It is likely that European's traveled through southwest Virginia before 1750, with long hunters and traders passing through using buffalo and Indian trails. One of their routes eventually came to be called "The Hunter's Trail", leading from the Castle's Wood area on the Clinch to Powell Valley and the Cumberland Gap. The earlist formal exploration of the area was undertaken by Dr. Thomas Walker in 1749/1750 who passed through on the way to the Cumberland Gap and Kentucky. Summers, 1929, shows his route passing through Moccassin Gap (Gate City), though he probably entered the Powell Valley by a southernly route through Handcock County, TN, as shown here. Walker was followed shortly thereafter by Christopher Gist on his return to Virginia after exploring the Ohio and Kentucky areas for the Ohio Company in 1750-1751. Gist's Route route took him through Pound Gap into Southwest Virginia. By 1774 a road from Roanoke to the north passed soutwesterly into the area. Known as "The Road to the Clinch" it served as the major settlement route for the area for pioneers coming from the Shenandoah Valley. After the establishment of Boone's Road in 1776, the Road to the Clinch became known as "The Kentucky Road" or the "Kentucky Trace", or sometimes as "Boone's Road". Routes shown here are based on a depiction in Summers, 1929, as well as the 1774 map of Daniel Smith. Portions of some of the routes shown differ somewhat from Summers, 1929. Additional work on these routes is needed. Bill 16:20, 1 November 2007 (EDT)
Early routes of exploration and settlement c1750-c1776. Based on routes given by Source:Summers, 1929
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