We are in our second day of travel through the Daniel Boone National Forest. We should be near the western edge this evening.
Even though the boundaries of the DBNF contain 2.1 million acres of land, only 708,000 acres of that is owned by the U.S. Forest Service. The rest is privately owned.
On one of my research trips to Kentucky, I stopped in Mount Vernon which is the seat of Rockcastle County. In the clerks office, as in any U.S. city, are the public records of who owns what land. The clerk rolled out for me the satellite imagery maps that have the property lines superimposed on the high resolution photo taken from high above the Earth. I was surprised at how little of the national forest was actually national forest. I followed along my planned route which passed in and out of the property lines.
These lines were well defined and properly recorded so there is no mistake in who owns what parcel. In Daniel Boone’s day this was not the case. The land west of the Appalachians was really owned by no one. Yes, Col. Henderson “purchased” the land from the Native Americans, but there were still questions from both white man and red man if the land was any body’s to sell.
Nonetheless, pioneers flooded in to claim their new land. One way they could legally do so was by building a home and planting a plot of corn. In doing so, they were establishing a homestead and satisfying the legal requirements for land claims. Many crude cabins were built and plots of corn were planted, only to be abandoned by people disenchanted with the wilderness or over zealous to claim more than what they could maintain.
Another way to legally claim land was to hire a surveyor to go to the wilderness, measure off and mark a prime piece of land and return to the east to have the description legally recorded. This method had it’s share of problems. Often a surveyor would perform the duties in marking the land and days after he left the area another would happen on the same parcel to survey and mark it. Parcels would get “shingled” which means the borders of one survey would overlap another. The ensuing court cases went on for years to sort out who claimed what first. Daniel Boone was one of those who lost land and money due to poor record keeping. Although Boone had much land promised to him, he owned very little.
It’s off into the “Wilderness” for Curtis Penix and Givan Fox on their trek up Boone Trace following in the footsteps of Curtis’ 5X great grandfather, Joshua Penix, who came in along this same path probably with Daniel Boone himself in 1779. At this point along the route, they go overland where there are no modern roads, and it must be traversed on foot or horseback. It is true wilderness and rattlesnake territory. Oh, boy, here we go!
There are two such sections of Boone Trace, one in Laurel County, south of London, and this one in Rockcastle County. If you want to find it on a map, find Trace Branch Rd. off of Hwy 490, which goes through Livingston, and follow it up to Hwy 1955 (Red Hill Rd.) About 1/2 mile before reaching the top, the trail cuts off the existing road to the left up a ravine, crosses along a cliff at “Windy Gap” where they camped last night overlooking a spectacular canyon totally unknown to the world. This morning, they then started down from the ridge line to Mullins Station, then on to Orlando to Wildie.
The three photos show Curtis leading the way up the ravine, Givan standing on the edge of the canyon and then the road leading down to Mullins station. Good luck, boys. I’m proud.
Dad (John Fox, Givan’s Dad)