CUMBERLAND MOUNTAINS (or more correctly the Cumberland Plateau or Highlands), the westernmost of the three great divisions of the Appalachian uplift in the United States, composed of many small ranges of mountains (of which Cumberland Mountain in eastern Kentucky is one). It extends from Pennsylvania to Alabama, attaining its greatest height (about 4000 ft.) in Virginia. The plateau is rich in a variety of mineral products, of which special mention may be made of coal, which occurs in many places, and of the beautiful marbles quarried in that portion of the plateau which lies between Virginia and Kentucky and crosses Tennessee. The plateau has an abrupt descent, almost an escarpment, into the great Appalachian Valley on its E., while the W. slope is deeply and roughly broken. The whole mass is eroded in Virginia into a maze of ridges. Cumberland Mountain parts the waters of the Cumberland and Tennessee rivers. This range and the other ranges about it are perhaps the loveliest portion of the whole plateau. The peaks here and in the Blue Ridge to the E. are the highest of the Appalachian system. Forest-filled valleys, rounded hills and rugged gorges afford in every part scenery of surpassing beauty. The Cumberland Valley between the Cumberland range and the Pine range is one of special fame. In the former range there are immense caverns and subterranean streams. Cumberland Gap, crossing the ridge at about 167 ft. above the sea, where Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee meet, is a gorge about 500 ft. deep, with steep sides that barely give room in places for a roadway. The mountains, river and gap were all discovered by a party of Virginians in 1748, and named in honour of the victor of Culloden, William, duke of Cumberland. Afterwards the gap gained a place in American history as one of the main pathways by which emigrants crossed the mountains to Kentucky and Tennessee. During the Civil War it was a position of great strategic importance, as it afforded an entrance to eastern and central Tennessee from Kentucky, which was held by the Union arms; and it was repeatedly occupied in alternation by the opposing forces.
The mountaineers of Kentucky and Tennessee are a strange stock, who retain in their customs and habits the primitive conditions of a life that has elsewhere long since disappeared. They have been pictured in the novels of Miss Murfree and John Fox, Junr. They are a tall, straight, angular folk, of fine physical development; the volunteers for the Union army from Kentucky and Tennessee during the Civil War most of whom came from the non-slave-holding mountain region exceeded in physical development the volunteers from all other states. For the education of these mountaineers Major-General Oliver Otis Howard founded in 1895 at Cumberland Gap, Tennessee, the Lincoln Memorial University (co-educational; non-sectarian; opened in 1897), which has collegiate, normal training. and industrial courses, and an affiliated school of medicine, Tennessee Medical College, at Knoxville. The university had in 1907-1908 14 instructors and 570 students. Berea College in Kentucky was a pioneer institution for the education of mountaineers.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)