At the top of a ridge, at the corner of Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky, there lies a set of two rocks connected by rusty thick links. A great rusty chain form the years of rain and weather that overlooks the small town of Pineville and, according to legend, secures the rock to the mountain to keep it from rolling down and crushing Pineville.
Why? I’m not sure besides what I heard from some of the individuals in the town, that it’s an old myth that the rock would roll down the hillside and crush what was in its path. At the side of the rock is this plaque that reads so,
To get to the bottom of this story, let’s go back in time to a different point in Americana. When the road trip was the ultimate in traveling experiences, when roadside attractions were the reasons for the journey along with your end destination, and when the internet wasn't around to fact check the word of mouth stories. When a hamburger was 10 cents and a soda pop was 5. In the 1930s, 40s, and 50s, one of the biggest draws for a small town were the oddities that could be conjured in that unique place, in the more rural areas especially. The world’s largest ball of yarn, museums with strange pieces of taxidermy passed off as monsters and morbid curiosities, the chained rock of Pineville.
What probably happened was that after people looked up at those rocks for long enough, someone thought up a pretty slick business opportunity for the newly opened Pine Mountain State Park, the first state park in Kentucky. In a time of oddities, a rock being held back from crushing a town is a pretty good one. According to roadsideamerica, there wasn’t even a chain before the current one was put into place, despite the placard stating otherwise. As far as I can glean from different reports and stories, there was a Chained Rock Club in the town of Pineville that got it into their head to put a chain up there. After some looking, they found and purchased a massive chain off a used piece of mining equipment and hauled it up there with a team of mules. A mixture of the club, Kiwanians, Boy Scouts, and Civilian Conservation Corps members all hauled the chain up the mountain and nailed it to the rock.
From the courthouse steps you can look up on the ridge line, and see the rocks and chain looking down over the town and can easily imagine half the mountain rolling over onto the town. From the top looking down is no different.
Standing on top of the hanging boulders and looking down over the town, one can see exactly the path that the boulders would go. The thick iron chain that hangs between the two seems less like an anchor for the rocks, and more like a promise that if one of them falls, so does the other. It isn’t an easy climb either although, it is great fun, and an amazing time for anyone that wants to clamber, climb, and explore a great vista for the mountains. Just don’t mess with the chain or you just might crush the town. And liable to find yourself with a fine for your fun.
Hiking the short half mile trek to the chain passes by half a dozen benches for those that would like to stop and turn back before reaching the rocks and it makes perfect sense. One of the rocks is huge, sloped and not easily reachable by any means, and the other, while connected to a mostly washed out trail, is slightly treacherous to follow.
As my trip around the small towns of Pineville, Lynch, and Cumberland, among others in the area, continued, I started to notice more and more decay. The once booming mining towns, that at one time were at the forefront of not only industry, but living, began to fall apart as time went on. Eventually it got to the point that now, the biggest thing in Pineville, is the Chained Rock of Pine Mountain, and the citizens of Pineville, once again live under a shadow. Not the shadow of the rock, but of economic hardship, a flight of younger people moving away in droves every year, and the declining prevalence of an industry long since on its way out.