Home » Tennessee » Crossville

James W. Loewen (1942-2021)

We mourn the loss of our friend and colleague and remain committed to the work he began.



Basic Information

Type of Place
Independent City or Town
Metro Area
Politics c. 1860?
Don’t Know
Unions, Organized Labor?
Don’t Know

Sundown Town Status

Confirmed Sundown Town?
Was there an ordinance?
Don't Know
Don’t Know
Year of Greatest Interest
Still Sundown?

Census Information

The available census data from 1860 to the present
Total White Black Asian Native Hispanic Other BHshld
1930 1128 0
1950 2291 0
1960 4668 0
1990 6930 2

Method of Exclusion

  • Unknown

Main Ethnic Group(s)

  • Unknown

Group(s) Excluded

  • Black


A local resident testifies:
“Apparently the few black residents of the town left shortly after the turn of the century. When I came to Cookeville in 1988, one of the first things that I was told was to not go to Crossville by myself. Of course today there are some African Americans in nearby Fairfield Glades (a retirement community) and I occasionally go to Crossville for meetings. While there were blacks in Crossville in the late 19th century, these lived in a small black segment on the outskirts of the community called Tatetown. In the early 20th century, the blacks there would leave for adjoining communities with black populations. I have found no evidence of threats, etc. that caused them to leave. But something may have happened.”

“Tate Town, on Old Jamestown Road, was Cumberland County’s black settlement.” This is twelve miles north of Crossville. They had a school, with no help from the county. “A white woman, Sally Dixon, was empmloyed by the blacks to teach the children in the homes. In a few years there were enough children to make a county school, and the county hired a black teacher from Harriman.” The settlers built a log house which served the prupose of both school and church.” A graveyard and several monuments still stand.
“About 1900 most of the blacks moved to Harriman [30 miles east]. In moving they camped one night between Crab Orchard and Rockwood [halfway]. One of the young Negroes froze to death, some of the others had their fingers, toes, and ears frozen off.”
[Barbara Parsons, A Tapestry of Cumberland County (Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill, 1996), 128.]

Consider the departure of African Americans from Cumberland County, Tennessee, around 1900. The census lists some 572 African Americans in the county in 1900, 80% male, and just 91 in 1910, still mostly male. By 1920 only 25 blacks remained, and by 1960 just two. The only written account I have found of the initial departure is in a 1996 county history by Barbara Parsons:

About 1900 most of the blacks moved to Harriman [30 miles east]. In moving they camped one night between Crab Orchard and Rockwood [halfway]. One of the young Negroes froze to death, some of the others had their fingers, toes, and ears frozen off.

This mystifying account raises at least four questions. First, why would “most of the blacks” leave at once? Families usually make individual decisions about where to live, when to move, and what to do with their property. No one leaves en masse unless forced. Second, why would they all then go to the same place? Third, why would they “camp out” instead of going by train? Finally, why leave on what had to have been the coldest day of the decade, since Tennessee does not often get frigid enough to kill “campers?” Surely this was a forced exit. Residents agreed the story has its gaps but seemed genuinely unable to fill them in.

From Helen Bullard and Joseph Marshall Krechniak, Cumberland County’s First Hundred Years (Crossville, TN: Centennial Committee, 1956), 106 and 145:
In 1860, 3382 total population including 18 blacks. Confederate guerillas attacked Northerners in the county. Split between Republicans and Democrats in 1872-84.
This book is the source for the first half of the Barbara Parsons account above. Then: “After 1900 most of them went to Harriman, but three or four families stayed in Crossville.” “This small group moved to Harriman about 1912.”

A black man was lynched at the courthouse square in Crossville. The tree is still there from which he was hung. [May be origin myth, like Fouke, AR.]
Four blacks were hung on a separate occasion near Pleasant Hill, c. 1920.
I took photo of statue of Jemima figure at local restaurant. Statues of whites at the restaurant are basically representational and humane.
The reference librarian warned me twice to be careful whom I talked with, and she wasn’t kidding. She remembers in the 1980s (perhaps persevering later, even to the present) when teenage boys bumped blacks in vehicles and yelled “nigger” at them.