Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Little Cabin in the Kentucky Woods

The Colonel and I had two more stops to make along our "All-Things-Boone" (well, nearly all things were Boone related) trip through Kentucky as we wound up our summer vacation 2015.

The second to the last stop was at the Dr. Thomas Walker State Historic Site. It is located five miles southwest of Barbourville on KY 459, about 170 miles from Louisville. It is a 12-acre tract of land and on that land is a replica of the first house (cabin) built in Kentucky by a white man.

Dr. Thomas Walker (1715-1794) was from Virginia and he studied medicine at the College of William and Mary.

In July of 1749, the Loyal Land Company was founded with Walker as a leading member. After receiving a royal grant of 800,000 acres in what is now southeastern Kentucky, the company appointed Walker to lead an expedition and survey the region in 1750. Five other men would join Walker on the expedition.

The "Walker Line" is still the border between Kentucky and Tennessee from east to west, terminating at the Tennessee River.

With Indian guides, the expedition group passed through a place now called Cumberland Gap, where they discovered a fine spring. They still had some rum left and they drank to the health of the Duke of Cumberland (the son of King George the II and considered a hero of the time. Remember this was before the American Revolution). This gave rise to the naming of the Cumberland Gap, Cumberland Mountains and Cumberland River (just how much rum did they have left?).

Dr. Walker built his 12 x 8 cabin to legitimize the lands he was claiming.

He stayed in the area for a few days, left a couple of his men behind and then headed back to Virginia The men left behind were eventually chased out of the area by Native Americans. Walker never did return to Kentucky. He did write a journal that gives the account of his exploration. He is credited as the first American to discover and use the coal found in Kentucky.

Due to his broad knowledge of the area and their resources, Walker served as an advisory to Thomas Jefferson for three years (1780-1783). At the time of his death, Dr. Walker was noted as the 4th wealthiest citizen of Albemarle County Virginia. The most famous inhabitant of that county was Thomas Jefferson.

Not until Daniel Boone came through the gap in 1769, was there a renewed interest in Kentucky.

Less than 50 years after Dr. Thomas Walker's journey into Kentucky tens of thousands of pioneers would pass through Cumberland Gap to settle the rich lands of "Kaintuck".

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