More Trace photos

Photo by Owen Tyler

Looking down into the sunken Trace

Regarding one infamous stand on the Trace, in the novel Texas, James A. Michener had this to say:

With their cattle, they could make only eight or nine miles a day, but at least they did not have to worry about pasture for their herd, for the Trace provided ample grass. Slowly, slowly they edged their way toward Texas.

Some eighty miles into the Trace they came upon the first of the notable stands, those extremely rude taverns which sometimes had food and sometimes did not, depending on whether the surrounding Indians had brought in their crops. this one was the infamous Grinder's that the Kaintuck in Cincinnati had warned about, a rough cabinlike affair containing two rooms, in one of which travelers could sleep on the floor, and a spacious porch covered by a sloping roof, where overflow travelers also slept on bare boards.

This time the stand had food, and when the broth and meat and potatoes had passed around, the men began to talk of Meriwether Lewis' tragic death twenty years earlier in 1809. "Mark my words," a Tennessee man said when the owners of the stand were out of the room, "someone in this house shot him in the back, and I have a mind who done it." He looked ominously at the door.

Michener gives us some insight into what it was like on the Trace:

It was not easy walking the Trace. When rains persisted, freshets formed, and what had been easily nogtiable gullies became roaring torrents. Then the travelers would have to camp for three or four idle days until the rains and the rivers subsided. Six men might be waiting on the south bank, heading for Nashville, and three on the north, destined for Natchez, and they would call back and forth, but they could not cross. Each year some impatient souls would try, and their bodies would be found far downstream, if found at all.

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Page last updated May 7, 2002.