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Historical BackgroundThe "trace" was first created by animals like bison to reach salt licks in the Nashville area, and their grazing areas near the Mississippi River. American Indians, developed the trace further for trading mostly, and also as a warpath. An unknown Frenchman was the first European to write about traveling the full Natchez Trace in 1742. But earlier Europeans such as Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto may have come across parts of the trace in 1540 while being guided by Choctaw and Chickasaw Indians. The trace followed a natural ridge and, at first, was only a narrow footpath or horse trail unsuitable for wagons because of trees.
In 1801 the United States signed a treaty with the Choctaw Indians allowing construction of a mail road by the side the the old footpath.
Midwestern farmers often floated their goods down the Mississippi River to market in New Orleans. One of the ways they could return to Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, or Indiana was by way of the Natchez Trace. However, because their pockets were loaded with money they were frequently preyed upon by gangs of robbers along the trail.
Original trace south to north:
- Natchez, Adams, Mississippi
- Port Gibson, Claiborne, Mississippi
- Jackson, Hinds, Mississippi
- Williamsville, Attala, Mississippi
- Tupelo, Lee, Mississippi
- Tishomingo, Tishomingo, Mississippi
- Florence, Lauderdale, Alabama
- Collinwood, Wayne, Tennessee
- Duck River, Hickman, Tennessee
- Leipers Fork, Williamson, Tennessee
- Nashville, Davidson, Tennessee
- Tompkinsville, Monroe, Kentucky
- Harrodsburg, Mercer, Kentucky
- Lexington, Fayette, Kentucky
- Maysville, Mason, Kentucky
Settlers and Records
There is no known list of settlers who travelled the Natchez Trace. However, some of the early residents of Tennessee may have used the Natchez Trace to reach their destination, as well as several other routes like the Great Valley Road, Wilderness Road, Avery's Trace, or Georgia Road. For early Tennessee settlers see:
- East Tennessee Historical Society, First families of Tennessee : a register of early settlers and their present-day descendants (Knoxville, Tenn.: East Tennessee Historical Society, c2000) [FHL Book 976.8 H2ff].
- Natchez Trace Visitor Guide (brochure) photos, maps, exhibits, and historical sites.
- Natchez Trace Parkway Map detailed highway map by the National Park Service with easy-to-use viewer.