Page images
PDF
EPUB

tory so highly prized by the natives. But no sooner did the same white leader start into the forbidden region with women and children and every other plain proof of an intention to settle on the interior lands than the whites were attacked. The difference in the two groups was plain to the Indians. They looked on the white men as one tribe or allied tribes; white men's treaties and promises had often been broken, and now the proclamation of 1763 was in peril of violation also. So the red men killed. It was their last resort against those strange,

obstinate, grasping, palefaced people who seemed never content to stay where they once settled, but were always edging just a few miles farther in the wrong direction.”

Boone and the rest held a consultation after the attack and it was agreed to stop for a time in the most westward permanent white settlements, on the Clinch River in Virginia, and there await a better season and reinforcements before continuing the journey. This they did. There was no thought of abandoning the plan of proceeding to Kentucky.

The preparations being made by the people for their removal to the West had by this time come to the ears of those in authority in the two colonies affected by the agitation and Governor Dunmore of Virginia, which state claimed all territory “West and Northwest” to the Mississippi River, promptly decided to find out whether che reports concerning the Kentucky region were true. So he organized for that purpose a party of frontiersmen and surveyors under the leadership of Captain Thomas Bullitt. Bullitt led his men over the trail to Pittsburgh, with which path through the wilderness he was familiar, and there the party built boats in which they went down the Ohio despite the dangers attending such a voyage at that time. Dunmore's expedition arrived safely in the neighborhood of the future Louisville, built the usual

1 The Cherokees who attacked Boone's column were the nation whose title to the land they held had been ignored by Johnson at the treaty of Fort Stanwix, despite his in. structions.

: In the absence of native records it is, of course, possible to attribute the attitude of the Indians on this occasion to a different motive. Their attack may have been made merely for the pleasure of killing. A due consideration of conditions then existing, and of the past acts and character of both races must be our principal aid in determining which explanation is the more reasonable.

3 Boone's presence in the Clinch River valley of Virginia after his temporary check spread still wider a knowledge of the western country.

[graphic][merged small][ocr errors]

35.—Pioneer ferryman navigating a small canoe by means of a setting-pole. A

sketch by Joshua Shaw.

timber fort as a base of operations, explored a considerable territory and found that Boone's description of his discoveries was amply justified.

The men under Bullitt observed with amazement the migrations of the bison, which travelled through the canebrakes and forests in columns containing tens of thousands. The wide roads thus made by the animals, who trampled veritable avenues through the wilderness, were at once adopted by the white men for their own use in journeying over the land and by them were called streets. From that time, and for many years afterward, buffalo streets were used as travel routes by settlers in that part of the country as they gradually pushed the herds westward. The paths created by armies of bison moving four or five abreast were driven so cleanly through the woods, and packed so firmly under the hoofs of the ponderous beasts that vegetation required years in which to reclaim them.

While Bullitt's men were still remote in the new country it became evident to Dunmore that widespread trouble with the natives was about to occur, and the governor found it necessary to send another party to warn them of the impending danger and if possible bring them back to civilization. He therefore summoned Boone, and the pioneer was commissioned to attempt the task. Starting once more toward the West in June of 1774, Boone with one companion, reached the Bullitt party and conducted them safely back, making the round trip of over eight hundred miles in the remarkably short time of sixtytwo days, an average of almost thirteen miles a day.” The expected hostilities soon began, and for a time no further important step in the impending exodus toward the West could be taken. Thus we get a glimpse of Dunmore's

1 And a few other bold individuals who had ventured into the region on their own responsibility as a result of Boone's recital. Among the others were James Harrod and some companions who had located where Harrodsburg now stands. Their camp was at first known as Harrod's Town, or Old Town. The Harrod party held their ground for a time, though warned by Boone, and in July a party of them was attacked and dispersed. One man reached the Ohio River, hastily made a hark canoe, went down the Ohio and Mississippi in it and finally go back to Philadelphia by sea.

Still another party which was in Kentucky at the time was that of John Floyd and seven others, who had gone down the Kanawha and Ohio in canoes to the present neighborhood of Louisville, to explore and survey. The Floyd party had been sent out by Colonel George Washington and Patrick Henry: Floyd mentions a sycamore tree 37 feet in circumference. He and his men got back to the Clinch River safely in August. Boone nonchalantly speaks of having encountered “n.any difficulties” on the journey.

2

War as it affected affairs in the South. During the struggle Boone took an active part in the frontier military operations with the rank of captain. When peace had been made he went back to the settlement where his family was still waiting after the interrupted journey to Kentucky. From that point he was soon to start on the final enterprise that set in motion the general tide of westward travel.

Among those to whom Boone's exploits had most clearly revealed the future was a certain James Henderson, a judge and man of prominence in North Carolina, who as a result of the returned explorer's story had conceived the idea of acquiring and settling all the immense extent of country bounded by the Ohio, Kentucky and Cumberland Rivers. For that purpose he, with eight others, organized an association known as the Transylvania Company, and got Boone to act as the representative of the company in dealing with the Indians for the desired tract. The coveted region, as distinguished from the neutral ground to the west and south of it, was claimed by the Cherokees, and to them Boone went. There is no story of what took place between him and the chiefs of the nation, but regarding several factors that led to the result of the meeting a reasonable certainty can be entertained. In the first place the red men had an admiration for Boone and respected him. He had conspicuously shown himself to be possessed of those attributes held by the natives in high esteem, whether possessed by friend or foe. It is also likely that the head men of the Cherokees read the signs of the times aright, and knew from past native experiences that if they did not then strike a bargain for the territory craved by the whites, and get something for it, they would in the end lose their land anyway, without recompense. At all events they agreed to sell. No sooner had the pledge been given than Boone hastened away to take a certain decisive action the performance of which had depended on the result of the negotiations, meanwhile sending word to Henderson of his success. These things happened either late in February or in the earliest days of March, 1775. As soon as Henderson knew the way was clear for his company to proceed openly he hastened to Fort Wautaga, on a branch of the Holston River in North Carolina, and there on March 17, and in behalf of the Transylvania Company, he met twelve hundred natives in council and acquired the Indian title to the country just described. For the land he paid a price that has been variously estimated as low as ten wagon loads of cheap goods and whisky, and as high as the equivalent of ten thousand pounds sterling.

1 Some have even suggested that Boone may have first gone beyond the mountains at

the request of Henderson.

The work that Boone had hurried away to undertake was the making of the First Road through the wilderness.

1 He had been very quiet in the preliminary work, and the extent of his plan was unrealized either by the government or people.

The estimate of Dr. Smith, an English agent of Dunmore.

« PreviousContinue »