( Portsmouth, Ohio) -- South Portsmouth -- Ashland -- Catlettsburg -- Paintsville -- Prestonsburg -- Pikeville -- ( Norton, Va.); US 23, the Mayo Trail.
Ohio Line to Virginia Line, 194.6 m.
Hard-surfaced roadbed in most places; remainder graveled. Chesapeake & Ohio Ry. parallels route throughout. Accommodations chiefly in towns.
This route follows the low bluffs along the curving Ohio River; the Big Sandy Valley, and the Levisa Fork, a tributary of the Big Sandy River. In the southern section it passes between a cordon of small hills that increase in height toward the south until, at the Kentucky- Tennessee border, they are stopped by the great purple and green wall of the Cumberland Mountains. Veined by the river and its tributary creeks and locked on three sides by hills and mountains, the Big Sandy country was the last part of Kentucky to be surrendered to the white man by Indians. Game abounded here and salt licks were plentiful; until 1795 this common hunting ground was regularly visited by Creeks, Choctaws, and Cherokees from the South, and by Shawnees, Miamis, Delawares, Wyandottes, and Illinois from the North.
The rest of Kentucky had already been cleared before this section was settled, and in the 1820's population in the Big Sandy Valley averaged only about six inhabitants to the square mile. But hardy, independent men continued to come into the valley by way of the four gaps through the Cumberlands and along the Indian trails, or down the Ohio and up the Big Sandy Rivers to the dark hills beyond. These men established farms in open hollows; the loggers arrived later, to "bring daylight in the swamp" and send millions of logs floating down the Big Sandy; little towns arose in some of the more accessible pockets of the region; and to the long-sounding toot of the packets that plied the river was added, in the 1870's, the clear sharp whistle of locomotives announcing the coming industrialism. The hills were tapped for their mineral resources and coal mining became a major industry in the valley; in some of the larger towns small factories developed. Today the Big Sandy Valley has hard-surfaced roads, modern hotels, schools, and churches. As seen from US 23, it has a settled appearance. Just across the hills from the river, however, the, isolation still continues. Side roads leading off from the highway are few; in the remote hollows, or on the steep slopes of countless hills, are lonely little cabins where the spinning wheel is kept busy and the wagon carries the family to "buryin's," "meetin's" or "foot-washin's." This is Jesse Stuart's coun-