The Cumberland Gap

The Cumberland Gap, situated in the Cumberland Mountains section of the Appalachian Mountains on the Kentucky-Virginia border about a quarter of a mile from where Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee meet, is very important to the history of Kentucky and the Western United States.  The Gap was first used by the Native Americans as a westward gate to hunting grounds in Kentucky and Tennessee.  The first European credited with going through the pass was Dr. Thomas Walker, as a surveyor for the Loyal Land Company in order to find suitable lands for farming west of the Appalachian Mountains. 

After the French and Indian War, a more famous frontiersman would make the venture through the Cumberland Gap.  Daniel Boone, with the help of North Carolina land speculator Judge Richard Henderson, attempted to cross the Cumberland Gap.  His first attempt in the winter of 1767-1768, resulted in Boone’s party missing the Gap.  In late spring 1769, Boone and his companions were able to cross the Cumberland Gap into Kentucky and stayed there trapping furs.  In December of 1769, Boone and a companion were captured by a Shawnee only to escape a short time later.  When stories about the exploits of Daniel Boone and his companions reached the people on the Eastern seaboard,  the adventurous and the landless began to pour westward and surveying teams began to operate in the west by 1773.  In March of 1775, Daniel Boone, along with thirty axmen, began to blaze a trail starting at Rose Point, Virginia going through the Cumberland Gap and finally terminating at Boonesborough, Kentucky.  The Wilderness Road, and in extension the Cumberland Gap, was the safest way into the west for settlers until the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 finally nullified the threat of the Shawnee throughout the Ohio Valley.

Although the Cumberland Gap would go on to play an integral part in other times during our history, the exploration of the Gap and the creation of the Wilderness Road allowed for all the others to come to fruition.  Many men, women, and children flooded into the west into what would become the states of Kentucky and Tennessee after the discovery of the Cumberland Gap and building of the Wilderness Road.  Because of this, the American nation was able to move one step closer to being a people that stretched from sea to shining sea.

Filson Historical

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