In 1787 the North Carolina legislature considered Tennessee part of its territory. They authorized and funded the blazing of a settlers' trail by Peter Avery and 300 soldiers who would also protect pioneer companies from Cherokee Indians angry about a road crossing their land without permission. The soldiers helped blaze the trail and were paid in bounty land for their service. The first year 25 families headed west on the trace. The trail connected East Tennessee (Knoxville) with Middle Tennessee (French Lick, or Nashville).
The Cherokee Indians disputed the right of whites to use their old paths and 102 pioneers were killed in 1792 alone. To minimize the danger from Indians, pioneer families would gather at Clinch River where there was a blockhouse, and wait for a company of 50 soldiers to escort them along the trace. A peace treaty finally made the trace safe from Indian raids in 1799.
The trail was a difficult one. In one place a log had to be dragged to slow a wagon going down a steep hill. Few trees were left at the top of the hill. In other places rock slabs were hard on the feet of livestock. Pioneers sometimes had to cross swollen or frozen rivers, pull animals from deep mud holes, and endure choking powdery dust along the way. At first it was only a footpath, but by about 1795 wagons could use the road. The reward for following the trace was bountiful hunting grounds, rich farm land, and good salt licks.
- South end of Clinch Mountain (near Blaine, Grainger, Tennessee)
- Knoxville, Knox, Tennessee
- Fort Southwest Point, Kingston, Roane, Tennessee
- Fort Blount, Jackson, Tennessee at a ford to the north side of the Cumberland River
- Bledsoe’s Fort, Castalian Springs, Sumner, Tennessee
- Mansker’s Fort, Goodlettsville, Davidson, Tennessee
- Fort Nashborough, Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee crossing to the south side of the Cumberland River
Settlers and Records
For partial list of settlers who used the Avery's Trace, see:
- Doug Drake, Jack Masters, and Bill Puryear, Founding of the Cumberland, The First Atlas 1779-1804, Showing Who Came, How They Came, and Where They Put Down Roots (Gallatin, Tenn. : Warioto Press, ©2009) [FHL 976.8 E7d]. Includes gorgeous art, and extensive pioneer family land grant data. Also see their Internet site below.
- Doug Drake, Jack Masters, and Bill Puryear, Cumberland Pioneer Settlers 1779-1804. Selected outstanding photos, art work, and extracts from their book cited above.
- Avery Trace in Dale Hollow Lake, "The Family Vacation Fun Place" details of the route and famous people who used it.
- Fort Southwest Point 1797-1811 what you'll see there, history, photos, events, and links.
- Fort Blount in Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture description, purpose, and history.
- Bledsoe's Station Wikipedia article gives geography, history, park, and photos.
- Fort Nashborough Wikipedia article describes the exploration, early settlers, construction, politics, and Indian wars.
- William Dollarhide, Map Guide to American Migration Routes 1735-1815 (Bountiful, Utah: Heritage Quest, 1997) [FHL 973 E3d], 22.
- Wikipedia contributors, "Avery’s Trace," in Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Avery%27s_Trace (accessed 27 July 2010).
- "Avery Trace" in Cumberland Pioneer Settlers 1779-1804 at http://www.cumberlandpioneers.com/averytrace.html (accessed 5 August 2010). Detailed explanation of why Avery's Trace is not what the road from Knoxville to Nashville was likely called.
- "Avery Trace" in Dale Hollow Lake, "The Family Vacation Fun Place" at http://www.dalehollow-lake.net/html/avery_trace.html (accessed 5 August 2010).