The Cumberland Homesteads, located on the Cumberland Plateau near Crossville, Tennessee, was a 1930s-era homesteading project started by FDR as part of his New Deal. About 250 families were relocated to the project, where they used sweat-equity to build homes for themselves. The hope was that the people would thrive on their own small farms, leaving poverty behind.

Though the Cumberland Homesteads was the most successful of 100 similar communities established around the country, it was short-lived since it was never became self-supporting. Neither the community store nor cannery survived due to lack of experienced managers; other industry never relocated to the area. By 1945, the federal government ceased being involved in the project and those homesteaders who were able, purchased their homes.

George and I discovered this bit of history several years ago and enjoyed exploring the Homesteads Tower Museum, where we read numerous original newspaper clippings, letters and notices from the ’30s and ’40s. We learned of conflicts the homesteaders had amongst themselves because some were not doing their fair share of the work required to make the community successful. Those complaining were all for getting rid of the drones who lived off the efforts of others.

George and I have laughed about this characterization in the years since our first tour of the museum, so on a recent visit, I made a beeline to the display where I had read about the drones.

And found not a single mention of them.


There was documented conflict all right, but it was between the homesteaders and the federal government over management of the project. Not a word about conflict between the homesteaders themselves.

Obviously, the displays had been changed in the ten or so years since we first visited, but I found it odd that the woman working there knew nothing about homesteader conflicts or references to drones. She did say that her grandparents were some of the original homesteaders and that the house they built was still in use by members of her family.

Perhaps the descendants don’t want any possibility of their ancestors being perceived as drones, which may explain why the museum’s exhibits have been changed by those descendants. I doubt any of the suspect drones had earned the means to purchase their homes, so maybe I would be more on point to consider the political climate. George W. Bush was president during our first visit; Barack Obama was president during our second. In some administrations, it’s not acceptable to call a spade a spade, even if that’s exactly what it is.

So important to be politically correct.

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *