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Early Kentucky History

Submitted by A Clement

It is my understanding that Dr. Thomas Walker entered Kentucky in 1750 and built a small cabin in the area that is now called the Cumberland Gap.

Thomas Walker

Dr. Thomas Walker (1715-1794)
Dr. Thomas Walker was one of the great explorers of southwestern Virginia, crossing Cumberland Gap (what he called Cave Gap) on April 17, 1750 and "discovering" Kentucky. He was not the first person to cross the gap.  Native Americans had lived in the area for perhaps 10,000 years. As Walker recorded in his journal, he was not even the first European to cross it and mark the passage.

He is also known for the Walker-Washington map.

Dr. Thomas Walker State Historical Site

Dr. Walker, a physician and surveyor from Virginia, was the first to lead an expedition through the Cumberland Gap. Most people recall Daniel Boone when thinking about explorers, however, in 1750 Walker passed through the gap and went on to explore Kentucky. Dr. Thomas Walker State Historical Site celebrates this pioneer and explorer and a replica of the cabin he built stands on the 12-acre site. The house and the surrounding area may be toured year round, and there are a variety of facilities to enjoy while there.

Aligany. Copied from a Map of Doctor Walkers laid Before the Assembly

 In 1749 the Loyal Company appointed Thomas Walker to lead an expedition to explore and survey its grant of 800,000 acres in what is now southeastern Kentucky. In 1750, seventeen years before Daniel Boone’s legendary adventures in Kentucky, Thomas Walker traveled through the Cumberland Gap (which he named), explored much of eastern Kentucky, and built the first house in Kentucky. Upon returning home, Walker produced a map from the information he gathered on this expedition. He presented it to the House of Burgesses in 1769 during a debate over the boundary between Virginia’s western settlements and Indian lands. George Washington, who was then head of the Mississippi Company, modified this map in 1769 and included it in that land-speculating company’s petition for 2.5 million acres near the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The map shown in this exhibition is a facsimile of the Walker-Washington map; the original belongs to the Library of Congress.


Jefferson's Dream

Thomas Jefferson had a dream, one might almost say an obsession. It began in his youth, when his father, Peter Jefferson, was involved in a company promoting westward settlement to Kentucky and Tennessee. Peter was one of the first of the tidewater planters to move out to the Piedmont area of Virginia. He helped survey the state and create the Jefferson-Fry map of Virginia, published in London in 1751 under the Royal Geographer, Jeffreys. In 1749, Peter Jefferson, Joshua Fry, Dr. Thomas Walker, and James Maury formed the "Loyal Land Company" to buy and promote land purchases west of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Walker was the first  non-Indian to cross the Blue Ridge into Kentucky, and charted the Cumberland Gap.

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