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Heritage Walk at Cumberland Gap NHP will Reconnect Visitors with Three Centuries of History


Teacher Ranger Teacher Luke Gilley will portray historic merchant John Newlee during the program. NPS photo.   

The Wilderness Road that travels through the Cumberland Gap has seen hundreds of years of history and been witness to countless tales of heartbreak and joy, loss and discovery. Visitors can discover some of these stories during the "Within the Shadows of Cumberland Gap" Heritage Walk on Saturday, September 3, at Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.

During the one-mile long walk through the Gap, visitors will meet several "ghosts" from the road's past. The first encounters will include tales from a Native American warrior and a long-hunter from the 1700s.  They'll be followed by Mary Cloud Turner, wife of Revolutionary War soldier John Turner, sharing her experiences as a resident along the road in the early 1800's.

Next, visitors will meet miller, blacksmith and merchant John Newlee and slaves Susan and Millie. Newlee, who acquired the Iron Furnace and Mill at Cumberland Gap sometime between 1845 and 1850, was noted as holding 800 acres of land,  money, notes, insurance accounts, stocks, land and slaves.

Soon after Newlee, Susan and Millie fade away, walkers will encounter soldiers from both the North and the South as they relive Confederate Brigadier General John W. Frazer's surrender to Union Colonel John Fitzroy de Courcy in September 1863.

A jump forward in time to the early 1900's will bring a meeting with an exuberant local youth as he excitedly explains how he has heard rumors that a road is to be constructed through the Cumberland Gap. He'll be followed by an English motorist from the 1930s, out for a ride on the newly paved Dixie Highway.

Visitors will finish their tour with a park ranger, not from 2011 but from 1960, as he welcomes the group to this brand-new gem of the National Park Service, Cumberland Gap National Historical Park.

Park Historian Martha Wiley extends an invitation to all to participate. "Some of the stories being told are loosely built around people whom we knew lived in the area. The Wilderness Road through the Cumberland Gap has borne witness to so many pivotal moments in American history. This program will give a voice to all those millions of people whose lives intersected with this ancient road over time."

The walk begins at the Daniel Boone parking area in the Virginia section of the park at 7:00 p.m. If you need specific directions or more details about the event, you can call 606-248-2817, extension 1075, during park business hours.

Wiley says the one-mile walk through the Gap is moderate with one uphill section and some loose gravel, so visitors should wear sturdy walking shoes. A shuttle will be provided to take visitors back to the Daniel Boone parking area after the walk, which is expected to last approximately an hour and a half.

You'll find information to help plan a visit to the area on the park website.

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