At the northern edge of Claiborne County — where Tennessee, Kentucky and Virginia all meet — is a low point in the mountains known as the Cumberland Gap. You might not even notice it today, but it is one of the most important places in American history.
Today there is a national park here for people to visit, explore nature and learn about the gap. Click here for a remarkable Tennessee History for Kids style tour of it.
Since Abraham Lincoln was not popular in Tennessee during his lifetime, you wouldn’t expect to find a university and museum honoring Lincoln in Tennessee. But there is one in Claiborne County.
Here’s the story behind it: During the Civil War, Lincoln was conferring with a Union General named Oliver Otis Howard about the people of this part of East Tennessee (who were loyal to the Union but had endured many hardships during the war).
The president reportedly said: “General, if you come out of this horror and misery alive, and I pray to God that you may, I want you to do something for those mountain people who have been shut out of the world for years. I know them.” (Lincoln was born in Kentucky and his grandfather was from Jackson County, Tennessee.)
In the 1890s, the Reverend A. A. Myers, a missionary doing work in the Cumberland Gap area, approached General Howard about starting a college in the Cumberland Gap area on the site of a bankrupt resort. Remembering his talk with Lincoln, Howard raised most of the money to start the school. Today there is a museum of Lincoln artifacts at Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate for you to come see.
In 2013, Tennessee History for Kids produced 10,000 copies of a poster featuring some of the state’s most endangered historic buildings.
The Graham-Kivette House in Tazewell, built in 1810, made the poster.
In 2018, we are happy to report that there is an effort to purchase and restore this beautiful house! Stay tuned for more.
Here is the Claiborne County Courthouse.