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The crossing of America’s first great divide—the Appalachian Mountains—has been a source of much fascination but has received little attention from modern historians. In the eighteenth century, the Wilderness Road and Ohio River routes into Kentucky presented daunting natural barriers and the threat of Indian attack.

Running Mad for Kentucky brings this adventure to life. Primarily a collection of travel diaries, these day-to-day accounts illustrate the dangers thousands of Americans, adult and child, black and white, endured to establish roots in the wilderness. Ellen Eslinger’s vivid and extensive introductory essay draws on numerous diaries, letters, and oral histories of trans-Appalachian travelers to examine the historic consequences of the journey, a pivotal point in the saga of the continent's indigenous people. The book demonstrates how the fabled soil of Kentucky captured the imagination of a young nation.

Ellen Eslinger, professor of history at DePaul University, is the author of Citizens of Zion: The Social Origins of Camp Meeting Revivalism.

An effective introduction to travel narratives of the Appalachian migration. Eslinger should be commended for bringing these sources together in an attractive, well annotated, and easily digested volume. -- Glenn Crothers, University of Louisville, Journal of the American Studies Association

“Eslinger has previously produced solid scholarship on the Virginia backcountry and the Kentucky frontier, and her introduction to this volume is no different. . . . [She] has edited the travel accounts themselves well.”—Ohio Valley History

"Ellen Eslinger's Running Mad for Kentucky: Frontier Travel Accounts is an excellent collection of thirteen first-person accounts by individuals who made the journey from the East into Kentucky between 1775 and 1796." -- Kentucky Ancestors

Named a 2005 Choice Outstanding Academic Title.

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Kentucky, Frontier, Pioneers, Travel


United States History

Running Mad for Kentucky: Frontier Travel Accounts
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