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BOONE'S WILDERNESS ROAD FIRST TRAVEL ROUTE MADE BY
WHITE MEN TO THE INTERIOR OF THE CONTINENT
ITS VALUE WHAT THE FIRST MARCHERS DID
HE party which Boone gathered to aid him in laying
out through the wilderness a plain way that could be followed by the emigration now to begin numbered about forty men in all. He and his woodsmen started westward from Fort Wautaga as soon as the natives had pledged themselves to hold the treaty with Henderson, leaving the Indians to await that gentleman's arrival. Pack-horses' carried their necessary equipment and provisions, and a few negroes were included in the expedition to care for the animals and perform camp duties during the journey. The men carried axes.
As they proceeded Boone chose the line of march, and indicated it as he went along by cutting deep notches in prominent trees with a tomahawk.? Behind him came axmen who chopped down the small trees it was desirable to remove, though all work of that sort was avoided when possible. A détour was always preferred by moving pioneers to the labor of hewing a swathe through the woods. The chief obstacles to be overcome were undergrowth in the forest itself, or dense thickets on lands that held no large timber. Such growths were swept aside
* The pack-saddles used at the time were made from the forked branches of trees, and were bound to the animals by broad strips of deerskin. In order to fit a horse's back the forked branches had to be of a certain peculiar shape. It is related that on one occa. sion an early preacher, while exhorting his people in a grove, stopped abruptly in the middle of his appeal to call the attention of the congregation to such a suitable fork in a near-by tree.
2 The marks so made were called "blazes,” and the process of thus including a line of travel was called "blazing the way," or "blazing ahead.
by the tomahawk or short-ax with hardly a pause in the slow speed of the party, and at the end of each day's march the road they had followed lay open behind them. There was no thought in Boone's mind of creating a route which would be practicable for wagons, for no such things were then used in that part of the country. His idea was to make a road that would be plain for the use of horsemen, 1 Though wagons of a certain crude type had appeared in near-by localities to the east. footmen and drivers of live stock, even though the travellers upon it had never moved through the wilderness before. Carrying out the leader's plan as it went forward the party finally came to the Holston River at a point where a large island' lay, and there apparently it paused for a few days. During the first two weeks Boone had proceeded through a country more or less familiar to all who were with him, for it had often been traversed by hunting parties from settlements to the eastward. No definite path, however, had ever before been made through it by white men.
While encamped on the Holston, Boone was joined by eight other frontiersmen and a few more negroes. Two of the new white recruits were Felix Walker and Captain Twetty, and in his later reference to the journey Walker described Boone as "our pilot and conductor through the wilderness to the promised land.” Thus reinforced the party numbered some fifty souls, and on March 10th they again took up their progress through the woods, marking the trail with tomahawks and cutting down small timber on occasion. Still advancing in a general westwardly direction, through country he had seen on at least four previous trips, Boone and his men crossed the Clinch and Powell Rivers and came to Cumberland Gap, through which they passed.
Here Boone's route changed abruptly toward the north for a reason relating to a phase of early white travel already discussed. The Cherokees and other Indians of the South, and the Miamis and various native nations who lived north of the Ohio had for centuries made intermittent war on one another, and in times of peace had used the land of “Kentucke" as a neutral hunting ground. In their age-long travel back and forth for those purposes the red men had made, from Cumberland Gap on the south to a point on the Ohio just opposite the present Portsmouth,' one of the largest and most frequented In
i Called "Long Island." 2 Twetty was killed during the march and Walker badly wounded.
37.-A loaded pack-mule. The animal's burden was conveyed in baskets made of woven willow or bark. Babies were also carried in such recep
tacles during journeys. Sketch by Joshua Shaw.
dian trails on the continent. From the time of its first discovery by Caucasians this travel route of the Indians was called the Warriors' Path.
Boone turned into the Warriors' Path, once again appropriating an Indian trail for white men's use. He did 1 At the mouth of the Scioto, in Odio.
more. He adopted that native path into the very highway along which soon swept a white horde to overwhelm the race which created it. Advancing northward on the Indian trace Boone followed it for about fifty miles through the region included in Knox and Clay counties, in the present state of Kentucky. Near where the town of Manchester stands he left the native route and again veered toward the west, abandoning the red man's trail for an equally well-defined street made by the bison. This wilderness avenue he used through the present Clay and Laurel counties until he came to Rockcastle River and then, still keeping on the bisons' street, he turned northward once more and passed over the country now embraced in Rockcastle and Madison counties until he came to the existing location of Boonesborough on the Kentucky River. There, on April 1st, he halted. The Indians had attacked his column twice, killing four of its members and wounding five others, but the work he had set out to do had been accomplished. From the verge of the settlements in the East to the center of the unknown and long-sought land of "Kentucke" he had blazed a broad trail that any other man might follow, and the interior American wilderness had been penetrated for the first time according to a predetermined plan for its permanent white occupation. The work had not been one of unusual labor or hardship to the men who had performed it, for they were accustomed to such effort and danger, and Boone's adoption of existing Indian and bison routes for a considerable part of the distance had saved much time and trouble. But the significance of the newly created road in its relation to economic and political events that were soon to follow was great indeed.
1 The road was at first known as "Boone's Trace."