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THE BACKWOODSMEN OF THE ALLEGHANIES 1
ALONG the western frontier of the colonies that were so soon to be the United States, among the foothills of the Alleghanies, on the slopes of the wooded mountains, and in the long trough-like valleys that lay between the ranges, dwelt a peculiar and characteristically American 5 people.
These frontier folk, the people of the up-country, or back-country, who lived near and among the forest-clad mountains, far away from the long-settled districts of flat coast plain and sluggish tidal river, were known to 10 themselves and to others as backwoodsmen. They all bore a strong likeness to one another in their habits of thought and ways of living, and differed markedly from the people of the older and more civilized communities to the eastward. The western border of our country was 15 then formed by the great barrier-chains of the Alleghanies, which ran north and south from Pennsylvania through Maryland, Virginia, and the Carolinas, the trend of the valleys being parallel to the seacoast, and the mountains rising highest to the southward. It was difficult to cross 20 the ranges from east to west, but it was both easy and natural to follow the valleys between. From Fort Pitto to the high hill-homes of the Cherokeeso this great tract of wooded and mountainous country possessed nearly the same features and characteristics, differing utterly 25 in physical aspect from the alluvial plains bordering the ocean,
1 Reprinted by permission from The Winning oj the West, copyrighted by G. P. Putnam's Sons.
So, likewise, the backwoods mountaineers who dwelt near the great water-shed that separates the Atlantic streams from the springs of the Watauga, the Kanawha, and the Monongahela, were all cast in the same mould, 5 and resembled each other much more than any of them did their immediate neighbors of the plains. The backwoodsmen of Pennsylvania had little in common with the peaceful population of Quakers and Germans who
lived between the Delaware and the Susquehanna; and 10 their near kinsmen of the Blue Ridge and the Great
Smoky Mountains were separated by an equally wide gulf from the aristocratic planter communities that flourished in the tide-water regions of Virginia and the
Carolinas. Near the coast the lines of division between 15 the colonies corresponded fairly well with the differences
between the populations; but after striking the foot-hills, though the political boundaries continued to go east and west, those both of ethnic and of physical significance began to run north and south.
The backwoodsmen were Americans by birth and parentage, and of mixed race; but the dominant strain in their blood was that of the Presbyterian Irish-the Scotch-Irish,' as they were often called. Full credit has
been awarded the Roundheado and the Cavaliero for 25 their leadership in our history; nor have we been alto
gether blind to the deeds of the Hollander and the Huguenot;o but it is doubtful if we have wholly realized the importance of the part played by that stern and virile
people, the Irish, whose preachers taught the creed of 30 Knoxo and Calvino. These Irish representatives of the
Covenanters were in the West almost what the Puritans were in the Northeast, and more than the Cavaliers were