A Day Away by Mike Steely
Every small town in our region has its own attractions or special features. One of them, just off Interstate 40 on the Cumberland Plateau, has more things they you probably expect.
As you top the mountain headed west from Knoxville you’ll pass by interesting places like Crab Orchard and Crossville before coming to Monterey. Many people think of that little town as a gas stop but there’s much more to it just north of the interstate.
In the early 1800s the Cherokee signed a treaty and that area was sold to the United States. Monterey developed as a stagecoach and traveling stop along Avery’s Trace and Walton Road. Travelers along the old Indian route noted a tall 16-foot stone statue there that looked like a big gray dog. Unfortunately travelers and the railroad pass through later destroyed the monolith.
No one knows which Native American tribe built the monument but it apparently predates the Cherokee and could have been a boundary marker or a religious symbol.
Today only a small piece of that statue remains atop a special monument. It was dedicated in 1895 and continues to draw visitors to the site where a small park now exists.
Yet Monterey is more than the “Old Gray” statue. The town was formed in 1893 as part of Putnam County. The community advertises itself as “Where the hilltops kiss the sky” and for good reason. Nearby the Bee Rock Overlook gives a beautiful cliff top view of the Cumberland Mountain. Meadow Creek Park offers 90 acres for visitation and unique businesses, a depot museum, and Mennonite stores just to the north draws tourist, shoppers and diners. There is an open air amphitheatre in town along with some interesting businesses and buildings. The town also boasts of a full hook-up campground, parks and events scheduled throughout the year.
Monterey is only 88 miles from Knoxville. From there you may drive north to other small towns like Livingston or south to Sparta. To the west is Cookeville and to the east is Crossville. Anyone headed to Nashville might want to take that one Monterey exit and spend a few minutes in a special Cumberland Plateau town.
You can find lots of interesting information online or you can call the museum there at (931) 839-2111.