First Settlement West of the Alleghenies

Two years later [1774], following hard upon the “Intolerable Acts” that undertook to punish an already rebellious Massachusetts, the policy thus formulated became law in the Quebec Act. . . . Ratifying the Proclamation of 1763, it decreed the persistence of Yesterday in an era already warm with Tomorrow’s sun. It committed the British Empire to the support of furs as opposed to land, it triply sealed the West to settlement and to speculation, and it legislated mercantilism as the reef on which colonial expansion would be shattered. Great Britain undertook to confine the colonies east of the mountains. That was precisely the policy that had forced Great Britain to erase the French Empire from the map of North America.

The Quebec Act was a decree that the motion of the stars should cease. In its final form it passed the Lords in June 1774. In that same month a Pennsylvanian named James Harrod at the head of thirty men went up the Kentucky River, crossed over toward the head of Salt River, and began to build the stockade and cabins of the first settlement west of the mountains. The ghost of La Salle need no longer revisit the glimpses of the moon: the people who were to fulfill his imperial dream had reached the Great Valley. All the way across the continent there would be an advance screen of long hunters and mountain men, but the wealth the Americans were to create would not come from furs. These were settlers, farmers, builders of communities. Throughout the war that now broke out they kept following where Harrod (and Henderson, Boone, and Logan) had led. The war splashed their wilderness stations with their blood but they kept coming, mostly to Kentucky, and at least twenty-five thousand of them were settled west of the mountains when it ended.