In the early decades of the 18th century, France and Great Britain (a union of three countries headed by England) vied for control of the strategic valley of the Ohio River. To strengthen the British position, officials in Virginia granted large tracts of land west of the Appalachians to newly organized land settlement companies. Virginia did not actually own the land it was granting, which few whites had ever seen. Virginia could only grant the rights to explore, trade, use economic resources, and occupy land not already occupied. The grants were not good against the Native Americans’ rights to the lands they lived on; if whites wanted to own the land, they had to buy it. Furthermore, France, on the basis of La Salle’s claim, denied that Virginia had any rights at all west of the Appalachians.
The Virginia companies dispatched explorers to survey their acquisitions. One of these explorers, Thomas Walker of the Loyal Land Company, in 1750 found a pass through the Cumberland Mountains (a part of the Appalachians), which was given the name Cumberland Gap and which later became the main land route for settlers coming from the Atlantic Seaboard. The next year, Christopher Gist of the Ohio Company made his way down the Ohio Valley and explored much of northern Kentucky. However, the land companies failed to attract settlers, largely because of the French and Indian War, which broke out in 1754 between Britain and France. The immediate cause of that war was a clash between the powers over the same disputed border, the Appalachian Mountains. In 1763 the French and Indian War was concluded by a treaty that gave Great Britain all the territory east of the Mississippi, including what is now Kentucky. About the same time, the Native American raids temporarily subsided.
These developments prompted a number of “long hunters,” so called because of their extended hunting trips, to venture into the vast western region that included Kentucky. One long hunter was Daniel Boone of North Carolina, probably the most famous early American frontier adventurer. Boone made his first trip into Kentucky in the winter of 1767 and 1768 to hunt and trap and also to find a route to the fertile Bluegrass region of central and northern Kentucky, which he had heard about from a man who had been there. However, he failed to penetrate beyond the Cumberlands. Later, in the spring of 1769, Boone passed through Cumberland Gap. He then followed a Native American path, known as the Warriors’ Path, northward to the Bluegrass region. Later, Boone ranged over much of central and eastern Kentucky, hunting and exploring until 1771. "Kentucky" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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