"Friend's narrative is detailed and engaging... [His] skillful infusion of contemporary historiography and methodology separates his study of frontier Kentucky from previous works." —The Journal of American History
Kentucke's Frontiersby Craig Thompson Friend
American culture has long celebrated the heroism framed by Kentucky’s frontier wars. Spanning the period from the 1720s when Ohio River valley Indians returned to their homeland to the American defeat of the British and their Indian allies in the War of 1812, Kentucke’s Frontiers examines the political, military, religious, and public memory narratives
American culture has long celebrated the heroism framed by Kentucky’s frontier wars. Spanning the period from the 1720s when Ohio River valley Indians returned to their homeland to the American defeat of the British and their Indian allies in the War of 1812, Kentucke’s Frontiers examines the political, military, religious, and public memory narratives of early Kentucky. Craig Thompson Friend explains how frontier terror framed that heroism, undermining the egalitarian promise of Kentucke and transforming a trans-Appalachian region into an Old South state. From county courts and the state legislature to church tribunals and village stores, patriarchy triumphed over racial and gendered equality, creating political and economic opportunity for white men by denying it for all others. Even in remembering their frontier past, Kentuckians abandoned the egalitarianism of frontier life and elevated white males to privileged places in Kentucky history and memory.
"Kentucke's Frontiers... is an excellent book—thoroughly researched, beautifully written, handsomely produced, and creatively documented." —North Carolina Historical Review
"This is a fine contribution to the historiography of Kentucky and frontier history. Kentucke's Frontiers is a 'must have' for professors and students who are interested in both of these subjects." —Northwest Ohio History
"Anyone interested in the history of the American frontier or the creation of the Bluegrass State will certainly want to add this volume to his or her library." —The Journal of Southern History
"This is an eminently readable book, and [Friend] has done a wonderful job of weaving together the voices of the residents of frontier Kentucky of all racial and social groups.... Kentucke's Frontiers is a wonderful resource for those interested in learning more about the first trans-Appalachian state and the trans-Appalachian west more broadly." —The Tennessee Historical Quarterly
"Deftly weaving together numerous interpretive strands, Craig Friend’s first-rate study explains how the passage from 'Kentucke' to 'Kentucky' turned the first trans-Appalachian frontier from the leading edge of America’s New West to the border of its Old South. This book is both an essential and an elegant read." —Stephen Aron, author of How the West Was Lost: The Transformation of Kentucky From Daniel Boone to Henry Clay
Friend (North Carolina State Univ.) essays an explanation of Kentucke's evolution into Kentucky, from frontier settlements into a state. Recounting the exploits of Native peoples and the legendary heroes involved in this process, the author succumbs to the continuing mythology generated by border wars filiopietism plus the narrow paradigm ventured by Richard Slotkin in 1973. Drawing also on older publications and too dependent on the unevenly voluminous Draper Collections, the author sketches a frontier personified by bad-guy versus good-guy dynamics and mythology (the mythic Mary Draper Ingles, the heroic George Rogers Clark, and the villainous 'white savage' Simon Girty). Trying to sort out the grounding for these perspectives becomes frustrating in the face of a nonstandard citation system and the absence of a traditional bibliography. There is to some degree a 'Virginia' skew to Friend's early Kentucke descriptions, as well as a lack of balance with respect to larger questions, e.g., 'nearly all Kentuckians recognized the immorality of slavery.' The latter statement lacks documentary support and is doubtful on the face of the claim, given Kentucky's colonial heritage in proslavery Virginia and North Carolina. Summing Up: Recommended... --Choice J. H. O'Donnell III, Marietta College, July 2011
"In this rich, challenging, and enjoyable book, Friend examines the social, cultural, economic, political, and military histories of Kentucke (now Kentucky) from the 1720s to the War of 1812.... The merits of this sweeping book are too numerous to chronicle sufficiently in this brief review. Nevertheless, Friend is at his strongest in his examination of the roles of memory and mythology in justifying white domination." —American Studies
"Anyone interested in the history of the American frontier or the creation of the Bluegrass State will certainly want to add this volume to his or her library." The Journal of Southern History
"Kentucke's Frontiers... is an excellent bookthoroughly researched, beautifully written, handsomely produced, and creatively documented." North Carolina Historical Review
"This is a fine contribution to the historiography of Kentucky and frontier history. Kentucke's Frontiers is a 'must have' for professors and students who are interested in both of these subjects." Northwest Ohio History
"In this rich, challenging, and enjoyable book, Friend examines the social, cultural, economic, political, and military histories of Kentucke (now Kentucky) from the 1720s to the War of 1812.... The merits of this sweeping book are too numerous to chronicle sufficiently in this brief review. Nevertheless, Friend is at his strongest in his examination of the roles of memory and mythology in justifying white domination." American Studies
Friend (North Carolina State Univ.) essays an explanation of Kentucke's evolution into Kentucky, from frontier settlements into a state. Recounting the exploits of Native peoples and the legendary heroes involved in this process, the author succumbs to the continuing mythology generated by border wars filiopietism plus the narrow paradigm ventured by Richard Slotkin in 1973. Drawing also on older publications and too dependent on the unevenly voluminous Draper Collections, the author sketches a frontier personified by bad-guy versus good-guy dynamics and mythology (the mythic Mary Draper Ingles, the heroic George Rogers Clark, and the villainous 'white savage' Simon Girty). Trying to sort out the grounding for these perspectives becomes frustrating in the face of a nonstandard citation system and the absence of a traditional bibliography. There is to some degree a 'Virginia' skew to Friend's early Kentucke descriptions, as well as a lack of balance with respect to larger questions, e.g., 'nearly all Kentuckians recognized the immorality of slavery.' The latter statement lacks documentary support and is doubtful on the face of the claim, given Kentucky's colonial heritage in proslavery Virginia and North Carolina. Summing Up: Recommended... Choice J. H. O'Donnell III, Marietta College, July 2011
"Deftly weaving together numerous interpretive strands, Craig Friend’s first-rate study explains how the passage from 'Kentucke' to 'Kentucky' turned the first trans-Appalachian frontier from the leading edge of America’s New West to the border of its Old South. This book is both an essential and an elegant read." Stephen Aron, author of How the West Was Lost: The Transformation of Kentucky From Daniel Boone to Henry Clay
- Indiana University Press
- Publication date:
- A History of the Trans-Appalachian Frontier Series
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- 6.40(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)
Read an Excerpt
By Craig Thompson Friend
Indiana University PressCopyright © 2010 Craig Thompson Friend
All rights reserved.
The Indians' Frontiers
Autumn ushers gray skies into the Ohio River valley. In the mid-eighteenth century, the shift in weather inspired regional peoples to prepare for the cold days ahead by completing the harvests, gathering the last of the berries and firewood, and organizing hunting parties that characterized winter life among many Native Americans. European traders and the few other whites living among the Indians similarly stocked up on supplies in anticipation of the cold and snows of winter. In 1755, Mary Draper Ingles made different plans as autumn arrived. As she, several other European colonists, and their Shawnee captors moved southward across the Ohio River and turned westward toward the Big Bone Lick to gather salt for the hunting season, Ingles and an older German woman quietly vanished into the forests of northern Kentucke.
Ingles had been uprooted from her Virginia home over two months earlier. In late July, Shawnees had attacked Draper's Meadow, a small outpost of white settlers in the foothills of the Appalachians on Virginia's New River frontier. Six years earlier, two families — the Drapers and the Ingleses — had created new lives there, culminating in Mary Draper's marriage to William Ingles. The couple had two sons and expected a third child. But the New River frontier, like those farther to the north, was about to explode.
In the late 1740s and early 1750s, tensions between the French and British over influence among northern Indians and control of the Ohio River valley put colonial settlers at risk. Shawnee leaders both at Chillicothe on the upper Scioto River and at the lower Shawnee Town at the mouth of the Scioto purposefully played the imperial powers against one another. It was a dangerous game at which they were quite adept: the art of negotiation was a staple of Shawnee diplomacy, evidenced by their success in safeguarding their autonomy from the British and the French, as well as the powerful Iroquois to the east.
The art of war was equally central to Shawnee international relations. Throughout the 1740s and early 1750s, they fought the Cherokees for access to and usage of Kentucke's hunting lands, and they regularly battled the Catawbas over past hostilities. Branches of Athiamiowee (what colonials knew as the Great Warriors Path), which Shawnee, Miami, and Wyandot warriors traveled to attack the southern Indians, coursed southeastward from the Ohio River along the Kanawha River and Big Sandy River valleys through the Appalachians into the eastern foothills, where they forked. One major route turned northeastward, following the valley of the Shenandoah River; the other turned southwestward through the eastern Cherokee settlements, including Echota, Tellico, and Hiwassee, then forked again with one trail headed northward toward the Cherokee Overhill towns and the other continuing southwestward to the upper Creek villages. Northeast of where Athiamiowee branched after entering the eastern foothills, it passed close by Draper's Meadow.
By 1755, Shawnees had allied tenuously with the French in the imperial contest for North America, and antagonisms against the Cherokees were replaced by resentment of intrusive English colonists. In the colonial Pennsylvania and New York backcountries, conflict had erupted already, but isolated in their corner of the Virginia frontier, the Ingleses and Drapers had no news of the ominous developments. In early July, Shawnees traveled along Athiamiowee, arriving in Draper's Meadow on the 8th, attacking homesteads, killing most of the settlers, setting fire to the crops, and taking captive Mary Ingles, her sons, and her sister-in-law. Thus began a twenty-nine-day journey to lower Shawnee Town. Ingles's mental and physical anguish is unfathomable: unaware of her husband's fate, giving birth on the third evening of the journey, separated from her sons and Betty Draper as the party reached its destination, and being adopted into a nation of people with whom she could only minimally communicate.
As Draper's Meadow burned and Mary Ingles stumbled through the Appalachian forests, to the north in the wilds of western Pennsylvania, Major George Washington and his Virginia militia joined Major General Edward Braddock's British regiments in crossing the Monongahela River to seize Fort Duquesne from the French. On July 9th, as Washington recalled, "We were attacked (very unexpectedly) by about three hundred French and Indians. Our numbers consisted of about thirteen hundred well-armed men, chiefly Regulars, who were immediately struck with such an inconceivable panic that nothing but confusion and disobedience of orders prevailed among them." Within three hours, Braddock lay dying, his troops were in chaos, and the French and Indian War had begun.
Juxtaposed against the historical gravity of Braddock's defeat — significant not only to the history of the backcountry but to the course of world history — the raid and destruction of Draper's Meadow seem rather inconsequential. But to the residents of Draper's Meadow and to thousands of settlers in equally small worlds along the Virginia and Pennsylvania frontiers, the events in western Pennsylvania evidenced contention between two powerful yet remote governments. That struggle could seemingly go on for decades, as indeed it had since the mid-1600s. Indian raids upon white settlements more immediately threatened the westward march of American colonists. If successful, the French and their Native American allies would have made settlement of the British colonial frontiers, including Kentucke, impossible.
The Origins of Kentucke
Native Americans long inhabited the region that one day would be known as Kentucky. For over twelve millennia, prehistoric peoples used the land as a hunting ground. Around 9,000 BC, small groups of Paleoindians tracked wooly mammoths and mastodons through the frigid climate zone. Over the next two thousand years, the regional climate tempered, making human survival more viable and allowing for a more sedentary society. Between 7,000 and 1,000 BC, native peoples formed larger living groups dependent upon hunting, fishing, and gathering, and gave rise to what has been called the Woodland culture. To stimulate growth of berry-producing shrubs and canebrakes, by which they enticed bison and other game, they burned out underbrush and created expansive barrens where larger mammals could graze. The richness of barren soils supported lush meadows and thick canebrakes that the descendants of Woodland peoples would discover to be prime hunting grounds. Additionally, salt licks peppered the landscape, attracting bison, deer, and elk. The weight of the herds compacted soils, trampled small trees and underbrush, and enlarged the barrens.
The fecundity of regional soils also supported simple gardening that native peoples used to complement hunting. By 1,000 BC, the reliability of food production — both farming and hunting — allowed for more permanent villages and the development of ceremonial life, including construction of burial mounds and a wide-ranging exchange network that provided ritual goods. Circa ad 1,000, increasing complexities within native life led to cultural divisions and distinctions. Along the floodplains of the Mississippi River, large towns arose among the smaller villages typical of Woodland culture. Characterized by fortifications, large ritual plazas, temples atop large mounds, and village populations that sometimes exceeded one thousand people, this Mississippian culture had extensive trade relations with southeastern and midwestern peoples. Mississippian farmers relied on occasional flooding to replenish soils. Consequently, agricultural production was fruitful, providing a primarily maize-oriented economy. Even as they continued to hunt, Mississippian peoples abandoned ancestral reliance on large mammal hunting and targeted much smaller game — turtles, fish, wild turkeys, and whitetail deer — to supplement corn-based diets.
Simultaneous with the development of Mississippian culture, to the east in the region bisected by the Ohio River, the Fort Ancients arose. Smaller than Mississippian centers but still often exceeding five hundred residents, their towns were vibrant primarily in the summers. The residual ash of Woodland-era burnings had replenished topsoils and allowed continued dependence on large mammal hunting. In winters, as the hunting season began, inhabitants gathered as small, temporary parties that dispersed throughout the region in search of whitetail deer, elk, turkey, bear, and bison. Still, as populations grew, hunting was not enough to support the sustenance needs of Fort Ancient villages. Employing a shifting-field agriculture that required families and their farms to relocate frequently from exhausted lands to more fertile fields, the Fort Ancients developed an agriculture of corn, beans, squash, and sunflowers, supplemented by the gathering of nuts and berries. They also raised tobacco, both for personal consumption and for trade.
Cultural differences between Mississippians and Fort Ancients became increasingly apparent as the fifteenth century ended. The former had created more sedentary societies, while the latter depended on long-distance hunting parties and temporary fields. Year-round permanence stabilized Mississippian society, resulting in centralized political and religious structures. The large Mississippian temples and burial mounds found in Cahokia (Missouri), Aztalan (Wisconsin), and Moundville (Alabama) never manifested among Fort Ancients, who, although nucleated, did not congregate in such critical mass as to warrant elite structures. Instead, Fort Ancients buried their dead within villages, clustering corpses in small mounds and distinct mortuary areas, and ornamenting graves with limestone, ceramics, stone and bone tools, and marine shell beads.
The presence of marine shells reveals that the Fort Ancients enjoyed a rather vast trade network. Indeed, what became known as Athiamiowee was only one of many trail networks connecting the Ohio River valley to disparate peoples and trade. Beginning at the mouth of the Scioto River, a trail ran southward across the hunting lands, through what would be known as Cumberland Gap, and on to the Holston River valley where it intersected Athiamiowee. Another trail originated at the juncture of the Ohio and Licking Rivers, leading southward to cultures forming along the Gulf of Mexico. Still other trails sprawled northward to the Great Lakes region. The webs of trails that stretched across the Ohio River valley evidenced the trade and mobility central to Fort Ancient life by the 1500s.
The Fort Ancients and Mississippians also developed within a temperate climate that, since ad 1,000, had averaged a few degrees above the temperatures of preceding centuries. Circa 1400, however, a "Little Ice Age" enveloped Europe and North America. Climatic change most dramatically affected Mississippian populations, undermining the rich agricultural foundation on which their culture was formed and scattering peoples in search of more reliable farming environments. Muskogean-speaking peoples, now identifying themselves as Creeks, Chickasaws, and Choctaws, moved southeastward and formed a confederation around the town of Coosa. Only the Chickasaws maintained lands on the eastern banks of the Mississippi River (once part of the mighty Cahokian realm) as their traditional territories.
By the mid-1500s, Spanish forces began to infiltrate the southeast. Hernando de Soto landed in Florida in 1539, and with troops numbering over six hundred, he wandered northward and westward on an expedition headed for Spanish Mexico. His route apparently took him as far north as a series of concentrated Indian populations in the southern Appalachian mountains, where the Spanish demanded food, information, and even women from the Muskogean peoples who resided in Chiaha, Coste, and other confederation villages. By the fall of i540, the expedition reached Coosa, where de Soto quickly established control by kidnapping the chief. After a month of tense relations, the Spanish moved on toward the Mississippi River, along the banks of which de Soto died in 1542.
Twenty-five years after his countryman's death, Juan Pardo's expeditionary force arrived in the region. Yet, again, the Spanish had neither the stamina nor the military abilities to reach Mexico. Near the Little Tennessee River, they met an angry Indian force that threatened attack unless Pardo retreated. The Spanish returned to Chiaha, where they constructed a small fort that remained manned until the larger contingent had safely escaped to the Carolina coast.
As impotent as the Pardo and de Soto expeditions appeared to the Spanish Crown, they were most effective in alarming native cultures. The Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickasaws worked to fortify their respective nations and carve out distinct territories for themselves. The Creeks created a confederacy in the southernmost foothills of the Appalachians, absorbing lesser Muskogean-speaking nations like the Alabamas, Yuchis, and Natchez. The Choctaws moved southward along the Gulf Coast. And the Chickasaws stayed to the west, along the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers.
To the northeast, the Cherokees emerged as a distinctive national group as well. Having migrated southward after a defeat at the hands of the Iroquois and Lenni Lenapes, the Cherokees had been an identifiable cultural group for a considerable time and laid claim to the region as their ancestral homeland. By 1540, when de Soto's expedition marched through their lands, the Cherokees were a settled, agricultural people living in approximately two hundred large villages.
By the time Charles II bestowed the Carolina colony upon seven proprietors in the 1670s, British colonial traders had found their way into the Appalachians and the Cherokee villages. They offered iron pots, blankets, beads, guns, and other goods that Cherokees had never enjoyed, and they knew how to manipulate the emerging trade relationship. In 1673, they inspired the Cherokees to raid Spanish settlements in Florida that had provided alternative trade for southeastern Indians. Yet the British also armed other Indian peoples, destabilizing the region and threatening Cherokee security. The Cherokees warred against several coastal tribes of the Carolinas that had strong trade ties to the British. But Cherokee security could be secured more easily by fortifying villages and guaranteeing a reliable supply of guns. Hence, in 1684, the Cherokees agreed to supply South Carolina authorities with deerskins and Indian slaves in exchange for manufactured European goods. With ready access to the hunting lands on the western side of the Appalachians and the British colonials eager to profit from this trade, the Cherokees were situated to become a powerful military and trade nation. As warriors became deer hunters, the entire perspective of Cherokee life shifted from people who followed their tribal priests and the wisdom of their ancestors to a people who followed their trade allies and the pursuit of profit making.
The Catawbas were also coalescing as a national group. Theories abound as to their origins, but by the sixteenth century, the Catawbas had migrated into the eastern foothills of the southern Appalachians. As Siouan-speaking people, they had little in common with various Algonquians to the east or with the Cherokees to the west. Pardo's expedition of 1567 encountered the Iswa, a Catawba tribe, but little is known about them until Virginia traders established contact in the 1650s. Cultural differences and the emerging competition over trade with British colonials made the Cherokees and Catawbas natural enemies.
While the Little Ice Age decimated Mississippian culture and gave rise to new patterns and identities among southeastern Indians, its impact on Fort Ancient culture was quite different. Because the Fort Ancients had not adopted agriculture as the primary food source, they were less affected immediately by climatic change. Fort Ancient culture, then, did not disappear from history: shifting-field agriculture and long-distance hunting that had once dominated the Ohio River valley remained as prominent characteristics of what became Shawnee culture.
Excerpted from Kentucke's Frontiers by Craig Thompson Friend. Copyright © 2010 Craig Thompson Friend. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
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Meet the Author
Craig Thompson Friend is Professor of History at North Carolina State University. He is author of Along the Maysville Road: The Early American Republic in the Trans-Appalachian West and editor of The Buzzel About Kentuck: Settling the Promised Land.
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