Rutherford County's   Cripple Creek Cloggers    Murfreesboro, TN

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Clogging originated in The Appalachian  Mountains
where the people lived far apart in small cabins.

History Of Appalachian-Style Square Dancing

Appalachian-style square dancing with a clogging step originated in the Appalachian Mountains of the United States, as an ongoing cultural tradition brought from England. The earliest settlers from England brought with them parts of songs, dances and stories from their Mother country, and these were formed into a new tradition in the hills and valleys of this region, which includes our own state of Tennessee. Our county seat, Murfreesboro, is in the exact geographical center of the state of Tennessee.

The people lived far apart in small cabins, and got together very infrequently. When they did, they enjoyed singing songs, playing games, and dancing together. They clapped their hands to make the rhythms, or perhaps had a musician or two who could provide some accompanying music. They moved onto the hard-packed earthen floor, or the homemade wooden floor, and their feet made an unusual slapping sound as they danced. Sometimes, they wore metal tips on their shoes. Whether they were barefoot or wore hard shoes, this sound came to be called “clogging”. 

The people moved as a caller called the sets. They danced in a big circle for “as many as will”, and usually with a partner. Often they turned loose of the partner and did what we call a “buck dance”, which means moving in any way they wish, to the rhythms provided. They might dance all night, or for several days as they rejoiced at the chance to join together and have fun. Rutherford County’s Cripple Creek Cloggers preserve this tradition today in dance, costuming, and spirit. 



History of The Cripple Creek Cloggers  - by Steve Cates, Director/Founder 

November 25, 2009


The Kittrell 4-H Square Dancers (Rutherford County, Readyville, TN) were first recognized in June of 1967. That's when the hard work of some Kittrell School 4-H'ers (Grades 4-8) paid off with first place in the Rutherford County 4-H Share the Fun Contest.  From there it was to Columbia, Tennessee's 4-H Camp and first place in the District II Share the Fun.   Then the group performed for the State 4-H Roundup on the UT campus in Knoxville.

The troupe started to learn Appalachian style square dancing with a clogging step during a campout at Camp Woodlee, a former 4-H Camp still operated by the Tennessee Young Farmers and Homemakers and located in Warren County, near Irving College.  To reward the Kittrell 4-H'ers, for which I was a Volunteer Leader, who had completed all their activities each month during the 1966-1967 school year, I arranged for us to go to the camp for a weekend in early spring.  Parents provided transportation and we all chipped in with the cooking in the kitchen attached to the Dining Hall.  To entertain the group, I went to our Rutherford County Agricultural Extension Office at the Courthouse and borrowed some of the old records we had used when I had been a 4-H'er.  I got the Kittrell School turntable and sound system.  We were set for dancing, including the calling I did which I had learned at various 4-H events when I was a teen.  I taught the simple steps and calls and then we also did various folk dances, including the "Teton Mountain Stomp", "The Waltz of the Bells," and so on. We even played some Tennessee Singing Games, including the "Pawpaw Patch" and "Old Dan Tucker". 

Entering the Share the Fun event was a natural progression in our development.  The dancers wore red and white and pictures are available on our Facebook page showing them. 

Following that summer, we decided to continue, practicing on the Kittrell stage and in my classroom at the school.  We invited all interested Kittrell 4-H'ers to participate and then began taking performances to various groups in the area. I remember going to a big event for the Murfreesboro Business and Professional Women's Club and to the Smyrna Air Force Base for a luncheon of the Officers' Wives. 

When I left Kittrell in 1969 to teach at Murfreesboro's Bradley Middle School, I expanded the group to include all interested 4-H'ers in Rutherford County. The Ag Center was our practice site.  We were introduced to the National Folk Festival when we were  invited to take our dancing to the 1968 event in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Sarah Gertrude Knott, the Director/Founder of the NFF, became quite a good friend and supporter, as well as a mentor.  She put us in touch with May Gadd, Director of the English Song and Dance Society of the U.S. and soon six of us were on our way to their Pinewoods Camp at Buzzards Bay, Massachusetts, where we learned about the English heritage of our style of dancing. 

Sarah Gertrude Knott also connected us with "Cousin" Thelma Boltin, Director of the Florida Folk Festival in White Springs, Florida.  We enjoyed dancing there several times down on the banks of the Sewanee, soaking up the Florida sunshine in the spring.

We traveled to events throughout Tennessee and into GA, KY, and NC, including folk festivals and similar events. Through 4-H connections in other states, we then went West and Northeast and Southwest. 

In 1977, we were invited to our first international folkloric festival.  The  festival director, Irene McLean, also Founder/Director of AREYTO, the Ballet Folklorico of Puerto Rica, was to become a great friend and one who would introduce us to the world of international festivals in other countries. That first taste of international connections was a magical time for us, as we celebrated New Year's in San Juan and joined groups from many other countries of the world, all sharing their music and dance.

Through Irene's influence and with her help, we made our first international tour in 1979.  We enjoyed the Festival of the Pyrenees in France and Spain, which our dancers and musicians revisited in 2009. 

Because of these experiences and our participation in festivals in Portugal and Spain in 1981, we began our own International Folkfest in 1982.  Our dancers have always been the hosts and have played a major part in its production.

In 1980, Sarah G. Knott stated that we were losing out by dismissing dancers once they finished high school.  Because of her suggestion, the Cripple Creek Cloggers were then organized.  RCSD continued as we mixed our groups in practices and performances, though sometimes operating separately.

Since the year 2000, we have only been Cripple Creek Cloggers. Our membership includes  older teens and adults.  I am proud that our group still offers an opportunity for those interested to join and work with us.  We teach free of charge as we continue to help people to learn about our Appalachian heritage of music and dance.  We also continue touring each year as well as hosting International Folkfest.



Webmaster: Dal Cannon        ***         Director: Steve Cates

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Last updated: Tuesday, February 25, 2014