Trek To Cain-tucky


This was one of the first “ Kentucky flatboats to leave the colonies for the wilderness.
Edna Kenton tells of Simon Kenton's party who traveled down river from the Boat Yard in Pennsylvania, to Limestone,,Mason County VA in October, 1783. They departed on September 16, 1783. She identifies the party of forty-one persons as: Mrs. Mark Kenton, with a Negro woman and child; Nancy Kenton and child; William Kenton, wife and six children including sons P.C., Joshua, Mason, Jerry and William, and a Negro girl; Thomas Laws and his wife, four Owens boys and girls, and two Laws girls; Elijah Berry, wife, two children, and a Negro man; James Greathouse, wife, and three children; John Metcalf (father of Gov. Metcalf), John Griffith, John McGraw and wife, and Simon Kenton and a Negro woman. Nineteen horses came with them from Virginia . They carried their livestock, sundry supplies, including corn, flour and salt, and the Berry's cat aboard a rectangular "Kentucky flatboat" which she says was "..much larger than the usual thirty or forty-foot one.." At one end were stock pens, at the other was the roofed cabin with its fireplace for warmth and cooking. When they stopped to take on firewood, Simon hunted and returned with turkeys, deer, and once, a bear. George Washington surveyed this region in 1770, and apparently believed the Ohio River to be a perfect means of westward travel. Lest we take for granted the ease of the Kenton journey, and to answer the curious who might wonder why they chose to travel in October, let's read what has been said of this mighty stream before the advent of the Corps of Engineers... "Despite [Washington's] optimism about the convenience of navigation, the natural Ohio was an imperfect highway on several counts. Over its 981 miles, the river dropped only 430 feet, an average of less than six inches a mile. In low water, it was so shallow in places that a child could wade across. It remained low in the dry months of summer and in winter before the snow melt, rising high enough for ready passage only in the rainy months of spring and fall. On his way down the Ohio to rendezvous with William Clark in 1803, Meriwether Lewis had to pay local draymen two dollars to haul his boat over riffles- an exorbitant fee, he complained- and at gravel bars his men often had to climb out and shovel a passage, until the languid current swept a channel clear. Even in high water, sunken trees, rocks, sand bars, and the wrecks of earlier boats made travel hazardous. Drift ice was a problem most winters, and about once in every ten years the river froze solid."

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