Early Explorations of Kentucky
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Kentucky lies within the region granted by royal charter to the colony of Virginia. For a hundred years it remained unexplored, unnamed and unprovided for, save to be included in the out-lying County of Virginia for judicial purposes. In 1776 it formed a part of the comprehensive County of Fincastle, Va., and on the 31st of December of this year it was erected into a separate county, under the Indian name signifying dark and bloody ground, which it still bears, though somewhat modified in spelling and pronunciation. The vast territory thus erected into a separate county contained at this time something less than two hundred white inhabitants. The natural beauty of the country and the rare advantages offered for settlement, however, had long been known. As early as 1735 John Salling, who was captured by the Indians, had penetrated this region with his captors, and escaping had spread the Story of its beauty throughout the frontiers. Some fifteen years later Dr. Thomas Walker, with a small party of Virginians, entered what is now the State of Kentucky, at Cumberland Gap, and had pushed his explorations to the discovery of the Cumberland, Kentucky and Big Sandy Rivers. Subsequently Christopher Gist, agent of the Ohio Company, and Capt. Harry Gordon, a Government Engineer, at different times made explorations along the course of the Ohio River. The land of promise thus discovered and duly described was too difficult of access to attract practical attention save from the hardiest of those times. It was not until 1769, therefore, that the pioneers of that immigration which eventually possessed the land entered this famous hunting-ground. In this memorable year John Findlay, who had been here previously on a trading expedition, piloted a worthy band of hunters, composed of Daniel Boone, John Stewart, Joseph Holden, James Mooney and William Cool, to this region. This party had come from the Yadkin River in North Carolina, and made the journey to a spot on ” Red River, the northernmost branch of the Kentucky,” in thirty-eight days. The party continued hunting with the greatest success until December 22, when Boone and Stewart, rambling apart from the rest, were captured by a party of Indians. Escaping after seven days’ captivity, they returned to their camp to find it destroyed and their companions. gone. Undaunted, the two determined to remain, and were soon joined by Squire Boone and another- adventurer. Shortly afterward Stewart was killed by the Indians, which so alarmed the remaining companion of the Boons that he returned home alone. The brothers were thus left alone in .the boundless wilderness. On May 1, 1770, Squire Boone returned to North Carolina for a supply of horses, provisions and ammunition, leaving Daniel alone, without bread, salt or sugar, and without the companionship of even a horse or dog. In the latter part of the succeeding July Squire Boone returned with the sup-plies, and the two brothers remained until March, 1771, when they re-turned to their home in North Carolina. In 1770 a party of forty hunters, organized for a hunting and trapping expedition west of the Alleghany Mountains, started from southwestern Virginia. Nine of them, under the lead of Col. James Knox, reached the country south of the Kentucky River in the vicinity of Green River and the Lower Cumber-land. Here they remained some two years, without crossing any trail of the Boones, creating alarm among their friends for their safety, and gaining the sobriquet of the ” Long hunters.” Kentucky thenceforth became the favorite resort for the more adventurous hunters of the older settlements, and many who subsequently became prominent in the pioneer annals of the new State were among the number.