Wilderness Road State Park lies astride the Wilderness Road that winds down Powell's Valley.
In 1775, Daniel Boone carved the Wilderness Road, and by 1800 more than 300,000 settlers traveled the Wilderness Road westward through Cumberland Gap into Kentucky and the Midwest. It was originally settled by Joseph Martin, who arrived there on March 26, 1769, after a difficult journey. After an attack that fall by Native American warriors, Martin abandoned the station but returned in earnest in January 1775.
A letter from the frontier.
At Martin’s Station in Powell’s valley
Sunday the 15st Day of May, Anno.
My dear Mr. Henry, Esquire
I must report that this settlement came under attack two days past by a Cherokee party intent upon the ruination of our enterprise.
I submit to you the following report.
After scouting the western end of the valley I arriv’d at the Station on the 10th inst and was met by Capt’n Boone and several of his men who had been there for some time previous. By the evening of the 11th, a sufficient compliment of men and women had arriv’d at the Station to make a stand against the anticipated attack.
As I attended to matters in general, Capt’n Titus went about organizing the specifics of the Militia, forming three Companies, to which Capt. Boone would command a company of horse, while Capt’n Willyard and I would command two companies of foot, one to which would hold the fort if an attack ensued. General Orders were read and a schedule for Officer of the Day, Pickett, and Gate Guards were establish’d.
Capt’n France and his men kept regular patrols out. Boone spied a small party of Indians to the west of the fort but thought them to be a hunting party and not the large party spotted seven days past. As our situation looked to be better than we thought, it soon worsened, for mid day of the 12th we receiv'd fire from the tree line above our camp. The men were quick into action and push’d the hostiles back, as the militia held tight to the fort. One horse was stoled, a sorrel belonging to Lt. Park. The Indians being greatly outnumbered withdrew and the company disengaged.
The attack of the evening turn’d out to be one to test our strength, as around 8 o’clock of the 12th the Indians fell upon the Station with a force of 70 warriors. The Militia had gathered outside the fort as to ready themselves to scout the area about the Creek when we heard shots. As screams of the women and children pierced the air I dispatch’d Capt. Moss with orders to make their way to the west and repel any attack from that direction. By the time Boone came up, the people inside the fort were hotly engag’d. The Indians had managed to set fire to three of the small cabins at the Station, and burned a small bit of our fodder. It was near this time when I saw that one of them named yellow Hand had made off with a child captive. While working with the Culpeper men to try to force the Indians together in a draw, some of them flank’d our positions and attack’d the north wall of the fort but were soon repell’d by the gallant actions of Capt. Mosses men and a few hunters under Sergeant Major Redd who had been left as a guard. Capt’n Willyard’s men divided into two lines and came out on the hostiles while Capt’n France’s spies came in from atop the ridge.
The Indians were forc’d to retreat, but seeing we had taken two captives they ask for a parley at which time Capt’n Willyard, to his great surprise, spied Henry Stewart the British agent walking toward the station under a flag of truce. Mr. Stewart began suing for a fragile peace, and informed Capt’n Boone that the Indians, under the hated Jean Baptiest, would like to parley the evening forth, and a prisoner exchange would take place. I recognized one of our captives as Oseoee, a highly respected man among the elders, and with this, I was assured we would get our people back.
With the Indian troubles taken care of, the women hastily began tending to the wounded, Mr. Robertson being the most severe, as he was shot in the lung, however our surgeon tended to his grievous wound and I have been informed he shall recover in good order.
Late evening of the 12th a parlay between the principle leaders of both the Cherokee and Virginian’s was arranged, at which each man was given the chance to speak. After heated words between Capt’n Willyard and Atakulakula every prisoner was exchanged, and none for the worse. I must inform you that it cost us six horses and twelve muskets, and although a small price for life, such a cost will leave this settlement short in this uncertain time.
Morning of the Sabbath,
Mr. Robertson lived through the night. I have at this very moment received a dispatch from Col. Preston in which he states that two of his most trusted spies viewed a large party of Shawnees to the south of Capt. Boone’s fort on the trace to cave gap. I have posted sentries, and set out scouts to which I have herd nothing. I must perceive that this large force is to meet with Stewart’s Cherokee and lay devastating attacks upon the Holstien and Clinch settlements. I fear that Capt. Anderson and those settled near the Blockhouse will fall prey to our dear Kings revenge. I have requested an audience with Col. Preston on the 9th of June to discuss the building of blockhouses, forts, and settlements in this valley. We shall meet at my station and lay plans to better fortify those inhabited here. Until we meet I remain your most humble and obedient servant.
Capt. Jos Martin