One of the attractions of the Creelsboro Valley for early settlers was the richness of natural resources. Old-growth forests provided timber for constructing homes, barns, stores, and other buildings.
Timber was so abundant that it became the valley's first cash crop. Many rural communities found it difficult to export their timber, but residents in the Creelsboro Valley had an advantage - access to the Cumberland River.
Even before the invention of steamboats that could travel both downriver and upriver, inland waterways provided transportation for people and their goods. Sometimes people used flatboats.
Logs, however, float - so loggers could tie the logs together to make rafts, and then pole them downstream. This was such an economical method that even after steamboats began to ply the rivers, logs were still floated downriver as rafts.
When Mr. Reeder said, "The river gave a lot" in the video Rural Economy, he might have been thinking of a scene just like this - two men on the riverbank with their catch of fish. Whether fishing for recreation or for sustenance, fishing has always been part of life along the Cumberland River.
Life in the Creelsboro Valley was connected to the rhythms of the Cumberland River, which rose and fell dramatically with seasonal rains. During dry periods - a "low" tide - wagons could easily drive across the river at numerous fords. But during wet periods - a "high" tide - crossing the Cumberland required a ferry. Campbells's Ferry at Creelsboro Landing was one of six ferries and landings that operated in the Creelsboro Valley at various times.
Ferries were powered in a variety of ways: human, river current, or animal. Some ferrymen pushed their ferry across the river using long poles, while others pulled their ferry across using overhead lines. Sometimes the current of the river itself provided the propulsion. Horses or mules powered certain ferries. By driving the animals in a circle around a capstan that hauled in ropes, the ferry was towed along its route.
Ferries still operating today are usually powered by diesel or a combination of diesel-electric. They are often tourist attractions as well as a practical way to cross a river without taking a long detour to a bridge. But in the 19th century, ferries were often the only way to cross a river with a vehicle.
Creelsboro Landing was a busy place when the steamboat pulled in to shore. It carried passengers, livestock, and goods downriver and upriver. Different steamboats plied the Cumberland River, each with its own distinctive whistle to alert people that the steamboat had arrived.
The town of Creelsboro was an economic hub with stores and banks as well as pharmacies, schools, and churches. It was the place where people came to buy what they could not produce on their own farms, and it was the place to sell their surplus.