Western Lands and the American Revolution

By Thomas Perkins Abernethy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
STRUGGLE WITH THE SHAWNEE FOR
KENTUCKY

IN September, 1773, a party of more than thirty adventurers from the Yadkin, reinforced in Powell's Valley by recruits from the Holston settlements, set out for the Kentucky country lying beyond Cumberland Gap. Their object was to seek fertile tracts of land where they might make their homes. They had not proceeded far when Indians surprised them and killed several of their number, including sons of Daniel Boone and William Russell. The whole party then retreated, and no further attempts were made to explore Kentucky during that year. Boone accompanied Russell to his home in the Clinch River valley and remained in the neighborhood until June of the following year. But before that date another and more formidable movement into Kentucky had begun.1

Several antagonistic factors were involved in this attempt to plant the first settlements in the remote wilderness of Kentucky, and it is only by tracing their interplay that this fascinating phase of our history can be understood. The government of Virginia, as represented by Lord Dunmore with his council and the House of Burgesses, was the most important of these factors, for nothing of a legal nature could be done without its sanction. Yet relatively little attention has been paid to governmental activities, while the adventures of the pioneers, to which time has lent the color of romance, have been dwelt upon in great detail.

The Indians, particularly the Shawnee who determined that Kentucky should not be settled by the whites, doubtless come next in importance. The murder of young Boone and Russell was supposed at the time to have been committed by the Cherokee, but it was later discovered that a roving band of Shawnee were the perpetrators. This tribe lived north of the Ohio in the valley of the Scioto, but they often hunted in Kentucky and they did not intend to have their supply of game disturbed. While the Six Nations had sold and ceded all the land on the south

____________________
1
Arthur Campbell to Dunmore, Dec. 14, 1773, Add. MSS., 2 1672, Br. Mus. In his report of the murders, Campbell does not mention Boone. Washington-Crawford Letters, p. 68; Filson, Kentucke, p. 57.

-98-

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