The First Trails
The Cumberland Gap
The Cumberland Gap is a natural pass through Cumberland Mountain in Bell County, Kentucky, on the border of Kentucky and the State of West Virginia, just northeast of Tennessee. The pass was one of the most accessible routes to the land west of the Appalachian Mountains. The Shawnee called the path through this pass "path of the armed ones" or "Warrior’s Path." The early hunters and explorers passing through the gap and beyond called it the "Wilderness Road." As early as 1764, Henry Skaggs, an early explorer and Long Hunter, had crossed the Gap and ventured into central Kentucky. By 1783, over 12,000 settlers and land speculators had passed through the gap. By 1800, more than 200,000 had headed west along the Wilderness Road and beyond.
The Cumberland Trace
Late eighteenth century frontier roads were referred to as "traces." They were little more than beaten paths or trails formed by the repeated passage of travelers. They were originally only wide enough to be traveled on foot or on horseback (no wheeled wagons or carts were known to have gone over the Wilderness Road until 1792).
One early significant trail called the Cumberland Trace blazed through what is now Green County as early as 1779. The Trace branched westward off the Wilderness Road near Benjamin Logan’s Fort in Lincoln County. The Trial crossed the south fork of the Rolling Fork River and followed Robinson and Buckhorn Creeks, now in Taylor County. The Trail crossed the ridge between Robinson’s Creek and Sinking Creek (now called Pitman Creek), and followed the southeast fork of Sinking Creek (then called Trace Fork and today named Little Pitman Creek) in both Taylor and Green Counties. The Trail crossed the ridge to Trace Creek and followed it to a ford crossing Green River (approximately three miles west of Greensburg). The Trace crossed the Little Barren River at Elk Lick Ford and continued west and south toward Fort Nashboro (present-day Nashville, Tennessee).
It is unclear when the Cumberland Trace ceased to be a major route through Green County, but sometime after 1800. The first wagon was reported to have reached Greensburg in 1793.