Actual 18th century artifacts such as tools and weapons used along the Wilderness Road are on display along with other period pieces. Martin’s Station fort is also featured in original art by some of the nation’s best-known frontier artists such as David Wright, Andrew Knez Jr. and Doug Hall with their paintings displayed in the museum. A sound booth provides the video accounts of three individuals who actually traveled the Wilderness Road. Felix Walker was with the Daniel Boone party in 1775 while William Calk and Jane Gay Stevenson traveled the road just after the Boone party. Their words are added to the video to get a feel of their experiences at the time.
The highlight of the 1,150 square foot museum is a life-sized, interactive diorama featuring the signing of the Treaty of Sycamore Shoals, also known as the Transylvania Purchase, or the Treaty of Watauga.The exhibit is anchored by a pair of 24 foot trees, a flowing stream of water and three life-like mannequins accurately representing Cherokee Chief Atta Kulla Kulla, fiery warrior Dragging Canoe and Judge Richard Henderson as they complete the agreement before a crowd of onlookers depicted in a mural backdrop.
The treaty signing represents a series of events that began in the Autumn of 1774 when Henderson, a prominent Justice of the superior Court of North Carolina, organized an ambitious land speculation company, along with a number of other wealthy and political well connected gentleman of North Carolina. They formed the Transylvania Company, Transylvania being Latin for “land beyond the forest. In March of 1775, Henderson and the Company trustees met with more than 1,200 Cherokees at Sycamore Shoals and for two thousand pounds sterling, and ten thousand pounds worth of trade goods and merchandise, Henderson proposed to purchase 20 million acres of what would become the Commonwealth of Kentucky.
With the treaty near completion, Henderson hired Daniel Boone to cut a road from the Long Island of the Holston River, through Powell’s Valley and Cumberland Gap, to the Bluegrass region of the Kentucky country. This pathway would become known as the Wilderness Road, a pathway that would change the course of history.
The Wilderness Road State Park Visitor Center and museum are open daily. Click here for more details on Wilderness Road State Park.