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The History of the Cumberland

“The River is beautiful – What a Treasure of a Film”


“This film may very well prove to be the most important article left from the Tennessee Bicentennial”



This historic documentary film written, produced and filmed by Eddie Reasoner with Randy West was over five years in the making and by special arrangement with the Tennessee Governors Office and the State of Tennessee was featured as part of the Tennessee Bicentennial Celebration. The premier was held at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center with over 300 special invited guests in attendance and sponsored by Gaylord Entertainment and Opryland Hotel. It has since then set all time attendance records at Tennessee Technological University, Austin Peay University, Vanderbilt University’s Sarratt Theatre and the Volunteer State College Wemyss Auditorium.


Featured in the two hour, full feature length documentary are historic vignettes of special collections, paintings, archival photographs and rare film footage which pictorially chronicles life throughout the Cumberland River Valley in the States of Tennesse and Kentucky from the earliest of times through present. Legendary figures such as Secretary of State Cordell Hull, Steamboat Captain Tom Ryman, Presidents Andrew Jackson, Andrew Johnson, James K. Polk and John F. Kennedy are featured as well as Sgt. Alvin C. York, World War I hero. A rare interview with Captain Escar Coe is one of the films highlights along with on camera commentaries provided by historians, authors, anthropologists, archeologists and other notable figures such as the late Honorable Senator Albert Gore, Sr. (father of Al Gore).

With the assistance of the Tennessee State Museum, The Tennessee State Library and Archives, Western Kentucky University Special Collections, Vanderbilt University Archives, The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Nashville District Archives, The Burkesville Smith Collections, The Cordell Hull Museum, and the York Family Estate this compilation of over 14,000 years of Cumberland River History evolved and developed into an Award Winning Documentary Film.


For Educators :

“Once Upon a River” – The History of the Cumberland exceeds the current academic program criteria set forth by educational television and multimedia broadcast programmers. This documentary provides the casual viewer as well as interested students, classrooms, and teachers with absolute facts about one of America’s most historic rivers and cultural regions. A powerful economic study of the Cumberland River valley is presented while providing increased environmental awareness and greater appreciation of the resource of the Cumberland River, the Cumberland Valley and its people.