To really understand the circumstance of this extraordinary event, it is imperative to realize the mind-set of the people of that day. It was 1775, the time of the Revolutionary War (Declaration of Independence 1776, remember?). The people wanted to break free from the British- the taxes, the rules, and the tyranny. They wanted to break free, move west, claim land and succeed. This could be accomplished in one of two ways: 1) come down the Ohio River by water, or 2) proceed through the Shenandoah Valley, along the Appalachian Mountains and through the Cumberland Gap by land.
One big problem faced the settlers: The Wilderness- a mysterious, scary, dangerous place to be, full of Indians and wild animals. There was a distinct possibility of starving or freezing to death, being killed, and some people even drowned.
The Historical Significance of Boone's Trace
So what is the historical significance of “that little road.” How could a tiny, dirt path be of such enormous significance? What’s the big deal?
Well, to begin with, it was the “first” such road into Ky. It must be remembered, at that time, there were NO actual roads into Kentucky or west of the Alleghenies. No towns, no roads-- nothing! No Louisville, London, Mt Vernon, Berea or anything- just wilderness. Imagine that! Nothing there but animals, Indians and forest!
That is not to say that there weren’t trails. There were plenty of Indian and animal trails, particularly buffalo trails, that could be followed to get somewhere. The trick was figuring out which trails to combine together to get from point A to B.
That was the genius of Daniel Boone. He had the unique ability to never forget where he had been and not get lost. It is said that he had two main assets: He had a photographic memory, and he was fearless. Remarkable!
So, his road was THE FIRST. The prototype. It was the FIRST road, ever, to bridge the Wilderness, for the specific purpose of bringing in settlers. Remember those words, “bringing in settlers”, indicating that it was the first meaningful road.
What Daniel Boone did in opening this little road was in essence to tell the world that a person COULD traverse the Wilderness, survive and succeed. So, history literally “turned” at that point, and about 200,000 people traveled over all or at least part of Boone Trace in next 20 years.
Actually, the “Spirit of America,” which exists even to this day, to dream, seek, achieve and triumph was born in part because of Boone Trace-- Pretty phenomenal in my opinion!
There is a monument at the Daniel Boone Park in Flat Lick, Ky. Emblazoned on it are these words which pretty much say it all-- “No other trail is of greater historical significant to the founding of Kentucky and opening of the west (than Boone Trace).”
Concluding, the historical significance of “that little road” is HUGE. Without question, it was Boone Trace which created a turning point in history. It was not the Wilderness Road, which became more dominant as time went on and has caused confusion about Boone Trace, allowing its importance and significance to be diminished and forgotten. It was Boone Trace that started it all, a fact that we must recognize and rectify.
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