Kentucky: A Guide to the Bluegrass State

By Federal Writers' Project | Go to book overview

HISTORY

KENTUCKY was the first State to be organized west of the Appalachian Mountains. At the mountain barrier the westward movement of American immigrants had come to its first halt, but there was a lively curiosity about the land beyond to the west.

In 1642 a company of English adventurers, Walter Austin, Rice Hoe, Joseph Johnson, and Walter Chiles, petitioned for "leave and encouragement to explore westward." Whatever their intentions may have been, they failed to use their grant. Twenty-seven years passed before the subject of western exploration was again discussed in the Virginia Assembly. A permit was granted in 1669 to John Lederer, a German adventurer and personal friend of Governor Berkeley, to explore westward. He made three trips into the Blue Ridge, passing through the neighborhood of what is now Lynchburg, but accomplished little. In 1671, Colonel Abram Wood, commandant of Fort Henry at Petersburg, Virginia, sent Thomas Batts and Robert Fallam into the western ranges to find the "ebbing and flowing of the rivers on the other side of the mountains in order to reach the South Seas." This expedition reached the Ohio Valley, but the English were not much impressed with the findings. Two or three years later, however, they discovered that the French were active in the western country beyond the mountains. The English became intensely interested when the French, by virtue of the Mississippi voyages of Jolliet and Marquette in 1673 and of La Salle in 1682, claimed all the region drained by the Mississippi River and its tributaries. James Needham and Gabriel Arthur were sent into the West in 1673. Needham was killed, but Arthur made his way into northeastern Kentucky with the Indians and may have been the first Englishman on Kentucky soil. English interest in the trans-Allegheny region lagged for 70 years and was confined to the cis-Allegheny frontier.

In 1742 John Peter Salley (or Salling) led a party from Virginia to the banks of the Ohio River. One or two of the men were killed, and Salley was captured by French adventurers and sent to prison, first at

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