No person alive today knows more about the physical make-up of Boone Trace than Dr. John Fox M.D.. A recently retired surgen from Lexington, John has spent much of his spare time in the past 6 years researching this route. His dedication to preserving “that little road” has led him to create The Friends of Boone Trace organization for the sole purpose of identifiying and preserving as much of the Trace as possible. When I contacted John last spring and told him my intentions to walk in the footsteps of my 5X great grandfather, he began sharing his knowledge without reservation.
I asked John to share with you, my cyber hikers, his thoughts on the upcoming hike.
WHAT THE HIKE OF CURTIS PENIX MEANS TO THE FRIENDS OF BOONE TRACE
To really appreciate the importance of the Curtis Penix hike, it is necessary to understand what Boone Trace is all about. So, let’s go over it one more time. In 1775, Daniel Boone was literally hired by Richard Henderson, the owner of the Transylvania Land Company, to open a road for the purpose of bringing in settlers. Henderson had acquired a large tract of land from the Cherokee indians and wanted to sell it off and make a lot of money (which didn’t happen.) Prior to that time, there were no roads, and the white population, in this territory at the end of 1774, was practically zero except for the activity near what was to become Fort Harrod.
During the months of March and April 1775, he and his band of road cutters “marked” the trail. History literally “turned” at this point, because settlers realized that they could survive passage through the dreaded, dangerous and mysterious wilderness, claim their land and succeed. So, the “american dream” to have a vision, seek it, acquire it and triumph were born, in part, due to “that little road” (our battle cry for Boone Trace.)
Settlers then began to pour into the land that was to become Kentucky, which became a state in 1792 (only seventeen years later). Therefore, the historical importance of “that little road” was HUGE!! It was only a dirt trail, essentially a bridle path, large enough for horses only, not even wagons; but its impact was monumental. On a plaque at the Daniel Boone Park in Flat Lick, Ky., the inscription reads, “No other trail is of greater historical significance to the founding of Kentucky and the opening of the west (than Boone Trace.)”
Unfortunately, Boone Trace has been overlooked and ignored in recent times. In 1915 the Daughters of the American Revolution recognized its significance and put out 14 markers along the Trace. In 1942, the Laurel County Historical Society placed seven stone markers in their county, specifically marking Boone Trace. It was mapped by Neal O. Hammon in 1970, and since then, essentially nothing has been done to preserve and recognize the Trace.
Enter Curtis Penix: His desire to walk in the footsteps of his 5X great grandfather, Joshua, who resided at Fort Boonesborough at least as early as 1779, and who undoubtedly entered along Boone Trace, will bring great attention to the Trace and its historical significance. It will, in turn, impact preservation of its remnants, both of which are the primary missions of FBT, Inc.
As part of that process, we envision a walking trail of the entire Trace and have, after considerable research, identified a route that follows the actual trail as closely as possible, although we continue to uncover previously unrecognized segments. We feel that such a trail could rival the famous Appalachian Trail, but have the profound feature of its historical past. And now, we can say that we have had someone actually hike the trail!
Others have hiked and explored Boone Trace, but usually they have taken existing, paved roads for the most part, and no one has attempted it, carrying their own food, sleeping under the stars and facing the elements as will Curtis. It will be a true “expedition,” and we are not even certain that it can be done. In a way, he will be re-enacting Daniel Boone’s original expedition. Boone knew roughly where he wanted to go, but had to open and mark the trail for the first time as he went. Similarly, Curtis knows where he wants to go, and now, the challenge is to do it.
So by March’s end, Curtis and his hiking partner, Givan Fox, will serve as the initial trailblazers for all those that follow; and he will have honored the memory of his grandfather, Joshua- a truly noble accomplishment.
John M. Fox MD
President, Friends of Boone Trace, Inc.
February 20, 2015