Along the Wilderness Road, KY Wilderness Council own Junior Badge (Original)

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On March 10, 1773 about 30 men led by Daniel Boone left Tennessee to settle the wilderness of Kentucky. This group's purpose was to mark a path from the starting point to the settlement site, which was Ft. Boonesboro. The passed through Cumberland Gap. Whenever possible the men traveled along Indian paths and buffalo trails. When necessary they chopped passages through the forest and cane-breaks. By April 1, 1773, when they reached Boonesboro, they had marked what would be known as the Wilderness Trail. The trail was a rough, crude passage, and in places only a barely cleared path marked by axe blazes on trees.

Over the next few decades the Wilderness Trail became a useful route for thousands of settlers coming into Kentucky. For years it remained only wide enough for foot and horse traffic for most of its length. The Wilderness Road was created by an act of the Kentucky Legislature November 1795. By 1796, a few years after Kentucky became the 15th state, the Kentucky portion of the route was widened to allow wagon traffic.

Construction of the Wilderness Road led to increased commerce between the new commonwealth and all the country to the east and south. Its opening marked the beginning of peaceful passage through the wilderness.

Choose 8 Activities to Complete

  • Cumberland Gap is perhaps the best known mountain pass in America. Buffalo were the first to find the Gap and trampled out a path connecting their favorite salt licks with grazing lands. Research what the wilderness was like before the coming of the pioneer settlers.
  • Early pioneers endured many hardships trying to tame a wild country. Life is much different today than it was 200 years ago. Junior Girl Scout troops should talk about what a pioneer's life was like. Leaders should talk about the struggles in the wilderness - of being hungry, cold, working hard, and the dangers of the wilderness.
  • The first permanent settlement in Kentucky was Ft. Harrod in 1774. Two living history museums are located at Ft. Harrod in Harrodsburg and Ft. Boonsboro in Richmond. These places are pioneer forts that have been reconstructed. Visit a historic place, home or site. Check with Along the Wilderness Road - Council Guide to History and Heritage Resources for available sites near your home town.
  • When pioneers came to the wilderness, there were no grocery stores or farms where they could obtain food for the families. Trees and other plants provided them with nuts, berries, and roots. Research at least 3 edible plants and make a food item from one plant. Examples are: cattails, staghorn sumac berries, papaw, black walnuts, elderflower or berries, acorns, Kentucky coffee bean, wild strawberries or blackberries, fern fiddleheads, sassafras, and milkweeds.
  • Early settlers relied heavily on the Indian's knowledge of native foods and were rewarded with a wide variety of dishes previously unknown to them. Many traditional Indian foods need no introduction today and no recipes. Pop some corn. Bake squash or pumpkin or potatoes. Try roasting peanuts or ears of corn or apples on the coals of a campfire.
  • There were no doctors or hospitals in the wilderness. Nevertheless, people did get sick and often needed help. Settlers were forced to make do with what they had on hand. Some of the remedies undoubtedly worked; some were useless and others were fatal. Research folk remedies for two common illnesses. Examples are common cold, earache, burns, headaches, cough, poison ivy.
  • Sewing skills were vital to pioneer women since making and repairing clothes for the family were her duty. One way young girls learned to sew was by stitching a picture that used the cross, feather, blind and backstitches. Most girls completed a "Sampler," displaying their needlework skills, when they were 8 or 9 years old. Choose a pattern and make a sampler.
  • Patchwork is the only uniquely American form of needlework. The smallest scraps of cloth became precious when women had to wait until flax was harvested or wool sheared before it was spun, woven and sewn. Therefore, women saved every scrap of cloth and assembled them into usable-size pieces. Quilting is stitching a design through several layers of cloth. Patterns were developed that made the patch work quilts attractive and decorative as well as useful. Watch and discuss quilting with women who quilt in your community, or learn to piece a 4 patch or 6 patch square. Make a usable potholder or pouch style bag.
  • Early settlers ran water over the charcoal to obtain lye. This liquid was then mixed with warm melted fat, tallow or lard to form soap. Find the directions for homemade soap and make some.
  • Candles provided light and were made form native materials such as bees wax or tallow. Most candles were dipped because they required no special equipment. Dip candles.
  • The notion of a regular playtime was not part of the pioneer's way of thinking. toys were limited. Most girls had a corn shuck or rag doll while boys cherished a horse made from a stick and outline-style wood head. Make a simple pioneer toy using natural materials.
  • Games were important in the day of do-it-yourself entertainment. Many of the folk songs are hundreds of years old, handed down for generations. These games and songs are just as popular now as they were then. Play games or sing songs that may be traced back to the 18th century.

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