Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2018 - 59

Paling and split rail fences wander through the Hensley Settlement, where 300 acres were cleared by hand for crops and grazing.

"Duke of Cumberland" became a
millionaire, and began building The
Magic City.
What they couldn't have predicted, of course, was the downturn in
the English economy and America's
Panic of 1893. Arthur went bankrupt, and Middlesboro was, historian Robert Kincaid wrote, "left a raw,
ghastly, unfinished wreck."
More than a century later, the
Middlesboro area is on the upswing.
Bell County Director of Tourism
Jon Grace, who took his turn in the
coalmines, is young and smart and
oversees big plans for the Middlesboro area.
"The catalyst here was the coal
industry declining-it woke us up
to the fact that we needed to diversify the economy."
Grace says the area appeals to
two demographics: outdoors folks
and history buffs.
"We have 85 miles of trails up
there in the Cumberland Gap Na-

"What you see
atop the mountain
is the real thing.
Nineteenthcentury log cabins
chinked with mud,
manure and hay."

visitors a year, drawn by relocated
wildlife, hiking trails, a museum of
natural and regional history, a crafts
center and restaurant.
For history lovers, the Bell
County Historical Society Museum
(housed in a Carnegie library) is
a major draw, detailing the nineteenth-century boom-to-bust story
of Middlesboro. At nearby Lincoln
Memorial University, visitors will
find what is arguably the largest collection of Lincoln memorabilia in
the country.
All to the good. But for my money, there's one thing that every history-loving visitor to the Cumberland Gap area needs to experience: a
trip up Brush mountain to the Hensley Settlement.

In 2019 a $24 million Appalachian Wildlife Center will open near
the Harlan County line on reclaimed
mountaintop-removal mining land.
Grace says they anticipate 600,000

NPS ranger Brittony Beason loads us
on her van and starts up the mountain from the Kentucky side. Those
prone to carsickness get to sit in
front. We traverse Washboard Hill.

tional Park, and the kayaking on
the Powell and Cumberland Rivers is unparalleled.
Bell County
has 80,000 acres of public hunting
land, and two of the best fly fishing
streams in Kentucky."

January/February 2018 59



Blue Ridge Country - January/February 2018

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