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


An act for marking and opening a road over the Cumberland mountains into the county of Kentuckey.

An act for marking and opening a road over the Cumberland mountains into the county of Kentucky.
Hening, William Waller, ed. The Statutes at Large, Being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, 1821.
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.

OCTOBER 3, 1779

WHEREAS great numbers of people are settling upon the waters of the Ohio river Maps: , to the westward of the Cumberland mountains, in the county of Kentuckey, and great advantages will redound to the commonwealth from a free and easy communication and intercourse between the inhabitants in the eastern and western parts thereof, enabling them to afford mutual aid and support to each other, and cementing in one common interest all the citizens of the state, to which a good waggon road through the great mountains into the settlements in the said county will greatly contribute; but such road necessarily passing, for a considerable distance through a tract of rough and uninhabitable country, can neither be made in the usual way by the adjacent inhabitants, nor can the practicability or charge be properly judged of, until the country bath been explored and such road traced out: Be it enacted by the General Assembly, That Evan Shelby and Richard Callaway, be appointed for that purpose, and they are hereby empowered and authorized to explore the country adjacent to, and on both it sides the Cumberland mountains, and to trace out, and mark the most convenient road from the settlements on the east side of the said mountains, over the same, into the open country, in the said county of Kentuckey; and to cause said road, with all convenient despatch, to be opened and cleared in such manner as to give passage to travellers with pack-horses, for the present; and report their proceedings therein to the next session of assembly, together with a computation of the distance, and the best estimate they can make of the practicability and charge of completing the same and making it a good waggon road; and the said Evan Shelby and Richard Callaway, shall lay before the auditors of publick accounts a fair account, on oath, of the disbursements made, and charges incurred in the execution of this act; which the said auditors are hereby required to adjust and settle, and give a warrant on the treasury for such sum as shall to them appear justly due thereon; except the wages and pay of the labourers and militia guard, each of whom on the certificate of the said Evan Shelby or Richard Callaway that he bath been employed during the whole time of that service, shall be entitled to a grant of three hundred acres of any waste or unappropriated lands within this state, for which no purchase money shall be demanded on behalf of the commonwealth, or one hundred and twenty pounds at the option of the claimant; and in the same proportion for the like certificate laway, for their own trouble, which is hereby reserved of service during a lesser time, and except the compensation to the said Evan Shelby and Richard Callaway, for their own trouble, which is hereby reserved to the judgment of the general assembly.

And whereas the persons employed in making and clearing the said road may be exposed to danger from the Indians, the said Evan Shelby and Richard Callawayy, are hereby empowered, from time to time, to apply to the commanding officer of the most convenient county or counties, for such militia guard, not exceeding (with the labourers employed) fifty men, as they shall think necessary for protection; which guard, such commanding officer is empowered and required to furnish accordingly. In case of the death, disability, or refusal to act of either of the commissioners, the court of the county in which he resided, shall nominate a proper person to fill up the vacancy, which nomination shall give the person named, the same powers, and entitle him to the like compensation as if he had been hereby particularly appointed.