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ment. The lack of proper government surveys, and the looseness with which the records were kept in the land office, put a premium on fraud and encouraged carelessness. People could make and record entries in secret, and have the land surveyed in secret, if they feared a dispute over a title; no one save the particular deputy surveyor employed needed to know. The litigation over these confused titles dragged on with interminable tediousness. Titles were often several deep on one "location," as it was called; and whoever purchased land too often purchased also an expensive and uncertain lawsuit.
The two chief topics of thought and conversation, the two subjects which beyond all others engrossed and absorbed the minds of the settlers, were the land and the Indians. We have already seen how on one occasion Clark could raise no men for an expedition against the Indians until he closed the land offices round which the settlers were thronging. Every hunter kept a sharp lookout for some fertile bottom on which to build a cabin. The volunteers who rode against the Indian towns also spied out the land and chose the best spots whereon to build their blockhouses and palisaded villages as soon as a truce might be made, or the foe driven
4 Draper MSS. in Wisconsin State Hist. Ass. Clark papers. Walter Darrell to Col. William Fleming, St. Asaphs, April 14, 1783. These valuable Draper MSS. have been opened to me by Mr. Reuben Gold Thwaites, the State Librarian; I tak this opportunity of thanking him for his generous courtesy to which I am so greatly indebted.
for the moment further from the border. Sometimes settlers squatted on land already held but not occupied under a good title; sometimes a man who claimed the land under a defective title, or under pretence of original occupation, attempted to oust or to blackmail him who had cleared and tilled the soil in good faith; and these were both fruitful causes not only of lawsuits but of bloody affrays. Among themselves, the settlers' talk ran ever on land titles and land litigation, and schemes for securing vast tracts of rich and well watered country. These were the subjects with which they filled their letters to one another and to their friends at home, and the subjects upon which these same friends chiefly dwelt when they sent letters in return. Often well-to-do men visited the new country by themselves first, chose good sites for their farms and plantations, surveyed and purchased them, and then returned to their old homes, whence they sent out their field hands to break the soil and put up buildings before bringing out their families.
The westward movement of settlers took place along several different lines. The dwellers in what is now Eastern Tennessee were in close touch with the old settled country; their farms and little towns formed part of the chain of forest clearings which stretched unbroken from the border of Virginia
5 Clay MSS. and Draper MSS., passim: e. g., in former, J. Mercer to George Nicholas, Nov. 28, 1789: J. Ware to George Nicholas, Nov. 29, 1789; letter to Mrs. Byrd, Jan. 16, 1786, etc., etc., etc.
down the valleys of the Watauga and the Holston. Though they were sundered by mountain ranges from the peopled regions in the State to which they belonged, North Carolina, yet these ranges were pierced by many trails, and were no longer haunted by Indians. There were no great obstacles to be overcome in moving in to this valley of the upper Tennessee. On the other hand, by this time it held no very great prizes in the shape of vast tracts of rich and unclaimed land. In consequence there was less temptation to speculation among those who went to this part of the Western country. It grew rapidly, the population being composed chiefly of actual settlers who had taken holdings with the purpose of cultivating them, and of building homes thereon. The entire frontier of this region was continually harassed by Indians; and it was steadily extended by the home-planting of the rifle-bearing backwoodsmen.
The danger from Indian invasion and outrage was, however, far greater in the distant communities which were growing up in the great bend of the Cumberland, cut off, as they were, by immense reaches of forest from the sea-board States. The settlers who went to this region for the most part followed two routes, either descending the Tennessee and ascending the Cumberland in flotillas of flat-boats and canoes, or else striking out in large bodies through the wilderness, following the trails that led westward from the settlements on the Holston. The population on the Cumberland did
not increase very fast for some years after the close of the Revolutionary War; and the settlers were, as a rule, harsh, sturdy backwoodsmen, who lived lives of toil and poverty. Nevertheless, there was a good deal of speculation in Cumberland lands; great tracts of tens of thousands of acres were purchased by men of means in the old districts of North Carolina, who sometimes came out to live on their estates. The looseness of the system of surveying in vogue is shown by the fact that where possible these lands were entered and paid for under a law which allowed a warrant to be shifted to new soil if it was discovered that the first entry was made on what was already claimed by someone else. 6
Hamlets and homesteads were springing up on the left bank of the upper Ohio, in what is now West Virginia; and along the streams flowing into it from the East. A few reckless adventurers were building cabins on the right bank of this great river. Others, almost as adventurous, were pushing into the neighborhood of the French villages on the Wabash and in the Illinois. At Louisville men were already planning to colonize the country just opposite on the Ohio, under the law of the State of Virginia, which rewarded the victorious soldiers of Clark's famous campaign with grants in the region they had conquered.
The great growth of the West took place in Kentucky. The Kentucky country was by far the
6 Clay MSS., Jesse Benton to Thos. Hart, April 3, 1786.
most widely renowned for its fertility; it was much more accessible and more firmly held, and its government was on a more permanent footing than was the case in the Wabash, Illinois, and Cumberland regions. In consequence the majority of the men who went West to build homes fixed their eyes on the vigorous young community which lay north of the Ohio, and which already aspired to the honors of Statehood.
The immigrants came into Kentucky in two streams, following two different routes—the Ohio River, and Boone's old Wilderness Trail. Those who came overland, along the latter road, were much fewer in number than those who came by water; and yet they were so numerous that the trail at times was almost thronged, and much care had to be taken in order to find camping places where there was enough feed for the horses. The people who traveled this wilderness road went in the usual backwoods manner, on horseback, with laden packtrains, and often with their herds and flocks. Young men went out alone or in parties; and groups of families from the same neighborhood often journeyed together. They struggled over the narrow, ill-made roads which led from the different back settlements, until they came to the last outposts of civilization east of the Cumberland Mountains; scattered block-houses, whose owners were by turns farmers, tavern-keepers, hunters, and Indian fight
Here they usually waited until a sufficient number had gathered together to furnish a band