Out on the Edge

By the mid-eighteenth century, Europeans had pushed indigenous people back from the Atlantic coast of North America. Along tense borders in the backcountry, Native Americans recognized the inevitable consequence of the Europeans’ appetite for land and tried to navigate a path to their own survival amidst Old World struggles for trade, territory, and power.

Daniel Boone was fifty in 1784 when John Filson’s book made him into a frontier legend. Filson portrayed Boone as an archetypal pioneer, bringing civilization to the wilderness of Kentucky—a view probably at odds with that of the native Shawnee. Filson lacked the woodsman’s skills of his fellow land speculator, but his pen led far more people to make the trek through the Cumberland Gap.

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Speech of Chief Canassatego, Representative of the Onondaga Nation, in A Treaty Held at the Town of Lancaster, in Pennsylvania…. Philadelphia: B. Franklin, 1744.

Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History (A 1744 .P455 T7)

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John Filson, The Discovery, Settlement and Present State of Kentucke. Wilmington, [Delaware]: James Adams, 1784.

Tracy W. McGregor Library of American History (A 1784 .F43)