Friday, August 24, 2007

Dr. Thomas Walker's Journal, 1750: 1st Coal Discovered in Kentucky

In 1749, Peter Jefferson (father of future U.S. President Thomas Jefferson) and Joshua Fry, along with Dr. Thomas Walker of Albemarle County (1714-1794), James Maury, Thomas Meriwether (grandfather of Meriwether Lewis) and others, established the Loyal Company with the purpose of petitioning for a large grant of land west of the Allegheny Mountains.

On 12 Jul 1749, the Council of the Province of Virginia authorized the Loyal Company to enter and survey 800,000 acres of the public domain on the "western waters" (located along the southern border of Virginia, now southeastern Kentucky), but with a provision that required settlement of the land within four years, during which time period the Company would be permitted to make surveys and returns.

Dr. Walker was employed by the Loyal Company to determine the locations of the settlements, not only because he was a member of the company, but also because he was an experienced surveyor and had already traversed the western country at least once, in 1748 in the company of Col. James Patton, Colonel Patton's son-in-law, John Buchanan, Charles Campbell and longhunter John Findlay, at which time they had explored the western country as far south as the "Fork Country of the Holston" (present-day Kingsport, Sullivan County, Tennessee).

Dr. Walker's journal of his 1750 travels was preserved by his family, and first published in 1888 by his descendant, William Cabell Rives, a limited edition according to Williams, who published the Tennessee portion of the Journal (21 Mar - 14 Apr) in his "Early Travels in the Tennessee Country" (The Watauga Press, Johnson City, Tennessee, 1928, pp. 165-174). The following year, Lewis Preston published the journal in his "Annals of Southwest Virginia, 1769-1800," (Vol. I, pp. 8-26, Abingdon, Virginia, 1928). Williams's edition included an introduction to the journal, and both Williams and Summers footnoted heavily.

Dr. Walker noted in his journal that the "region is rich in cola, several seams underlying the surface of the ground." Walker does not indicate that he foresaw that coal would be by far the most valuable product of the region.

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