Day 14 – Berea

Walking began at 8:05 a.m.

We continue north on the actual route of Daniel Boone. There are just a handful of places where we can say 100% it is the ground Boone traveled on and this is one of them. We left the town of Wildie this morning and have been walking in a long valley along the Roundstone Creek and between the mountains. At the north end of this lowland, the mountains close in, the Roundstone ends and we find ourselves at a natural funnel leading out of the furrow. Today it is known as Boone Gap.

A roadside park is in the planning stages to give travelers driving up Hwy 25 a rest stop and view of this historic pioneer pathway. A stone wall built many decades ago overlooks the gully that Boone walked up and a plaque commemorating the spot has been newly mounted. I, like Boone and his men, have fought approximately 170 miles to get to this spot and the end is not far.

Just north of Boone Gap is the town of Berea. In 1850 the area was called the Glades and consisted of scattered farms with citizens sympathetic to emancipation. Cassius Marcellus Clay, a wealthy abolitionist, gave Reverend John Gregg Fee a tract of land for the purpose of establishing 2 churches, a small village and Berea College, which remains the central fixture of the town today. In 1855 it was the only integrated coeducational college in the south and the towns abolitionist reputation was well known and welcomed freed African-Americans to educate and improve their lives.

In 1859 pro-slavery supporters ran John Fee, and other abolitionists, out of Berea as pro and anti-slavery ideals clashed leading up to the Civil War. After the war was over, Fee returned and doubled his efforts to educate and create opportunities for the now free population of blacks in Kentucky.

Berea College continues today as a tuition-free institution offering a 4 year education to all promising students regardless of need. The town and college are an epicenter for interest in the culture and traditions of Appalachia by writers, academics, missionaries and teachers. The community is abounding in traditional Appalachian crafts and music.

Boone, throughout his life was know as a friend to all manner of men. He believed in the teachings of his Quaker upbringing that all men have “the light of God” in them and are loved by the creator. Boone was a friend to Indians and only fought when necessary as his charm and friendly demeanor served him well in most situations. In Boone’s last years in Missouri his good friend, and the man he chose as his hunting partner, was Derry Coburn. Derry was known by Boone’s family to be a “man of the same peculiar disposition which characterized Daniel Boone, non-communicative on subjects of his exploits.” When on the hunt Derry and Boone did not need to talk as talking would spoil the chances of success. They could understand what each was thinking without talking. In the woods together, Boone was not an 80 year old pioneer and Derry was not a 23 year old negro slave, as anyone would assume at sight of them, they were hunting buddies.

This evening Givan, John, and I have the honor to speak to a group in Berea who are working on a plan to draw in people who want to learn more about this trail and historic pioneer life. We’re looking forward to it!

Walk on,

Curtis

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