Hensley Settlement (Kentucky)

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Hensley Settlement
Brush Mountain School House NPS.jpg
Brush Mountain School House
Hensley Settlement
Hensley Settlement, Kentucky is located in Kentucky
Hensley Settlement, Kentucky
Hensley Settlement, Kentucky
Hensley Settlement, Kentucky is located in the US
Hensley Settlement, Kentucky
Hensley Settlement, Kentucky
Location Bell County, Kentucky
Coordinates 36°40′10″N 83°31′42″W / 36.66944°N 83.52833°W / 36.66944; -83.52833Coordinates: 36°40′10″N 83°31′42″W / 36.66944°N 83.52833°W / 36.66944; -83.52833
NRHP reference # 80000367[1]
Added to NRHP January 8, 1980

Hensley Settlement is an Appalachian living history museum on Brush Mountain, Bell County, Kentucky in the United States. The settlement is part of the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park. It is located approximately 10 miles (16 km) north of the park visitor center on Ridge Trail, and contains twelve homestead log cabins, a one-room school house, and a blacksmith shop. A restored spring house on the property was used by the settlement as food storage. The settlement was established by in-laws Sherman Hensley and Willy Gibbons, and most inhabitants belonged to either the Hensley or Gibbons family. The last resident was Sherman Hensley, who left in 1951. The school and some forty-five settlement structures and the agriculture environment were restored to their original state in the 1960s by the Job Corps.


The settlement dates back to 1845 when Governor William Owsley deeded 500 acres (2.0 km2; 0.78 sq mi) on top of Brush Mountain in the Appalachian Mountains. Brothers C. and R.M. Bales, who received the land from Owsley, leased the acreage to John Nichols and Jim Nelson, who mostly used the property for livestock. They cleared the property and made some improvements, including the construction of shake-roofed chestnut log cabins.[2]


In 1903, Barton Hensley Sr. purchased the entire acreage and divided it up into sixteen individual properties for his extended family. Hog farmer Sherman Hensley and his wife Nicey Ann, Barton Sr.'s daughter, moved into an existing lob cabin on her allotted twenty-one acres. The couple purchased an additional thirty-three acres. The following year, Nicey's niece Nancy and her husband Willy Gibbons also moved to the self-sustaining settlement. Most of the inhabitants of the settlement were either named Hensley or Gibbons.[3] The settlement never had electricity, indoor plumbing, modern roads or other conveniences.[4] Everything was grown, raised and hand-made in the settlement. Transportation was either walking or a horse ride.[5] A spring house was used for food storage.[2]

School house[edit]

In 1908, Bell County provided a teacher for the newly erected one-room school house. Originally the school house was little more than a lean-to, erected so the Bell County Superintendent of Schools would agree to send a teacher for the settlement children. The school taught students up through the 8th grade. By the time the school closed in 1947, four different structures had served as the Brush Mountain school. The final structure was a log cabin that was heated by a wood and coal stove made of cast iron and located in the middle of the room. The school had no indoor plumbing or electricity. The student desks were made of wood and cast iron.[6]

Later years[edit]

The population peaked at about 100 in 1925. During World War II residents moved away to either join the military or to work in the coal mines. Nicey Ann died in 1937.[7] The population dwindled until 1949 when Sherman Hensley was the only resident. When Hensley finally abandoned the property in 1951, the settlement fell into disrepair.[8] Hensley died in 1979 and is buried beside Nicey Ann at the settlement cemetery, among thirty-six other graves.[9][10]


The settlement was dedicated as part of the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park on July 4, 1959. The National Park Service and the Job Corps began making improvements in 1965,[11] restoring some forty-five settlement structures and agriculture environment to its original state.[3]

The National Park Service runs the Appalachian[4] Hensley Settlement as a living history museum[2][12] and conducts tours of its forty-five settlement structures and agriculture environment May through October.[13][14]


  1. ^ National Park Service (2010-07-09). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  2. ^ a b c Kleber, John E (1992). The Kentucky Encyclopedia. The University Press of Kentucky. p. 426. ISBN 978-0-8131-1772-0. 
  3. ^ a b Shattuck, Tom N (2005). The Cumberland Gap Area Guidebook. p. 35. 
  4. ^ a b "Visit Hensley". Harlan Tourist and Convention Commission. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 
  5. ^ Kaiser, Harvey H (2008). The National Park Architecture Sourcebook. Princeton Architectural Press. p. 358. ISBN 978-1-56898-742-2. 
  6. ^ "Hensley Settlement-Time Turned Backwards". The Blue Ridge Country. 16 February 2009. Archived from the original on 23 July 2011. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 
  7. ^ Nicey Ann Hensley at Find a Grave
  8. ^ Moore, Harry L (1994). Geologic Trip Across Tennessee: Interstate 40. Univ Tennessee Press. p. 198. ISBN 978-0-87049-832-9. 
  9. ^ Sherman Hensley at Find a Grave
  10. ^ "Hensley Cemetery-Cubage Ky". Find A Grave. Retrieved 24 March 2011. 
  11. ^ Eddy, Pam. "Protecting the Pioneer Spirit at Hensley Settlement". Middlesboro Daily News. Retrieved 31 March 2011. 
  12. ^ "On The Road". KET-TV. Retrieved 31 March 2011. 
  13. ^ "Folder 9 Living History at Hensley Settlement 1968". NHPS Hensley Settlement Collection. Lincoln Memorial University. Archived from the original on 18 April 2011. Retrieved 31 March 2011. 
  14. ^ "NPS-Hensley Settlement Tours". National Park Service. Retrieved 23 March 2011. 

External links[edit]