Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Cumberland Gap

More than 250,000 settlers passed through the 12-mile long Cumberland Gap, a passage way through the Cumberland Mountains that allowed the settlers to avoid crossing over the mountainous region. Until the trail through the Gap was discovered, settlers were faced with a practically invincible barrier both north and south with the Appalachian Mountains and their assorted ridges and chains.

The Cumberland Gap was part of the Wilderness Road that began at the outpost near present-day Kingsport Tennessee; however, the Road's earliest beginnings was as a trail cut by the buffalo that once freely roamed the area. Indians were using the buffalo trail to navigate the mountains when, in 1750, Dr. Thomas Walker "discovered" the gap through the mountains, naming it Cumberland Gap after the Duke of Cumberland. In 1775, Daniel Boone was hired to widen the trail through the Gap to accommodate foot traffic of the settlers. As word got out, folks started pouring through the Cumberland Gap to settle the territory known as "Kentuck." The journey was an arduous one, all on foot or by horseback, but mostly by foot. It wasn't until 1790 that the road was widened to allow wagons. Can you imagine moving to another state by walking and carrying everything you own? Our ancestors were brave and hardy souls.

Today, the Gap is located at the intersection of three states: Kentucky, Virginia and Tennessee, and a tunnel takes vehicular traffic through the Gap.
At the start of the old Cumberland Gap there is a small information station, and visitors who wish to hike part of the old trail can do so. No hiking for us, but we did stop to read about the Wilderness Road and Cumberland Gap. Below are metal sculptures that depict the settlers beginning on their journey through the Gap. Remember, these settlers had already walked miles upon miles from their homes in Virginia and the Carolinas by the time they got to the Gap. Walking along with them was their livestock: sheep, cattle, horses etc.

Mike thought that the cattle depicted in the sculptures looked like his Scottish Highland cattle (below). What do you think? Scottish Highlands are an ancient breed of Scottish cattle with long horns and thick, shaggy hair. The breed is especially hardy due to the ruggedness of their native location in the Scottish Highlands. If the (primarily) Scotch-Irish settlers had the cattle of their choice, I'm sure it was the Scottish Highland cattle. Hardy, rugged settlers needed hardy, rugged cattle.

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