Now that the website has been up a few weeks the interest in my little journey is growing. Kentucky’s Office of Adventure Tourism will be following with interest and the first major press activity should be hitting a newspaper in Middlesboro, Kentucky just after Christmas. I’m hoping many more followers will be signing up for the emails as a result. So I decided to review exactly how I got the opportunity to play Indiana Jones and search for the lost relic that is Boone Trace.
Several years ago I discovered the story of my 5X great grandpa, Joshua, and his involvement in the siege of Fort Boonesborough in 1778. I also discovered that the only way to get to the fort was up a road called Boone Trace. I thought it would be neat-o keen to walk that route and see some of the sights grandpa saw. I let the idea ruminate a few years and this past January asked my lovely wife, Kimberly, if she would mind if I went for a hike in Kentucky. Blessing granted!
I began searching the world wide web for information telling me where this road was but only discovered it ceased to be a travel-able route well back in the 1800’s. I decided to head down to Frankfort, Kentucky and visit the State’s historical society and find whatever help I could to walk the roads that were the closest.
Just before my fact finding trip came, I happened across a 2 year old newsletter online that told about the University of Kentucky working on a map of that now defunct road. I shot an email explaining my intentions and immediately got a response from the president of the Boone Society. Mr. Sam Compton was thrilled with my idea and emailed me the map I needed. I headed to Staples to get some quality printing of my newly acquired map. I discovered the map was actually 25 topographical maps in great detail with a red line showing the exact route of Boone Trace. Heavens to freaking murgatroyd! I could not only get close to where grandpa was, this was dead on!
Even though I had the maps, I still took the trip to Frankfort to see what I could find on the Penix Family in Kentucky. Turns out my Aunt Patty Ann did an excellent job at research because she had more information than the genealogy library in Kentucky.
While there, I talked on the phone with Mr. Compton who offered to hook me up with Neal O. Hammon, a premiere historian in the State of Kentucky and the man himself who researched and created the maps I now held so dear. A few calls later and I was on my way to Mr. Hammon’s home for lunch. He is an 88 year old walking encyclopedia of history and facts. It was truly a treat to sit for the brief time I had and study the maps with the map maker himself. Mr. Hammon also suggested I contact a doctor by the name of John Fox. He didn’t say how to contact him so I just filed it in the back of my mind.
Over the next 3 months I “traveled” the route many times using Google Earth, making notes on hand drawn maps that correlated with the topo maps. I was confident I knew the route and continued to make lists of equipment I would need to backpack this 200 mile bit of American history.
I had some more communications with Sam and was invited to the June Biennial Boone Family Reunion in Pineville, Kentucky. I went and met many Boone descendants who were thrilled to hear I was going to walk this road which was the true opening of the west for colonial America.
Just prior to going to Pineville I came across a website called Boonetrace1775.com. It was an organization called Friends of Boone Trace headed by a Dr. John Fox. I contacted him at the urging of Neal Hammon and am so glad I did. He has been studying this road for 5 years and has more “on the ground” knowledge than anyone. He met with me in Kentucky and we shared maps and details. We drove some back roads and he showed me original portions that were only recently rediscovered. In October I went back to Kentucky and John and I continued the search for the route. One more trip in January will complete the field research before the expedition begins March 10th.
Back in February I didn’t realize so many others were interested in Boone Trace. However, after learning its history and how important it was to the forming of our country, how can we not be interested? It is estimated that 15% (47 mil.) of U.S. citizens are descendants of pioneers who traveled it, like the Penix family.
How far back can you go in your family? What route did your ancestors travel to put you where you are today? Follow me as I walk with Joshua.