Trans-Appalachian Frontier: People, Societies, and Institutions, 1775-1850 by Malcolm J. Rohrbough :: The Frontier In American History Reading Group

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The Frontier in American History Reading Group (c.1607-1900)

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Table of Contents

Introduction | Chapter 1 | Chapter 2 | Chapter 3 |

Weekly Reading Information

  • Week 1 :: Trans-Appalachian Frontier, Third Edition: People, Societies, and Institutions, 1775-1850 3rd Edition by Malcolm J. Rohrbough
    Introduction: The Trans Appalachian Frontier

    Thought Questions
    - What is the geographic area of the Trans-Appalachian frontier?
    - Why is the first Trans-Appalachian frontier significant?
    - What were some of the obstacles in the way of American trans Appalachian immigration?
    - What are some of the topics around trans Appalachian immigration the author sets out to explore?
    - What are some of the characteristics of the immigration cycle the author mentions?
    - How does the author demonstrate continuity through generations of immigrants?
    - How does the author demonstrate evolution through generations of immigrants?
    - In what ways does the author demonstrate the significance of gender on the trans Appalachian frontier?
    - In what ways does the author demonstrate how societies and institutions compared and contrasted on the trans Appalachian frontier?
  • Week 2 :: Trans-Appalachian Frontier, Third Edition: People, Societies, and Institutions, 1775-1850 3rd Edition by Malcolm J. Rohrbough
    Chapter 1: The Struggle for Security

    Response / Thought Quotes
    - "April satd first [1775] this morning there is ice at our camp half inch thick we Start Early & travel this Day along a verey Bad hilley way cross one creek whear the horses almost got Mired Some fell in & all wet their loads we cross Clinch River & travell till late in the Night & camp on cove creek…. tuesday 11th this is a very loury morning & like for Rain But we all agree to Start Early we Cross Cumberland River & travel Down it about 10 miles through Some turrabel Cainbrakes as we went down abrams mair Ran into the River with Her load & Swam over he followd her & got on her & made her Swim Back agin it is a very Raney Eavening we take up camp near Richland Creek they Kill a Beef Mr Drake Bakes Bread with out Washing his hands we Keep Sentry this Night for fear of the indians."
    - "began to discover the pleasing and rapturous appearance of the plains of Kentucky.” So wrote Felix Walker, another 1775 immigrant. Walker wrote of “a sight so delightful to our view and grateful to our feelings, almost inclined us, in imitation of Columbus, in transport to kiss the soil of Kentucky, as he hailed and saluted the sand on his first setting his foot on the shores of America.”
    - "Regimental musters twice yearly and company musters quarterly were a center of political activity. The law specified that members of militia companies should elect their own officers, and many who had failed to meet the property qualifications for suffrage in one of the older colonies (later states) were given their first opportunity to cast a ballot or run for office. In Kentucky, early militia companies became designated units of political representation. As an example, each militia company elected one delegate to the Danville Convention of 1784. Militia activities also had a social dimension, for musters were the largest gathering of people on the trans- Appalachian frontiers until the great religious revivals at the turn of the century. They often coincided with court day, and after drills men would gather in small groups to play at politics, swap horses, engage in rough and tumble, debate the leading questions of the day (the price of land, crops, and slaves), or simply exchange news."
    - "This limitation meant that Indian raiding parties could retire north of the Ohio River without risk of pursuit. This issue was one of several driving the Kentucky settlements toward independence from Virginia. In the face of these institutional and financial restrictions, private military organizations in the form of local volunteer units appeared to play a shadowy role in the early years of the trans- Appalachian settlements. Their establishment arose from the militia’s apparent inability to cope with the wide- ranging nature of Indian warfare. Confronted by sudden raids, the militia often seemed slow and clumsy in response. Private military groups, however, operated spontaneously and without the restraints of the militia or the restrictions imposed by Virginia. In their independence from higher authority and their single- minded determination for vengeance, they were highly motivated and fought well. "

    Thought Questions
    - How did the early settlers of Kentucky and Tennessee define security?
    - In what ways did the early settlers of Kentucky and Tennessee try to create security?
    - Describe the major river systems, mountain ranges and regions of Kentucky and its surrounding area
    - How does the Ohio River form a political boundary for Kentucky and an economic highway and nexus for the wider region and sections?
    - What is the Cumberland Gap?
    - How are the Ohio, Kentucky, Cumberland, Watuga and Tennessee Rivers connected into a river transportation network?
    - How did the river network impact the course of settlement in Kentucky and Tennessee?
    - Describe the political geography of the "Territory South of the River Ohio" or the Southwest Territory?
    - Describe the variety of experiences Native Americans faced when confronted with colonial settlers moving into the Kentucky / Tennessee area?
    - How did the fur trade impact the colonial settlement of the Kentucky / Tennessee region?
    - Describe the natural resources of the trans-Appalachian region that made the area a draw to settlement
    - How did American pressure from the East and Native American pressure from the North impact the Native Americans of Kentucky and Tennessee?
    - What were the "common interests" and circumstances that created connections between American settlers and Native Americans in the trans-Appalachian frontier?
    - Describe the relationship between the "Mountain Men" and land speculators
    - What was the Transylvania Colony?
    - What area in the trans-Appalachian region is known as the "Blue Grass Region" and what are its characteristics?
    - Describe the establishment of the Kentucky territory and how it impacted the Transylvania Colony?
    - Describe the two stages of the occupation of western North Carolina
    - Compare and Contrast the settlement of the Kentucky territory with the settlement of the Tennessee region and the relationship between the two
    - What were the Watauga-Holston settlements?
    - Describe the significance of John Sevier of Tennessee
    - Describe the transition from a fur trading stage of exploration to the farming stage of settlement in Kentucky and Tennessee
    - Compare and Contrast the settlement environment of Kentucky and Tennessee
    - Describe the "pioneering cycle"
    - Who was John Breckenridge and how would his family become significant in the history of Kentucky?

    Articles and References
    - The Ohio River Map on political map
    - The Transylvania Company
    - The Transylvania Purchase
    - The Tennessee River and Valley Map on a political map
    - The Cumberland River Map on a political map
    - Basic Map of the Atlantic Mountain Ranges
    - Map showing Cumberland Gap in relation to the Wilderness Road route from Virginia to Kentucky
    - Map of the Major Regions of Kentucky
    - Map of the Kentucky River on a political map
    - Map of the Watuga River
    - Brief Biography: Daniel Boone

    Further Reading
    - Kentucky Rising: Democracy, Slavery, and Culture from the Early Republic to the Civil War by James A. Ramage and Andrea S. Watkins
    - Kentucky's Frontiers by Craig Thompson Friend
    - Tennessee Frontiers: Three Regions in Transition by John R. Finger
  • Week 3 :: Trans-Appalachian Frontier, Third Edition: People, Societies, and Institutions, 1775-1850 3rd Edition by Malcolm J. Rohrbough
    Chapter 2: The Search for Stability

    Note: Chaper 2: Common Roads in the volume: The Transportation Revolution by George R. Taylor compliments this chapter well

    Response / Thought Quotes
    - "The two conditions were not mutually exclusive but often overlapped, or the second followed so closely on the first as to be indistinguishable from it."
    - “Tobacco, Hemp, Wheat, beef, Pork, Hempseed, Flax, Hog’s Lard, Peltry, Bees wax, Hog’s Bristles, or Cash— They will contract (on generous terms) for the ensuing crop of Hemp. They want immediately to employ a number of men that understands Boat building. Also two good Coopers that understands either right work or flour barrels, and great wages will be given to a Miller who can come well recommended.”

    Thought Questions
    - Compare and Contrast the goals and methods of settlers in the "search for stability" with the settlers during the "struggle for security"
    - What was the "pioneering cycle"?
    - Describe the process by which settlers created government, social and economic institutions in the early trans-Appalachian frontier to establish stability?
    - Describe the roles members of the settler family assumed on the early trans-Appalachian frontier?
    - Compare and Contrast the role family members played in trans-Appalachia with those of the preceding generation in eastern Appalachia
    - Describe the living environment created by the Mississippi-Ohio-Cumberland-Kentucky river system? How did Native Americans live in this environment? How did settlers live in this environment?
    - Compare and Contrast the living circumstances of Native Americans and trans-Appalachian settlers
    - How did the transition from survival / subsistence farming to cash farming in the trans-Appalachian frontier?
    - Describe the economic circumstances and norms in early trans-Appalachia
    - What impact did environmental changes and the replacement of wild animals by domestic animals impact Native Americans?
    - Where is the area known as "The Kentucky Bluegrass and the Cumberland Basin"?
    - What circumstances led to the development of plantations south of the Ohio river and farms north of the Ohio river?
    - How did the trans- Appalachian frontier reflect changes in the 1780s in the broader American society?

    Further Reading
    - Daniel Boone: An American Life by Michael A. Lofaro
    - Days of Darkness: The Feuds of Eastern Kentucky by John Ed Pearce
    - Bluegrass Renaissance: The History and Culture of Central Kentucky, 1792-1852 by James C. Klotter (Editor),‎ Daniel Rowland (Editor)
    - The Transportation Revolution by George R. Taylor - Chapter 2: Common Roads