American Negro Slavery: A Survey of the Supply, Employment and Control of Negro Labor as Determined by the Plantation Regime

By Ulrich Bonnell Phillips | Go to book overview

CHAPTER X
THE WESTWARD MOVEMENT

THE flow of population into the distant interior followed the lines of least resistance and greatest opportunity. In the earlier decades these lay chiefly in the Virginia latitudes. The Indians there were yielding, the mountains afforded passes thither, and the climate permitted the familiar tobacco industry. The Shenandoah Valley had been occupied mainly by Scotch-Irish and German small farmers from Pennsylvania; but the glowing reports, which the long hunters brought and the land speculators spread from beyond the further mountains, made Virginians to the manner born resolve to compete with the men of the backwoods for a share of the Kentucky lands. During and after the war for independence they threaded the gorges, some with slaves but most without. Here and there one found a mountain glade so fertile that he made it his permanent home, while his fellows pushed on to the greater promised land. Some of these emerging upon a country of low and uniform hills, closely packed and rounded like the backs of well-fed pigs crowding to the trough, staked out their claims, set up their cabins, deadened their trees, and planted wheat. Others went on to the gently rolling country about Lexington, let the luxuriant native bluegrass wean them from thoughts of tobacco, and became breeders of horses for evermore. A few, settling on the southerly edge of the bluegrass, mainly in and about Garrard County, raised hemp on a plantation scale. The rest, resisting all these allurements, pressed on still further to the pennyroyal country where tobacco would have no rival. While thousands made the whole journey overland, still more made use of the Ohio River for the later stages. The adjutant at Fort Harmar counted in seven months of 1786-1787, 177 boats descending the Ohio, car-

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