In this video segment from the KET Kentucky Life series, members of the Bell County Historical Society celebrate Bell County as the “Gateway to the American West” and discuss early explorer Dr. Thomas Walker. By reviewing Walker’s journal, historians have been able to document the settlement of Kentucky. The segment includes discussion from David W. Burns, author of Gateway: Dr. Thomas Walker and the Opening of Kentucky. Maps are integrated into the video to document Walker’s expeditions and their importance in settling the area west of the Appalachian Mountains.
Find additional arts resources for your classroom at the KET Arts Toolkit website.
Most people associate the settlement of Kentucky with Daniel Boone. However, Dr. Thomas Walker preceded Boone by 17 years as the first frontiersman in Kentucky.
Walker was born and educated in Virginia, where he became a physician and a surveyor. In 1750, Walker led the first expedition through Cumberland Gap, which he called Cave Gap. As an agent of the Loyal Land Company of Virginia, he sought land to settle in the western wilderness. On his journey, he named the Cumberland River and built the first cabin in Kentucky. Dr. Thomas Walker State Historic Site commemorates this early pioneer with a replica of the cabin he constructed at its original site. In his journal, Walker wrote about his explorations in Kentucky and described rugged terrain, dense tangled woods, and vast wildlife.
While on his conquests, Walker developed significant relations with Native Americans and was instrumental in peace negotiations. Walker represented Virginia at the Treaty of Stanwix and Lochaber and following the Battle of Kanawha (the Battle of Point Pleasant). He was well respected by many and was able to cross cultural barriers to achieve peace.
In 1779, Virginia commissioned Walker to work with a representative from North Carolina to mark an extension of the boundary line between the colonies of North Carolina and Virginia. The surveyors could not agree on a mapped line. Their difference of opinion over the northern border of Tennessee and the southern border of Kentucky led to a debate that continued into the 1800s. Today, the “Walker Line” is the established boundary line between Tennessee and Kentucky.
In 1794, Walker died a very wealthy man at his residence known as Castle Hill in Albemarle County, Va.
Academic standards correlations on Teachers' Domain use the Achievement Standards Network (ASN) database of state and national standards, provided to NSDL projects courtesy of JES & Co.
We assign reference terms to each statement within a standards document and to each media resource, and correlations are based upon matches of these terms for a given grade band. If a particular standards document of interest to you is not displayed yet, it most likely has not yet been processed by ASN or by Teachers' Domain. We will be adding social studies and arts correlations over the coming year, and also will be increasing the specificity of alignment.