The Wilderness Road

The Wilderness Road

The Wilderness Road

The Wilderness Road

Excerpt

A book on the Wilderness Road is a fitting and proper beginning for a series of volumes on great highways. The Road, with the possible exception of the Santa Fe Trail, has been properly known across the years as the most romantic of all highways. No frontier hero has held popular imagination for over a hundred and fifty years like Daniel Boone. We know now that Boone was not the archangel of the frontier usually pictured. However, since 1784, when John Filson first wrote about Boone's exploits, the Wilderness Road has grown, rather than diminished, in romance. In 1823 Lord Byron immortalized Boone and his wilderness in a poem read and repeated around the world. More than two generations later, people in the 1890's were still eager to read about the early days of the Road in the vivid works of Theodore Roosevelt, John Fox, Jr., and Winston Churchill. The echo from these latter-day writings has not yet died away.

The picturesque pathway from the eastern Piedmont to Kentucky was not the greatest of the great roads. True, it swarmed with emigrants for a time, but never with the numbers that crossed to California and Oregon. Moreover, the distance was much shorter. Then, too, the Kentucky-bound travelers did not carry the seeds of America's future land system, or a filial regard for the federal union. They were individualists, state rights people, slaveholders and territorial expansionists. Unlike the road from New England to the Connecticut, the Hudson and Lake Erie, the Wilderness Road did not carry into the new country the ideologies that have dominated life in the twentieth century.

Perhaps the most notable thing about the books that have renewed the glamour of the Wilderness Road is the fact that the . . .

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