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Introduction

Road Trip

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Wilderness Road (Logo header)

Introduction

Introduction

 

Wilderness Road (Logo header)

     The Wilderness Road was the principal route used by settlers to reach Kentucky for more than fifty years. In 1775, Daniel Boone blazed a trail for the Transylvania Company from Fort Chiswell in Virginia through the Cumberland Gap into central Kentucky. It was later lengthened, following Native American trails, to reach the Falls of the Ohio at Louisville. The Wilderness Road was steep and rough, and could only be traversed on foot or horseback. Still, thousands of people used it. In 1792, the new Kentucky legislature provided money to upgrade the road. In 1796, an improved  all-weather road was opened  for wagon and carriage travel.  The

road was abandoned around 1840, although modern highways follow much of its route.

     The route of the Wilderness Road made a long loop from Virginia southward to Tennessee and then northward to Kentucky, a distance of over 200 miles (320 km).  From The Long Island of the Holston River (modern Kingsport, Tennessee), the road went north through Moccasin Gap of Clinch Mountain, then crossed the Clinch River and crossed rough land (called the Devils Raceway) to the North Fork Clinch  River.  Then  it  crossed  Powell Mountain  at

 Kanes Gap. From there it ran southwest through the

Click on the map to view a full-sized image

valley of the Powell River to the Cumberland Gap.  

     After passing over the Cumberland Gap the Wilderness Road forked. The southern fork passed over the Cumberland Plateau to Nashville, Tennessee via the Cumberland River. The northern fork split into two parts. The eastern spur went into the Bluegrass region of Kentucky to Boonesborough on the Kentucky River (near Lexington). The western spur ran to the Falls of the Ohio (Louisville).  As settlements grew southward, the road stretched all the way to Knoxville, Tennessee, by 1792.

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Winding Road 1

Road Trip

Road Trip

Winding Road 2

If you have traced your 18th or 19th century ancestors to any of the counties listed below it is quite possible that they traveled to that location along this migration route.  Therefore you may find additional relevant information about your ancestral lineages by taking the following road trip through these localities.

COUNTY (Road Trip Segment)

COUNTY (Road Trip Segment)

COUNTY (Road Trip Segment)

Bell County, KY (2,3)

Bourbon County, KY (8)

Boyle County, KY (4,5)

Bullitt County, KY (6)

Casey County, KY (4)

Claiborne County, TN (2)

Clark County, KY (7,8)

Clay County, KY (3)

Estill County, KY (7)

Fayette County, KY (8)

Floyd County, IN (6)

Garrard County, KY (4,7)

Hancock County, TN (1,2)

Harlan County, KY (1,2)

Harrison County, IN (6)

Hawkins County, TN (1)

Jackson County, KY (3,7)

Jefferson County, KY (6)

Jessamine County, KY (7,8)

Knox County, KY (2,3)

Laurel County, KY (3)

Lee County, VA (1,2)

Lincoln County, KY (4,7)

Madison County, KY (4,7,8)

Marion County, KY (5)

Meade County, KY (6)

Mercer County, KY (4,5)

Nelson County, KY (5,6)

Oldham County, KY (6)

Owsley County, KY (3)

Powell County, KY (7)

Rockcastle County, KY (3,4,7)

Scott County, VA (1)

Scott County, KY (8)

Shelby County, KY (6)

Spencer County, KY (6)

Sullivan County, TN (1)

Washington County, KY (5)

Whitley County, KY (3)

Woodford County, KY (8)

Genealogy Road Trip

Within each segment you will find links to resources* that will assist you in planning a successful and enjoyable experience.  The following maps are designed to show a close-up view of the counties and communities along this migration route.  Relevant county seats are designated with aStar yellow-green 32x30, beginning and end points of each segment are noted with a Bullet (red ball) dk green2 and historical sites with a purple circle.

 

Wilderness Road (Main Spur)

This “Family History Road Trip” is divided into three segments that requires between 1 and 2 hours of driving time.  The entire 166 mile trip should take approximately 4 hours to drive at 45 miles per hour.  

SEGMENT 1

From: Kingsport, TN

To: Beech Spring, VA

SEGMENT 2

From: Beech Spring, VA

To: Boone Heights, KY

SEGMENT 3

From: Boone Heights, KY

To: Mt. Vernon, KY

Wilderness Road (Western Spur)

This “Family History Road Trip” is divided into three segments which include the historic pioneer routes known as Logan’s Trace to Harrodsburg, KY, and the Ohio Connection Trail to Louisville, KY.  The entire 130 mile trip should take approximately 3 hours to drive at 45 miles per hour.  

SEGMENT 1

From: Mt. Vernon, KY

To: Harrodsburg, KY

SEGMENT 2

From: Harrodsburg, KY

To: Bardstown, KY

SEGMENT 3

From: Bardstown, KY

To: Louisville, KY

Wilderness Road (Eastern Spur)

This “Family History Road Trip” is divided into two segments which include the historic pioneer routes known as Daniel Boone’s Trail to Boonesborough, KY, and the Lexington Spur to Lexington, KY.   The entire 69 mile trip should take almost 1.5 hours to drive at 45 miles per hour.  

SEGMENT 1

From: Mt. Vernon, KY

To: Boonesborough, KY

SEGMENT 2

From: Richmond, KY

To: Lexington, KY

 

Wilderness Road (Main Spur)

228149- 4

Segment 1

SEGMENT 1

From: Kingsport, TN

To: Beech Spring, VA

228149- 2

Driving Distance = 54 miles;   Driving Time = approximately 1.25 hours

     The first segment of this tour of the Wilderness Road starts in Kingsport, Tennessee,  at the Exchange Place, a living history farm (Gaines-Preston Farm) that recaptures life in the early 1800s.       

     Take US Route 11W to US 23 north though Moccasin Gap.   At the intersection of State Route 871 and US 23, is a major shortcut of the Wilderness Trail - the so-called "Devil's Race Path”.  This intersection is referred to as "Little Flat Lick" and named after a salt spring that oozed from the ground under the road.

     Take “Daniel Boone Trail Road” (Route 871) into the Natural Tunnel State Park.  Here see the  Wilderness Road Blockhouse which is a representation of the Anderson Blockhouse that was built in 1775 in Virginia's East Carter's Valley. The Blockhouse was an important frontier landmark and served as a gathering place for hundreds of pioneers traveling the Wilderness Road to Kentucky between 1775 and 1800.  Leave the Park by returning back to US 421/58/23 or you may want to continuing on Route 871 (Daniel Boone Trail) until it loops back to Duffield at the intersection of

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58/23.  From here take US Route 58 west toward Jonesville.

Downstream from the bridge over the Powell River  are the two fords of the Wilderness Trail. One can still clearly see the two trails coming down this hill.       Continue on US Route 58 west through Jonesville, the seat of Lee County, Virginia.  End this segment at Beech Spring, VA.

Use the following LINKS to find information about the counties and localities found along this segment of the Route.

General Profile

Genealogy & History Resources

Historical Sites

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Wilderness Road (Main Spur)

228149- 4

Segment 2

SEGMENT 2

From: Beech Spring, VA

To: Boone Heights, KY

228149- 2

Driving Distance = 57 miles;   Driving Time = approximately 1.50 hours

     Continue on US Route 58. Near Rose Hill and Ewing, to the north is White Rocks towering 3,500 feet above the Powell Valley. White Rocks was a welcome sight to the settlers traveling along the Wilderness Road in the 1700s. Upon seeing this massive limestone outcropping, the settlers knew they were but a day's journey from the Cumberland Gap.  Just past Ewing on the right is the Wilderness Road State Park where you can visit the replica of Martin’s Station a colonial frontier fort that was on this site in 1775.

     Near the town of Cumberland Gap turn right onto US Route 25E and continue through the tunnel. .  It is here that US Route 25E becomes the Kentucky Wilderness Road Heritage Highway.   On your right see the Visitor’s Center for the Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.  From here a drive up to the Pinnacle is worthwhile in order to better understand and view the Cumberland Gap.  Continue on US Route 25E through Pineville the seat of Bell County. This small city is located   on   a   small   strip   of   land   between   the

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Cumberland River and Pine Mountain. Pineville is one of the oldest settlements in Kentucky, tracing back to 1781 and a settlement called Cumberland Ford.

Use the following LINKS to find information about the counties and localities found along this segment of the Route.

General Profile

Genealogy & History Resources

Historical Sites

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Wilderness Road (Main Spur)

228149- 4

Segment 3

SEGMENT 3

From: Boone Heights, KY

To: Mt. Vernon, KY

228149- 2

Driving Distance = 55 miles;   Driving Time = approximately 1.25 hours

     This segment begins at Boone Heights just outside of Barbourville, Kentucky.  Barbourville, the seat of Knox County is the site of many historic locations important to the history of Kentucky.  Just a few miles out of town on State Road 459 is, the Dr. Thomas Walker State Historic Site.  Here is the first house built in the state by European explorers was erected in 1750 by the Dr. Thomas Walker party.

     At Bailey’s Switch you have the option of following the Wilderness Road Heritage Highway on KY Route 229 or to continue on US Route 25E to London, the seat of Laurel County, Kentucky.  A few miles south of London is Levi Jackson Wilderness Road State Park  here you will find the worthwhile Mountain Life Museum which recreates a pioneer settlement, as well as McHargue’s Mill a working reproduction mill surrounded by the largest display of millstones in the country.      An important point of interest found within the town of London is the Laurel County History Museum & Genealogy Center. 

     Hazel Patch located 7 mi. N. of London, on KY Route 490 is often referred to as the “Crossroads of the Wilderness.”  It is here that Skaggs Trace (1769), Boone’s Trace (1775), and Logan’s Trace (1775) intersect.

     This segment as well as the “Main Spur” section of the Wilderness Road ends at Mt. Vernon, Kentucky.  Mount Vernon is the seat of Rockcastle County, It is located at the junction of U.S. Routes 25 and 150, two miles west of Interstate 75.  The area was first settled in

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1790 around a feature called Spout Springs. The Wilderness Road was routed through in 1792. Mt. Vernon was the principal settlement when Rockcastle County was created in 1810.

Use the following LINKS to find information about the counties and localities found along this segment of the Route.

General Profile

Genealogy & History Resources

Historical Sites

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Wilderness Road (Western Spur)

228149- 4

Segment 4

SEGMENT 1

From: Mt. Vernon, KY

To: Harrodsburg, KY

228149- 2

Driving Distance = 45 miles;   Driving Time = approximately 1.00 hours

     THIS 45 MILE SEGMENT ON US ROUTE 150 BETWEEN MT. VERNON AND HARRODSBURG IS GENERALLY REFERRED TO AS “LOGAN’S TRACE” PART OF THE WILDERNESS ROAD.

     On the way to Stanford you will pass the town of Crab Orchard that was early pioneer station on the Logan Trace.   Follow the signs to the William Whitley House State Historical site.  The William Whitley House, also known as Sportsman's Hill, was the first brick home and circular racetrack built west of the Alleghany Mountains, completed in 1794. Dubbed the "Guardian of Wilderness Road," the house was a gathering spot for early Kentuckians, including George Rogers Clark and Daniel Boone.

     Stanford, Kentucky is the county seat of Lincoln County. Stanford was founded in 1775 by Benjamin Logan as Logan’s Fort, alternately known as St. Asaph the name given it by Logan, and Logan’s Station. Located here is the Stanford Presbyterian Church founded in 1788 along the old Wilderness Road.

     The cities of Perryville and Danville, Kentucky were part of the Great Settlement Area around Harrod's Fort (now Harrodsburg), which was first settled in 1774.  

     Perryville is located on US Route 150 about 10 miles east of Danville.  The precursor to modern-day Perryville was Harbeson's Station, a fort alongside the Chaplin River, This fort, was founded during the 1780’s

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by James Harbeson and a group of settlers from Virginia. 

     Danville is the seat of Boyle County.  It is called the "City of Firsts".  Danville housed the first Courthouse in Kentucky, as well as the first U.S. Post Office west of the Allegheny Mountains.  Both of the aforementioned buildings as well a several others are located here in the  Constitution Square State Historic Site. 

Use the following LINKS to find information about the counties and localities found along this segment of the Route.

General Profile

Genealogy & History Resources

Historical Sites

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Wilderness Road (Western Spur)

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Segment 5

SEGMENT 2

From: Harrodsburg, KY

To: Bardstown, KY

228149- 2

Driving Distance = 42 miles;   Driving Time = approximately 1.00 hour

SEGMENTS 2 AND 3 ARE THE “OHIO CONNECTION TRAIL” PORTION OF THE WILDERNESS ROAD.

To go to Harrodsburg take US Route 127 drom Danville or US Route 68 from Perryville.  Harrodsburg is county seat of Mercer County, Kentucky.   It is the oldest city in Kentucky.  Founded in 1774 by James Harrod, it was initially known as Harrod's Town or Harrodstown.   Old Fort Harrod State Park  encompasses 15 acres, and features a reconstruction of Fort Harrod, the first permanent settlement in the state of Kentucky.

     From Harrodsburg take KY 152 to Springfield.  Springfield is the seat of Washington County.  It was established in 1793 and probably named for springs in the area. From Springfield take KY Route 528 to the Lincoln Homestead State Park is a park located just north of Springfield. The park encompasses 120 acres, and features both historic and reproduced homes of Abraham Lincoln's family.       Retrace your route back to Springfield and take US Route 150 toward Bardstown.

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     Located on the outskirts of Bardstown is My Old Kentucky Home State Park.  The state park consists of Federal Hill, a former plantation owned by the Rowan family. A visit to the site in 1852 is said to have inspired Stephen Foster to write his famous song, My Old Kentucky Home.

Use the following LINKS to find information about the counties and localities found along this segment of the Route.

General Profile

Genealogy & History Resources

Historical Sites

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Wilderness Road (Western Spur)

228149- 4

Segment 6

SEGMENT 3

From: Bardstown, KY

To: Louisville, KY

228149- 2

Driving Distance = 43 miles;   Driving Time = approximately 1.00 hour

     Bardstown, first settled in the 1780’s, is the second oldest city in Kentucky as well as the seat of Nelson County.  The Old Talbott Tavern, built in 1779 and located just off the Courthouse Square in the center of the community, is a piece of Bardstown's rich history.

     From Bardstown take KY Route 245 to KY Route 61 which will take you into the city of Shepardsville in Bullitt County.  Shepherdsville was founded by and named after Adam Shepherd in 1793.  In its early days, the major industry in this area was salt production from the Salt River. Two important points of interest  near Shepardsville are Brashear’s Station and Bullitt’s Lick both located on KY Route 44.

    Continue on KY Route 61 into Jefferson County where you will rejoin US Route 150 in Louisville.        Within the city of Louisville, Kentucky continue to follow the US 150 to Lannan Park located on the Ohio River.  Here you are able to overlook area known as the Falls of the Ohio.  The falls were a series of rapids, which was the only navigational barrier on the river in earlier times.

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     The first settlement was made in the vicinity of modern-day Louisville in 1778 by Col. George Rogers Clark.  During 1780, three hundred families immigrated to the area.

Use the following LINKS to find information about the counties and localities found along this segment of the Route.

General Profile

Genealogy & History Resources

Historical Sites

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Wilderness Road (Eastern Spur)

228149- 4

Segment 7

SEGMENT 1

From: Mt. Vernon, KY

To: Boonesborough, KY

228149- 2

Driving Distance = 44 miles;   Driving Time = approximately 1.00 hour

     THIS SEGMENT IS REFERRED TO AS THE “BOONE’S TRACE” PORTION OF THE WILDERNESS ROAD. 

     From Mount Vernon take the Wilderness Heritage Highway (US Route 25) towards the town of Berea,  located in Madison County, Kentucky.  Continue through Berea to Richmond.

     Richmond is the county seat of Madison County. The city was founded in the year of 1798, by Colonel John Miller, who was active in the Revolutionary War as a soldier. 

     At Richmond leave the US Route 25 Bypass at KY Route 368.  Continue on this road to the Fort Boonesborough State Park.  Fort Boonesborough has been reconstructed here as a working fort complete with cabins, blockhouses and furnishings. Resident artisans perform craft demonstrations and give modern-day visitors a true sense of what life was like for pioneers in Kentucky.

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Use the following LINKS to find information about the counties and localities found along this segment of the Route.

General Profile

Genealogy & History Resources

Historical Sites

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Wilderness Road (Eastern Spur)

228149- 4

Segment 8

SEGMENT 2

From: Richmond, KY

To: Lexington, KY

228149- 2

Driving Distance = 25 miles;   Driving Time = approximately .50 hours

THIS SEGMENT FROM RICHMOND TO LEXINGTON IS A SEGMENT OF THE “OLD ROAD FROM FORT WASHINGTON TO TENNESSEE.” 

     From Richmond, Kentucky take US Route 25/421 to Lexington.  Along the way stop at Boone Station State Historical Site.   Daniel Boone and his family established Boone’s Station in 1779.  At its height, the community had 15 to 20 families, including the Boone, Barrow, Hays, Morgan, Muir, Scholl and, Stinson families.

     Lexington  is the second-largest city in Kentucky is the seat of Fayette County.       Lexington was founded in June 1775 by a party of frontiersmen, led by William McConnell, when they camped on the Middle Fork of Elkhorn Creek.  In 1779, Colonel Robert Patterson and 25 companions came from Fort Harrod and erected a blockhouse. Cabins and a stockade were soon built, making the fort, known as Bryan Station, a place of importance.  Lexington is home to numerous museums and historical structures. One of the most famous is Ashland: The Henry Clay Estate along Richmond Road east of downtown.

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Use the following LINKS to find information about the counties and localities found along this segment of the Route.

General Profile

Genealogy & History Resources

Historical Sites

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