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Along the Maysville Road: The Early American Republic in the Trans-Appalachian West

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  • Posted January 22, 2009

    place of the Road in early American history and psyche

    What came to be called the Maysville Road was a 65-mile stretch of dirt road from the Ohio River to the Kentucky Bluegrass region that had its beginnings as a buffalo trace. Starting in the 1770s, it carried Euroamerican settlers of all groups and classes to what was at the time America's western frontier. U. S. Highway 68 now follows part of the old Maysville Road; while other stretches have become parts of farms and woodlands. The Road not only played a key part in the beginnings of the United State's westward expansion, but it was also an early symbol of the freedom, opportunities, and new beginnings of the American dream. 'More than a narrative of regional improvements and national political personalities...[the book] employs the biography of a road...as a microhistory of social and cultural change in the Early American Republic.' Friend's narrative history focuses on the main types of individuals, families, and groups migrating to the area along the road in different periods. The first pioneers gave way to gentry from Virginia and other mid-Atlantic states; who in turn gave way to businessmen and immigrants. The blending and compromising among the groups led eventually to the formation and 'triumph' of the middle class. In 1830, Henry Clay proposed a Maysville Road Bill for bringing government-funded improvement to the area; but this was vetoed by President Andrew Jackson. Friend is an associate professor of history at the U. of Central Florida who has written other books on Kentucky and edits the 'Florida Historical Quarterly.'

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