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with eight companions, one of them a negro. He followed Boone's trace,-the Wilderness Road, through Cumberland Gap, and across the Cumberland River. Then he struck off southwest through the wilderness, lightening his labor by taking the broad, well-beaten buffalo trails whenever they led in his direction; they were very distinct near the pools and springs, and especially going to and from the licks. The adventurers reached the bend of the Cumberland without mishap, and fixed on the neighborhood of the Bluff, the ground near the French Lick, as that best suited for their purpose; and they planted a field of corn on the site of the future forted village of Nashborough. A few days after their arrival they were joined by another batch of hunter-settlers, who had come out under the leadership of Kasper Mansker.
As soon as the corn was planted and cabins put up, most of the intending settlers returned to their old homes to bring out their families, leaving three of their number "to keep the buffaloes out of the
Robertson himself first went north through the wilderness to see George Rogers Clark in Illinois, to purchase cabin-rights from him. This act gives an insight into at least some of the motives that influenced the adventurers. Doubtless they were impelled largely by sheer restlessness and love of change and excitement ;6 and these motives would there as commissioner at the time of the Chickamauga raid which was followed by Shelby's counter-stroke.
5 Haywood, 83. 6 Phelan, p. 111, fails to do justice to these motives, while
probably have induced them to act as they did, even had there been no others. But another and most powerful spring of action was the desire to gain land-not merely land for settlement, but land for speculative purposes. Wild land was then so abundant that the quantity literally seemed inexhaustible; and it was absolutely valueless until settled. Our forefathers may well be pardoned for failing to see that it was of more importance to have it owned in small lots by actual settlers than to have it filled up quickly under a system of huge grants to individuals or corporations. Many wise and good men honestly believed that they would benefit the country at the same time that they enriched themselves by acquiring vast tracts of virgin wilderness, and then proceeding to people them.
There was a rage for land speculation and land companies of every kind. The private correspondence of almost all the public men of the period, from Washington, Madison, and Gouverneur Morris down, is full of the subject. Innumerable people of position and influence dreamed of acquiring untold wealth in this manner. Almost every man of note was actually or potentially a land speculator; and in turn almost every prominent pioneer from Clark and Boone to Shelby and Robertson was either himself one of the speculators or an agent for those who were. Many people did not understand the laws on the subject, or hoped to evade them; and the hope was as strong
very properly insisting on what earlier historians ignored, the intense desire for land speculation.
in the breast of the hunter, who made a "tomahawk claim” by blazing a few trees, and sold it for a small sum to a new-comer, as in that of the well-to-doschemer, who bought an Indian title for a song, and then got what he could from all outsiders who came in to dwell on the land.
This speculative spirit was a powerful stimulus to the settlement not only of Kentucky, but of middle Tennessee. Henderson's claim included the Cumberland country, and when North Carolina annulled his rights, she promised him a large but indefinitely located piece of land in their place. He tried to undersell the State in the land market, and undoubtedly his offers had been among the main causes that induced Robertson and his associates to go to the Cumberland when they did. But at the time it was uncertain whether Cumberland lay in Virginia or North Carolina, as the line was not run by the surveyors until the following spring; and Robertson went up to see Clark, because it was rumored that the latter had the disposal of Virginia “cabin-rights”; under which each man could, for a small sum, purchase a thousand acres, on condition of building a cabin and raising a crop.
However, as it turned out, he might have spared himself the journey, for the settlement proved to be well within the Carolina boundary.
In the fall very many men came out to the new settlement, guided thither by Robertson and Mansker; the former persuading a number who were bound to Kentucky to come to the Cumberland in
stead. Among them were two or three of the Long Hunters, whose wanderings had done so much to make the country known. Robertson's special partner was a man named John Donelson. The latter went by water and took a large party of immigrants, including all the women and children, down the Tennessee, and thence up the Ohio and Cumberland to the Bluff or French Lick. Among them were Robertson's entire family, and Donelson's daughter Rachel, the future wife of Andrew Jackson, who missed by so narrow a margin being mistress of the White House. Robertson, meanwhile, was to lead the rest of the men by land, so that they should get there first and make ready for the coming of their families.
Robertson's party started in the fall, being both preceded and followed by other companies of settlers, some of whom were accompanied by their wives and children. Cold weather of extraordinary severity set in during November; for this was the famous "hard winter" of '79-80, during which the Kentucky settlers suffered so much. They were not molested by Indians, and reached the Bluff about Christmas. The river was frozen solid, and they all crossed the ice in a body; when in mid-stream the ice jarred, and—judging from the report—the jar or crack must have gone miles up and down the stream; but the ice only settled a little and did
? The plan was that Robertson should meet this party at the Muscle Shoals, and that they should go from thence overland; but owing to the severity of the winter, Robertson could not get to the shoals.
not break. By January first there were over two hundred people scattered on both sides of the river. In Robertson's company was a man named John Rains, who brought with him twenty-one horned cattle and seventeen horses; the only cattle and horses which any of the immigrants succeeded in bringing to the Cumberland. But he was not the only man who had made the attempt. One of the immigrants who went in Donelson's flotilla, Daniel Dunham by name, offered his brother John, who went by land, £100 to drive along his horses and cattle. John accepted, and tried his best to fulfil his share of the bargain; but he was seemingly neither a very expert woodsman nor yet a good stock hand. There is no form of labor more arduous and dispiriting than driving unruly and unbroken stock along a faint forest or mountain trail, especially in bad weather; and this the would be drover speedily found out. The animals would not follow the trail; they incessantly broke away from it, got lost, scattered in the brush, and stampeded at night. Finally the unfortunate John, being, as he expressed it, nearly "driven mad by the drove,' abandoned them all in the wilderness. 8
The settlers who came by water passed through much greater peril and hardship. By a stroke of good fortune the journal kept by Donelson, the leader of the expedition, has been preserved.' As
8 MSS. on "Dunham Pioneers,” in Nashville Hist. Society. Daniel, a veteran stockman, was very angry when he heard what had happened.
9 Original MS. “Journal of Voyage intended by God's per