain unless you had to.
We left Cub Mountain and drove into the town of Livingston to find something to eat. It’s a nice town with a pretty square lined with antique shops that surround the historic courthouse. The camera batteries died just when we arrived at Livingston, so I don’t have my own photos of the town center.
In our search for batteries we wondered into the The Livingston Department Store which turned out to be a ritzy clothing boutique. They didn’t have any batteries, but we got to chat with the store keeper, one of the many friendly people we met in Livingston. As soon as she heard our flat northern accent she asked what brought us there. We explained about Dave’s relatives and Cub Mountain, and she told us, “It’s changed a lot up there. A lot of people have moved in.”
In not so many words she’d answered the questions we’d had when we saw the freshly paved road, once washed out, and the large, new homes that looked out of place in the back country.
Livingston had it’s share of fast food chains, but we wanted to find a local restaurant. We were hoping for some real southern home cooking. We ended up at The Parkway. Lots of local color and really good Lemon Ice Box pie.
We should have headed home after that, but we couldn’t resist stopping at the Overton Historical Society Museum. That was the highlight of our day in Livingston. We were greeted there by Syrine, such a warm, cheerful woman, you couldn’t help but love her immediately. We explained who we were, and she said, “Well, I think there’s someone here you’re related too.”
Syrine lead us to another room and low and behold there was a man there who was Dave’s cousin! Third or fourth, not exactly sure. But definitely a relative. And talking more to Syrine we determined she and Dave were likely related by marriage somewhere on the family tree.
I think the county’s motto should be, “Overton — We all cousins here!” I don’t mean that to be disparaging. It’s just a fact that the acorn doesn’t fall that far from the tree around there. Look, my mother hails from a place in Indiana where I’m related to 95 percent of residents, so I can’t throw stones in glass houses.
It was really interesting to hear their stories about Cub Mountain and Overton County. I wish I had recorded them on video. Syrine was hilarious, and I could have listened her all day, but we had to get home. We finally got back on the road headed north.
We were busy taking in the sites or chatting, and missed the main road that would have taken us to I-65. We ended up taking the scenic route most of the way through Kentucky on 61 through small towns and past tobacco barns filled with the summer crop still drying.
We did eventually find 65 at Elizabeth town, and the hills started to flatten out as we crossed the Indiana line. The mountains and hills are beautiful, but it was kind of nice to see flat, wide open spaces again. We arrived at our home in Michigan around midnight.
It was a really quick trip, but so fun. And I’m so glad we made that stop in Overton. Hopefully we can go back there soon, and hopefully Syrine will be there to greet us again.