“Creelsboro and the Cumberland: A Living History” chronicles the history and culture of a rural valley along the Cumberland River in Russell County, Kentucky. The one-hour documentary follows Janie-Rice Brother, Architectural Historian, Kentucky Archaeological Survey, as she gathers archaeological data, historical records and photographs, and oral histories about the area from its earliest settlement to the completion of the Wolf Creek Dam in 1951. The program combines interviews of residents with archival images, landscapes, aerial video, architectural surveys and original artwork for a compelling look at the history of the Creelsboro area, and its intimate connection to the Cumberland River.
“Creelsboro and the Cumberland: A Living History” is the seventh episode in The Kentucky Archaeology & Heritage Series, which is produced by Voyageur for the Kentucky Archaeological Survey and The Kentucky Heritage Council. Kentucky Educational Television distributes this series to viewers, teachers and students across the Commonwealth.
Creelsboro Rural Historic District
This educational media project is part of a mitigation plan to preserve the history of the Creelsboro Rural Historic District (see map), which may be impacted by the construction of a new road and bridge due to the proposed closure of U.S. Route 127 that now runs across the top of Wolf Creek Dam. The Creelsboro Rural Historic District contains a series of fertile bottomlands and ridges along the Cumberland River from Wolf Creek Dam to Rockhouse Natural Bridge in Russell County, Kentucky.
The project examines the history of this section of the Cumberland River from its Euro-American settlement to the mid 1900s, including the crucial role of steamboats and ferries, which connected families to markets, schools and churches. We will also document the rise of Creelsboro, an oil boom in the 1920s, and the “living” memories of residents about life in this unique, rural community, which relied on the Cumberland River for travel, commerce and communications until gravel roads were built in the late 1940s. Photo: Steamboat Rowena on the Cumberland River (date unknown). Courtesy, Porter Family Collection.
“Creelsboro and The Cumberland” features four, integrated components: A) a one-hour public television documentary, B) a series of oral history interviews, C) two original artist’s renderings, and, D) a companion website for the distribution of educational materials.
The project’s research and development phase began in the September, 2015. Janie-Rice Brother, Senior Architectural Historian, Kentucky Archaeological Survey, is serving as the principal scholar. Ms. Brother (a farmer’s daughter) has over fifteen years of experience researching and writing about architecture, culture and communities in Kentucky.
“We have heard from numerous residents whose insights are helping to shape our approach” says Janie-Rice Brother, adding, “Residents have told me to focus on the deep relationship of the people living in the valley to the Cumberland River, and to feature the voices of local residents so that they may tell their own story.”
Oral Histories/Family Photographs
The production team is conducting oral history interviews as the foundation for this educational media project. “Our goal is to document their first-hand accounts about daily life in this remarkable community,” says Project Director, Tom Law. Participants – some whose families have lived in the valley for five generations – are also providing family photographs to help illustrate the story. The families, who retain full copyright to their photographs, are generously allowing us to present these incredible images for educational purposes. “There are relatively few historical images of the valley in public or academic archives,” says Law. “So, each family photograph is a precious gift to future generations.” Photo: Robert Porter, one of seven oral history interviews conducted in October of 2015.
Artist Susan Walton has been commissioned to create two original artist’s renderings to illustrate key facets of life in the valley. Creelsboro Landing, 1890s will show the importance of the Cumberland River for travel, commerce and communications. Irvin Store, 1920s presents Creelsboro during its population peak when the community gathered together on a Saturday evening. Photo: Irvin Store, 1985. Courtesy, Reeder Family Collection.
High Definition Videography
Voyageur is also capturing the beauty of the valley in High Definition video, including aerials and seasonal landscapes. Enjoy some previews.
Creelsoro Aerial Preview
The only way to truly see the rugged geography of the Creelsboro valley is from the air. On October 13, 2015, Voyageur and Michael Benedic, LuSee Media, captured breathtaking views of the Cumberland River valley using a professional drone.
Production Preview: Fishing
On October 30, 2015, Voyageur videotaped James Fugate, Pirates of the Cumberland Guide Service, to show a key aspect of the valley’s contemporary economy: world-class trout fishing.
This educational media project is made possible with the generous support of the Federal Highway Administration, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, Kentucky Archaeological Survey, Kentucky Heritage Council and Voyageur Media Group, Inc.