Dr. Thomas Walker’s Journal, part 4

Jadon Gibson

 Dr. Thomas Walker documented the discovery of Cumberland Gap on April 13, 1750 before he and his small band of men – Ambrose Powell, William Tomlinson, Colby Chew, Henry Lawless and John Hughes – ventured deeper into Kentucky.

April 13  We traveled four miles to a large creek which we called Cedar Creek, a branch of Beargrass River, and then six miles on level land to Cave Gap (Cumberland Gap). 

We found a large spring from which the waters plunge very fast.  Just above the spring is a small entrance to a large cave from which cool air and spring water is emitted.  The creek flowing down the mountainside is strong enough to turn a mill.  (Gap Creek still flows from Cudjo’s Cave and is a source of water for the city of Cumberland Gap and Lincoln Memorial University in Harrogate, TN.)

 At the foot of the hill is a laurel thicket through which the spring water passes.  We see an Indian road that passes through the gap and atop the ridge we found blazed trees and others with carved crosses and figures on them.  (Blazing was a method of marking one’s trail.)

 I came upon a branch and laurel thicket at the base of the mountain on the north side and carved my name on a large beech tree that stands at the left of the trail.  The gap can be seen from a long distance.

 The land is very flat after passing through the gap and down the mountainside.  We followed the branch two miles.  Several other branches join to form what we call Flat Creek.  We camped along the bank and found very good coal.  We traveled 13 miles today.  (The flat area Dr. Walker referred to is the present site of Middlesboro, KY.  Walker’s Flat Creek is now called Yellow Creek. It’s been determined that the vast flat area on which Middlesboro was built is the result of a meteor many years ago giving Middlesboro claim to being “the only city built in a crater.”

 April 14  We traveled five miles along the Indian Road which is difficult for our horses.

April 15  Easter Sunday.  The traveling is still difficult for our horses.  We went seven miles along the Indian Road to what we called Clover Creek because of all the clover and hop vines.  (This is now called Clear Creek.)

April 16  Rain.  My shoes have worn out so I made myself a pair of Indian shoes.

April 17.  It is still raining.  I went hunting down Flat Creek and found that a mile below our camp the creek enters into a river.  This I called Cumberland River.

April 18  It is still cloudy.  We kept going down the creek to the river by way of the Indian Road to where it crossed.  We can tell that Indians lived here some years go. 

(Travelers in that era didn’t have the benefit of bridges to cross streams requiring them to find shallow places to wade. They crossed just below the old Pineville L & N station.  For many years it was known as Cumberland Ford, the crossing of the Indians Warpath, and was part of the Wilderness Road blazed by Daniel Boone in 1775. General Bragg’s army also forded the Cumberland River here during the Civil War, following their retreat from the Battle of Perryville in October 1862.)

We continued along the south side of the river five miles where it became very crooked.  We got away from the river but after three miles we came upon it again.  It is about 60 or 70 yards wide.  We rode a total of about 8 miles today.

April 19  We left the river but after four miles came upon it again at the mouth of Licking Creek.  We traveled up Licking Creek to a place where we forded and started back down the other side.  In the forks of Licking Creek is a lick much used by buffaloes and there are many trails that lead to it.  Ambrose Powell was bitten on the knee by a bear this afternoon.  This day we rode seven miles.

April 20  We kept down the creek for two miles and reached the river again.  It doesn’t seem any wider than the mouth of Clover (Clear) Creek but much deeper.  I thought it was proper for us to cross the river so we began building a bark canoe.

Editor’s note:  We’ll continue with Dr. Walker’s journal entries next week.  Jadon Gibson is a freelance writer from Harrogate, TN.

A Voice for God – A Voice for Good

   My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me. A month or two ago I read and saw on television where several motorcycle riders had been plowed into by a motorist either accidentally or for some unknown reason. You could tell from the pictures they had a substantial investment in their rides and must have enjoyed their outings. It’s terrible that this was taken from them and their lives too. Just think of the heartache in those families.

I thought of my brother Larry who wanted to be a jet pilot but bought a 1948 Indian Chief motorcycle knowing his flying days would not come until after finishing college. A notable outing for him was when his cycle slid out from under him and into a ditch. He was climbing Letcher County’s Cowan Hill, right before Pine Mountain. A motorist was following close behind making Larry somewhat uncomfortable and perhaps driving at a slightly higher speed than he wanted to for the conditions. He came upon some ice crystals on a curve where the sun had not yet touched and he lost it, sliding into the mountainside. Our good Lord was watching over him. He had been a Christian for ten years or so. His pride was hurt more than his minor injuries and the cycle repairment costs that followed.

It wasn’t long after this that Larry offered to teach me to ride. I had mixed thoughts about it, probably due to his aforementioned accident. II climbed on behind and rode to a nearby area where I could learn the ropes. I can’t recall if I was driving with Larry behind me or vice versa.    

Asphalt roads usually have a half inch or more buildup along the edge. Through the years it has caused many bicycle accidents and I’m sure some motorcycle accidents too. Well it caused Larry’s 1948 Indian cycle to go into quite an erratic mode. That plus his earlier accident was too much for me.

I aborted the learning lesson and haven’t been on a cycle since. Now I’m not a chicken even though I occasionally squawk about one thing or another but I decided to scratch any thoughts of cycle-riding that may have loomed in my future.

As for Larry he had a lengthy career flying A-4 Sky Hawks and F-8 Crusaders with the Marine Corps after college, including two tough stints in Vietnam. Oh by the way he sold his Indian cycle before leaving the University of Kentucky but tells me at times he wishes he hadn’t. If for no other reason the 1948 Indian cycles are “now worth a pretty penny.”

My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me. He spared my brother during his hazardous military career and helped me stay reasonably healthy through the years. Larry is now 82 and I’m 79…. and counting.

My good Lord in Heaven has been so good to me. When I was in my early thirties I saw an obituary of a man who died at age 39. I recall hoping I live that long. I’ve done that now… plus another forty. Thank you Lord for all the good you do for me. I recognize your presence in my life every day. 

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