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Eighteenth-century Kentucky beckoned to hunters, surveyors, and settlers from the mid-Atlantic coast colonies as a source of game, land, and new trade opportunities. Unfortunately, the Appalachian Mountains formed a daunting barrier that left only two primary roads to this fertile Eden. The steep grades and dense forests of the Cumberland Gap rendered the Wilderness Road impassable to wagons, and the northern route extending from southeastern Pennsylvania became the first main thoroughfare to the rugged West, winding along the Ohio River and linking Maysville to Lexington in the heart of the Bluegrass.
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Karl Raitz is professor of geography at the University of Kentucky. Webb Museum of Anthropology at the University of Kentucky. This is a fine holistic study of an important and complex road and its many geographical and historical components. The authors demonstrate quite convincingly that rich local history lies along our roads. They unearthed an abundance of behind-the-scenes information that is invisible to us as we barrel down the highway.
It should give all readers pause to consider how much more they could know about the places they travel through. This notable and ably-illustrated volume by geographer Karl Raitz and archeologist Nancy O'Malley captures the rigors of frontier Appalachian geography and the utter ingenuity of diverse peoples bent on moving west. The road is perhaps the greatest of American themes -- it encapsulates freedom, mobility, possibility, escape, commerce, crime and calumny, adventure, and romance.
Thank goodness we have these two able storytellers to give us the narrative of the Maysville Road. Jackson Prize, Association of American Geographers. The Maysville Road is famous. Jackson fixed the road permanently in the great narrative of American history.
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