Laurie Lawlor:  Curriculum Connections

    Curriculum Connections:
    Adventure on the Wilderness Road, 1775

    Background Information for Understanding the Book's Setting

    The first paths blazed through the wilderness were "traces", notches axed into trees to make the route. Often these traces followed trails cut by the hooves of buffalo or tramped down by the feet of the Indian. In 1775, Daniel Boone blazed a trail to Kentucky and with some 30 axe men cut a path by joining up buffalo trails and Indian tracks to form the first continuous route through the Cumberland Gap. Learning more about the Wilderness Road may help young readers to put the events in Adventure on the Wilderness Road, 1775 in context with the historical setting. The following links and information may be helpful.

    The History of the Wilderness Road

  • For a general description of the history of the Wilderness Road, and some additonal sources visit the Ehistory pages "A Moment in Time" produced by Dan Roberts.

  • This story is set before Louise Erdrich's Birchbark House and the Indians here are Cherokee and Shawnee, but it would be fascinating for middle-graders to read both books and talk about how it was for the Ojibwa sisters and their family before the whites drove them out. Read other books about the Native American point-of-view.

  • Read Laurie Lawlor's Daniel Boone, particularly chapters 7 and 8 which tells of Boone's trip into Kentucky. How is this biographical account similar to or different from the trip undertaken by Elizabeth and Martha Poage and their family? Discuss biographical accounts versus historical fiction accounts.

From the State of Virginia Perspective

    The area that is now Scott County, Virginia was claimed by various Native American tribes over time. An Indian village once stood on the south bank of the Clinch River near the mouth of Stony Creek. The soil was rich and untouched for agriculture. Wild game was plentiful so the area soon attracted hunters and traders who encouraged others to come. Soon home seekers and their families began to move into the area.
    Because the land was Indian land the European settlers needed protection against the Indians. The Blockhouse, built sometime before 1782. Other forts and log cabins were also built.
    Fort Blackmore was built on the north side of the Clinch River opposite the mouth of Rock Branch. The fort was on the extreme frontier of Virginia and was used by hunters, explorers, adventurers, and home seekers for rest and refreshment.  Daniel Boone was in command of Fort Blackmore and other forts on the Clinch River in 1774 while the militiamen were engaged in the Point Pleasant campaign of Dunmore's war.
    Many other forts, including Fort Houston, were built between 1774 and 1784. Big Moccasin Gap (a gap between the hard rocks of the Clinch River) is one of the most natural features in Scott County. It is through the Big Moccasin Gap that Daniel Boone and his companions carved the Wilderness Road to Kentucky in 1775. Thousands of pioneer settlers passed on their way to Kentucky and the Middle West.  Goods for people who lived north of the Clinch River were transported through the gap. When the railroad came it was built thorugh Big Moccasin Gap and even now most main highways lead toward the gap.
    Some of the thousands who traveled the old Wilderness Road on their way westward grew weary of traveling, turned aside, and settled in the Scott County territory.  A string of log cabins soon lined the Wilderness Road from the Blockhouse to Cain Gap in Powell Mountain. Settlers were mainly Scotch-Irish, some English. Many travelers came from eastern Virginia, from Augusta County, Virginia, from the Yadkin Valley in North Carolina, and a few from Ireland.
    Schools were built in the area in 1870. The population still consists largely of descendants of the early settlers.  Most of the people live on smooth land near streams and on the smoother ridge tops in the valley uplands.  Very few line in the steep and rugged mountain country.  Much of the land is unsuitable for
    intensive use.

From a Western North Carolina Perspective

    A paragraph about the Wilderness Road history can be read on pages mounted by the Old Buncombe County Genealogical Society's pages at

    Adventure on the Wilderness, Road, 1775. (1999) Pocket Books. ISBN: 0671015532; Aladdin Paperbacks. ISBN: 0671015532. American Sisters Series. 185 pg. Historical Fiction.

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