Dr. Thomas Walker’s Journal, Part 2

Jadon Gibson

Dr. Thomas Walker wasn’t the first man or even the first white man to pass through the world-famous Cumberland Gap but he kept a journal documenting his discovery in 1750. They ventured into the wilderness that would become Kentucky.  We’re rejoining Dr. Walker on March 27, 1750.

     March 27  It snowed this morning and continued until noon.  The land is very hilly to the west and north which is the direction of our travel.  We can see snow on the mountaintops.

     March 28  We traveled to the lower end of Giant’s Ditch on Reedy Creek.  (The headwaters of Reedy Creek are at the base of a mountain, now named Walker Mountain, in Washington County, VA.  The waters of Reedy Creek flow into the South Fork of Holston River at Kingsport, TN.)

     March 29  Our dogs were very uneasy all night which kept us alert for possible danger.

     March 30  We continued traveling along Reedy Creek today and came across the tracks of about 20 Indians who had passed nearby while we were asleep.  We caught two young buffaloes.  We killed one for food and marked the other and turned it loose.  There are signs of a large number of buffalo in the region.

     March 31  We continued along Reedy Creek to the Holston (River).  There are numerous large trees.  We measured an elm that was 25 feet around.  We went down the South Fork of the Holston until we got to the North Fork.   We traveled north about a quarter mile and passed five Indian houses that were built with logs and covered with bark.  There are many bones lying about and pots, pans and cloth. (Most scholars feel these homes and belongings were those of Melungeons instead of Indians.) 

     After fording the river we found four more Indian houses.  We continued four miles below the North River and camped on the bank of the Holston opposite a large Indian Fort. (This would have been more like a village of sorts and not of the pioneer forts.)

      April 1 The Sabbath.  We saw plenty perch, mullet and carp in the river.  We caught a large catfish.  I marked my name and the date on several beech trees.

     April 2 We left the Holston River and traveled through small hills for seven miles.  One of our horses choked while eating Carolina cane (reeds) and we had to make camp.

     April 3 Our horse has recovered so we traveled to Rocky Ridge.  I climbed to the top of the mountain searching for a pass but didn’t find an acceptable one for us to pass through.  There are many smaller mountains to the east and a buffalo trail between them and the ridge.  The mountain is covered with pine trees and the rocks look white from a distance.  We traveled seven miles along buffalo trails today.

     April 5 We went down a creek which we call Holly Creek because of the abundance of holly as well as laurel and ivy.  In mid-afternoon the ridge appeared less stony and we passed through a gap.  We camped about a mile from the top.  My riding horse choked on reeds this evening and I drenched him with water until his emergency had passed. 

     April 6  it rained so much today we did not attempt to travel.

     April 7 It snowed most of the day as we traveled eight miles.  After setting up camp our dogs jumped a large male bear.  It wounded one of my dogs before we could shoot it.

     April 8 The Sabbath.  It is still snowing.  My dog will be unable to travel so we’ll take him by horseback.

     April 9 We traveled until we came upon Clinch River where we marked several beech trees on the east side.  We could not find a ford shallow enough for our horses to carry our baggage across.  Ambrose Powell forded over on a horse and we drove the other horses after him.  We then made a raft and carried a load across.  The raft was so heavy afterwards it couldn’t float with baggage.

     April 10 We waded across the river with the remainder of our supplies on our shoulders today.  The river is about 130 yards wide.  We then traveled five miles before setting up camp.

     Editor’s note:  Dr. Thomas Walker and his party arrive at Cumberland Gap in Jadon’s story next week at bereaonline.com. His stories are both historical and nostalgic in nature. Don’t miss a single posting!

A Voice for God – A Voice for Good

My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me.

I was told that one of my father’s grandfathers had several children. Most of them remained in their home area but two or three moved westward, perhaps to Kansas, Oklahoma or Texas.

In doing my genealogical research I was told that one of Dad’s grandfathers had a son who failed to communicate with them back in eastern Tennessee. After a lengthy time with no contact the grandfather in question had his wife or one of his children write a letter to the long-lost son, saying that he was gravely ill. Two or three weeks later the son traveled many miles back to Tennessee and found his father to be in robust health. 

Distance has an effect on families. Throughout history family members have been separated by calamity, war, opportunities or other reasons but even in this modern age many family members can be found living near each other.

My brother lives in Mississippi. He was a career Marine pilot who married a local girl and remained in Mississippi following his retirement. My sister married a school teacher who chose Michigan instead of Kentucky because in the 1960’s the pay scale was much greater there than in Kentucky.

As for me I chose a business opportunity in Missouri upon graduation from college. I worked there 23 years before returning to the mountains, this time in Tennessee rather than my home state of Kentucky. Although we grew up in Kentucky we reside in Mississippi, Michigan and Tennessee.

My oldest son received a fellowship from the University of California Berkeley and stayed there 30 years before retiring although he still resides in California. My younger son chose a career in our military and remained 21 years before his discharge. He now lives on the Virginia coast.  My wife’s son retired from the U.S. Air Force after 24 years and works and resides in Florida. You see how convoluted this can become.

Two of our sons stay in very close contact, calling or texting, but the other one does not. I’m hesitant at calling him an absent-minded professor because he is much more astute than the average bear. When he does call, infrequently, his message is as nice and loving as can be. He just doesn’t call. He’s always very busy with school and is a percussionist with several groups in the Oakland, Berkeley, San Francisco area.

Guess what happened! I was at my computer working a week or 10 days ago and into the house popped both of my sons, California and coastal Virginia, as pleasant and happy as could be. I hadn’t seen them both together in more than ten years. We had a great visit for two or three days. They had communicated with my wife saying they were coming. She wanted to keep it a surprise and so it was, a most pleasant one at that.

The last couple years have been difficult for me health-wise so it was especially good that they returned home for the visit. My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me.

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