Blog Post

Land Between the Lakes 2020 Geocache Challenge: African American Heritage of Lyon County Between the Rivers

The annual Heritage Geocache Challenge put on by the Heritage Program at Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area as part of our outreach to the public, to get people to explore their forest and their history, and to share the unique heritage of the families from Between the Rivers.

This year, there will be two challenges. The first will focus on the African American heritage of Lyon County Between the Rivers. The second challenge will begin in the fall and focus on the Bicentennial of Trigg County.

For the “Land Between the Lakes 2020 Heritage Geocache Challenge:  African American Heritage of Lyon County Between the Rivers”, there are 7 geocaches placed in Lyon County in Land Between the Lakes related to the African American Heritage of the area. If you locate each geocache, and collect a numbered aluminum tree tag from each cache, you can turn them in at the Golden Pond Visitor Center for one of 100 Challenge Coins created for this event. The commemorative coin for this event features Andrew Jackson Smith, a Civil War veteran and Medal of Honor recipient from Lyon County.

There are 7 geocache locations focusing on African American Heritage:

Geochace Coin for 2020
2020 Heritage Geocache Challenge Coin

  • The Little Chicago Community
  • Andrew Jackson Smith
  • The Henderson Chapel School
  • The Center Furnace Community
  • The John Young Property
  • The Young’s Grove Community
  • Eddy Bend: The McRacken Property

The “Little Chicago” Community Geocache

Before the Tennessee Valley Authority displaced the families living Between The Rivers in preparation for creation of Land Between the Lakes, this area was a thriving African American neighborhood nick-named “Little Chicago”. Local resident, Udell Majors, claimed that in the 1940s, some gambling and bootlegging occurred in part of the community which reminded someone of Chicago. The name “Little Chicago” stuck. Despite the moniker, the community had well-respected businesses, run by well-respected local leaders, and a church and school that served the local African American Population. This geocache discusses the Mt. Pleasant Missionary Baptist Church, community leader Ewing Benberry, restaurant owner Mary Majors, and the community’s displacement by TVA.

Andrew Jackson Smith
Andrew Jackson Smith

The Andrew Jackson Smith Geocache

This geocache commemorates the life of Andrew Jackson Smith, who was born into slavery, escaped, joined the Union Army, returned to Lyon County, and became a successful businessman. Andrew Jackson Smith was born Between the Rivers in 1843 to Susan, an enslaved woman on the farm of Elias Smith; whom oral tradition states is his father. From 1861 till 1865, Smith was active with the Union Army, seeing action at the battle of Shiloh in Tennessee and the Battle of Honey Hill in South Carolina. After the war, Smith returned home to Lyon County, worked in farming and real-estate, and married Amanda Young, a daughter of John Young Jr., and later Gertrude Catlett.

This geocache discusses the life of Andrew Jackson Smith and his family, the Medal of Honor he received, and also Oakland School, which was built on his property.

The Henderson Chapel School Geocache

Henderson Chapel was one of three schools for African American children in Lyon County between the rivers; Henderson Chapel, Young’s Grove, and Oakland.  Henderson Chapel is named for the Henderson family, a local African American family. This geocache briefly discusses the Henderson family’s arrival in the area, the families who nearby, and William Henderson, who was an African American teacher there for over 30 years.

The Center Furnace Community Geocache

Center Furnace was a thriving community from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s focused on the iron industry. The town had a store, stables, blacksmiths, a boarding house, churches, schools, neighborhoods, and the Iron Master’s house, where the Hillman Family lived. Center Furnace also had a large African American community that provided the majority of the labor for the Center Furnace industry. This geocache discusses the African American community, the substantial Hillman family slave holdings, and life after emancipation.

The John Young Property Geocache

This location is the oldest known farmstead on the plat of land once owned by John Young Sr., an early white settler along the Tennessee River. In 1810, Young was living in Caldwell County with a white wife and 4 white sons. Around 1820, John Young Sr. may have also had an African American son named Joseph Young.

In 1836, John young Sr. and John Young Jr. made an agreement that if John Young Jr. cared for John Young Sr. till the end of his life, John Young Jr. would inherit the estate. Upon John Young Sr.’s death in 1841. John Young Sr. freed his adult female slave named Jenny, but her three young mixed-race daughters (Malinda, Phyllis, and Margaret Jane) were deeded to John Young Jr. and may have been his children. In 1850, John Young Jr., Jenny, and their family are living in a mixed-race household with both free and enslaved family members.

This geocache discusses the Young family, the lives of the African American children, and the map of the John Young property.

Youngs Grove School Group
School children attending Young’s Grove School

The Young’s Grove Community Geocache

Young’s Grove originated as a community of African American families headed by Joseph Young (the son of John Young Sr.) after he acquired the property from the Henry Fulks estate in 1882. By the early 1900s, Young’s Grove was operating both a church and a school for the local African American population. In 1921, the Trustees of Young’s Grove Free Will Baptist Church traded an acre of land with the Allison family and moved their church building closer to the community, located in a field adjacent to the school (see if you can locate the nearby church and school marker-posts). In 1940 and 1941, all of the land in the Young’s Grove community was acquired by the Tennessee Valley Authority in preparation for the inundation of Kentucky Lake. This geocache discusses the Young’s Grove community and its relationship to the nearby cemeteries.

Eddy Bend: The McRacken Property Geocache

Hugh McRacken was white farmer and an elected member of the Kentucky House of Representatives who submitted petitions for the creation of Calloway and Graves counties in 1822. Hugh McRacken and his family lived on this plot of land on the Cumberland River when he died in 1843. Hugh McRacken never legally married, but he did live with an enslaved woman, Millie McRacken, and their children, as well as Randal and Perry McRacken, who may have been his sons from a previous female slave. All the McRackens were freed after Hugh’s death and can be seen in the 1850 census. This geocache discusses the lives of the McRacken family members.


This is the fifth year of the Heritage Geocache Challenge at the Land Between the Lakes and, like in previous years, we like people to learn about the families that once lived between the rivers. In each watertight box is a laminated and folded card with information about the site you are visiting. Take a moment to look this card over and you might see a historical photo and learn about the people who once lived in this wonderful place we now call the Land Between the Lakes!

We definitely ask that you respect the cultural and environmental resources that belong to us all on the National Recreation Area. Each and every one of us are stewards of the land. If you pack it in, please pack it out and feel free to remove any modern trash that might have been accidentally dropped by fellow hikers or geocachers. But don’t remove or disturb cultural items that might have been there for decades as these offer us clues to the way people lived and used the landscape in the past.


Links and Resources

If you’re interested in participating in the 2020 Heritage Geocache Challenge, visit and find “LBL Heritage” after registering (if you haven’t already).

Links to each of this year’s individual geocaches:


Related Posts