THE ILLUSIVE AVERY TRACE
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1) A Journey in History
2) Passage to Cumberland Region
3) The Illusive Avery Trace (This Page)
4) Northeast Cumberland
5) Bell Homestead
In 1786 an act of the North Carolina Legislation established that a direct route be established between its western districts along the Appalachian Mountain (now eastern Tennessee) and its Military Land Grant District or Mero District in the Cumberland Region. Then in November 1787 when little progress had been made, the Legislators issued a second act:
Be it Enacted by the General Assembly of the State of North Carolina, and it is hereby Enacted by the authority of the same, That it shall and may be lawful for the commanding officers [of Sumner and Davidson Cos. Militia] to appoint two or more persons to examine, survey and mark out the best and most convenient way from the lower end of Clinch Mountain to the settlements of Cumberland as aforesaid; and the said commanding officers are hereby vested with full power and authority to order out the militia of the counties of Davidson and Sumner, to cut and clear the road so marked as aforesaid, under the direction of themselves or either of them, or any of the field officers by them appointed to superintend the same. [http://www.cumberlandpioneers.com/averytrace.html ]
Many pioneer maps roughly sketch the proximity of this passage, but none delineate the actual route. Furthermore, as the previous chapter notes in comments by Steven Denny and Bill Puryear et al, many "official" attempts to mark and name this route are erroneous. Our challenge became to fill in this missing information and to provide the first map of the trail established by this Act, which we continued to call Avery's Trace, so as not to contribute to the confusion.
Sketch of Avery Trace that appears with several historical accounts. Source is unknown and accuracy is questionable
Our criteria was
- Not to get hung-up (as some historians have) as to what this route was called. Anyone who has travelled Tennessee roads using the "official" maps knows the same road often goes by a variety of names. State maps call it one thing, county maps another, city maps a third, and the "locals" several other names. One thing we did find was the historians have often worsened the confusion by refer-encing roads built between 1787 and 1802 as the one created by this Legislative Act.
- This Act initiated not a road but a roughly marked blazened path that followed Indian, game trails, and tracked to salt licks.
- In many sections this trace was adequate only for foot and horesback travel. Eventually, it was widened to permit limited wagon traffic. On September 25, 1795 a second route, south of this trail and leaving Fort Southwest Point was opened for wagon traffic with military escorts. This second route joined with the first one in several locations, such as near Standing Stone and within the Cumberland region adding to the name confusion.
- With the great Indian Wars between 1780 and 1795, the trail traveled the most direct route between forts and stations established for protection against Indian attack.
- The route attempted to facilitate wagon traffic by following the terrain hollows, hugging the valleys and river bottoms. Roads noted as "Old" were probably built on or very close to this trail, while modern roads, frequently cutting through sides of hills, are not.
Western End of Avery's Trace
The trail ended at Fort Nashboough, near historical French Lick, and present day Nashville. Best estimates were the location of this structures was near the re-constructed fort on First Avenue and the banks of the Cumberland River. Travelers came down Mansker's Fort twelve miles to the north using a buffulo trail between the salt licks near each fort.
The road between Mansker's Fort and Fort Nashborough followed buffulo trails near present day Dickerson Road.
[L.C. Bell, History of Dickerson Road, (Nashville: E Stevenson and F. Owen, 1857), p.7)]
In 1783 Kasper Mansker had built his second fort on Mansker's Creek about a half mile from the junction of Long Hollow Pike and Dickerson Road. It became the center of activities for settlements north of Nashville. [John Carr, Early Times in Middle Tennessee (Nashville: E Stevenson and F Owen, 1857), pp 55-56] Virtually every traveller on Avery's Trace would have stayed or been re-provisioned at Mansker's Fort.
From here the trail ran twenty-two miles to the east to Bledsoe's Fort near Bledsoe's Lick and Creek, most likely following the most direct route along Long Hollow Pike and Hartsville Pike. The current name for Bledsoe's Lick is Castalian Springs.
Approximate location of western end of the Avery Trace following the terrain near to Dickerson Pike, Long Hollow Pike, and Hartsville PIke connecting Fort Nashborough, Fort Mansker, and Bledsoe's Lick. Google Map Link
Center of Avery's Trace
As a guideline for locating the central section of Avery's Trace we relied on Ms. Laura Gaston Young's 1930 award winning essay to the Middle Tennessee DAR as provided by Denney in his note Roads Of Smith County [http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/TNSMITH/2002-12/1039233697]. In it he quote Ms Young as follows:
She stated that the Road crossed the Cumberland at Fort Blount (now in Jackson County at a clearly established location where you can still see the ruts of the old wagon path as it approaches the river. "The road crossed Salt lick creek a short distance below the old Woodfork place; crossed Defeated Creek at the site of the Cross Roads Church, at William's Cross Roads; down the Sloan Branch where, in 1799 the "Widow Young" [widow of William Young and soon to be married to Michael Murphy] [lived]....thence across Peyton's Creek below old Herod's Cross Roads, at Pleasant Shade; up the Porter Branch of Peyton's, across Tow Town Branch and to the top of Mace's Hill; down the Mace's Hill Road, leaving the road near the house on the place sold by Sam M. Young about 1920 to Jim Phillips...and passing through his lower field ...across Dixon's Creek about three hundred yards below the church [Dixon Creek Baptist] and about one-half mile to the north of the northern boundary of Tilman Dixon's tract [his house, built between 1787 and 1795 still stands]; across Lick Creek just sough of the old Gillespie tract ... [and on into Trousdale County]. If one drives past Dixona on Highwy 25 traveling West from Carthage to Hartsville you can see a road entering on the right side bearing the name Fort Blount Road, from the name of the military trace road. (I am indebted to the Smith County History Book from 86 for this excerpt of the Young Essay)
Approximate location of central section of the Avery Trace following the terrain and using description of Young & Denney Google Map Link (Note 1,2)
At this time the route between Cookeville and Monterey is a SWAG without any supporting documentation.
Eastern End of Avery's Trace
For the eastern section of Avery's Trace we used the description of Emery Road as provided in an essay by Ray D. Smith [http://www.smithdray1.net/history/emeryroad.htm].
In 1787 North Carolina legislators approved a second road act, which again ordered a road cut and cleared from the south end of Clinch Mountain to Fort Nashborough (Nashville). Peter Avery blazed a trail beginning at the south end of the Clinch Mountain at present-day Blaine. The Avery Trace as it was later known marked the route that closely followed where the present route of Emory Road in Knox County is now located. The original route crossed the Clinch River at Lea’s Ford near present-day Oak Ridge at the marina and continued through the middle of present-day Oak Ridge passing near the Oak Ridge High School where an existing rock bridge constructed just after 1900 was located on the old route. The road then passed through Winter's Gap (Oliver Springs) and crossed the Emory River near present-day Wartburg. It passed through present-day Lansing to Johnson's Stand, followed a ridge to Standing Stone (Monterey), and then went on to the Cumberland settlements (Nashville). Major George Walton directed the soldiers working on this earliest road. This route was known at various times as Avery's Trace, the old North Carolina Road, and Emery Road.
Approximate location of Eastern end of the Avery Trace following the terrain and using description of Smith Google Map Link
The next step is a "road trip" along our proposed route for a photo session and fact gathering.
As rough and difficult as the road was, lone travelers, or pioneer families would load their possessions onto their wagons and meet at the Clinch River. They talked excitedly about what they would find at the end of the trail. When the militia detail joined them, they climbed into their wagons, waved good-bye and drove their horses into the Clinch River, starting a journey into the unknown wilderness and leaving behind family and friends and ties to civilization.
For whatever reason they came, they faced a long and difficult ride along a long, winding and tortuous trail with hazards at every turn, and almost no accommodations for the weary. They camped, cooked over campfires, and slept under the stars.
Occasionally, they were fortunate to find families living along the Trace who would give them shelter and food, but these were few and far between, and often cost hefty prices.
The land was rich and beautiful—hills and valleys full of canebrakes, giant trees and tangled vines, rolling into the distance in every direction. But it was 300 miles of wilderness inhabited by tremendous numbers of wolves, mountain lions, coyotes, deer, buffalo herds, and murderous Indians.
[Adapted from http://www.hartsvilletrousdale.com/at.html]
1) In October 2008 we traveled by bicycle (our horse of choice) the section of trail between Hartsville to Fort Blount and found it to be an excellent candidate. It was relatively flat and remained mostly in the valleys and along streams as we suspected game and Indian trails would have been. Our route is very isolated and sections of it are not suitable for cars. We made one revision to our initial proposal. We replaced Kempville Hwy with Little Salt Lick Road. Google map on the link revised.
2) In November 2008 again on bicycle we traveled between Cookeville and Monterey, confirming our initial route over Brotherton Mtn.
The links in this web page were created in 2008. Many of the URLs may no longer be valid. We are trying to replace them, but some are gone forever.