Envisaging the West: Thomas Jefferson and the Roots of Lewis and Clark


Place Name

Cumberland Mountains

An act for establishing a Land office, and ascertaining the terms and manner of granting waste and unappropriated lands. Concerned about the disposal of "waste and unappropriated lands," the General Assembly created a land office to deal with the sale and distribution of these lands. The lands would be used to encourage immigration, increasing public revenue, and paying off the commonwealth's debt. The office's administrative role would be essential to managing records of land patents, grants, veterans' land warrants, and purchases of waste and unappropriated lands sold at forty pounds per hundred acres. Managing Virginias lands, and later the public lands of the United States, was a central concern throughout the dcades of the early republic.

Daniel Smith's Journal (1779-1780) In 1779, with other surveyors and adventurers from Virginia and North Carolina, Daniel Smith and Thomas Walker set out to extend the Virginia-North Carolina boundary line far beyond the Cumberland Gap. From August 1779 until August 1780, the men traveled from southern Virginia, to the Falls of the Ohio River, and back to Virginia. In addition to their survey duties, the men worked secretly for Thomas Jefferson, meeting with George Rogers Clark at the Falls of the Ohio River to scout locations for the planned Fort Jefferson.

An act for marking and opening a road over the Cumberland mountains into the county of Kentucky. In response to the pressure from increased settlement along the Ohio River, Virginia's legislature passed this act to finance the scouting and blazing of a trail for use as a road to facilitate "communication and intercourse between the inhabitants in the eastern and western parts." The legislators chose Evan Shelby and Richard Callaway for the task of surveying and marking the proposed route. These two men were directed to proceed through the Cumberland Mountains, to mark and then "cause ... to be opened and cleared. Shelby and Callaway were to receive three hundred acres of land or one hundred twenty pounds in payment for their services. The act also provided for the recruitment of a militia guard and labour detail of up to fifty men.

Report of the Virginia Commissioners, 1780 Daniel Smith and Thomas Walker report to the Virginia Assembly on their mission to establish a line between Virginia and North Carolina.