In a recent post I discussed my 4th-great-grandfather James Benton McMurry’s travels from southern Kentucky to central Indiana in 1830. That got me to thinking, what were the roads he traveled along like? What routes did these roads follow? What sights and landmarks would James have encountered on the road? How long would the trip have taken?
Thanks to a pair of travel maps from 1829 and 1831, I know roughly where the roads of 1830 Kentucky and Indiana were located (these maps show the towns that are connected by roads, but the roads as illustrated therein are, to a large degree, schematic). Determination of the precise routes that these roads took will require a bit of what I call “armchair landscape archaeology.”
Landscape archaeology is the study of how humans have modified their physical environment, whether directly (e.g., building a dam or diverting a stream) or indirectly (e.g., through farming). Roads and highways, especially long-used ones, can leave enduring impressions on the landscape. The clues left by an old road, if read correctly, can aid in tracing the road’s long-abandoned route. Unlike prehistoric archaeological pursuits, the study of early 19th century transportation routes concerns structures that are relatively recent. It can therefore be considered a type of historical archaeology, because there may be written records and/or oral histories that can aid in understanding and contextualizing the subject of the investigation.
I wanted to see if any other members of the McMurry family made the move from Kentucky to Indiana in 1830–1831, but what I discovered is that James Benton McMurry was quite the land baron. I’m still looking, but so far I’ve found 17 parcels of land that he purchased, for a total of 2,153.67 acres (3.4 square miles). That may not seem like a big number, but he owned more land than two countries (4.3 times as much as Monaco and 19.6 times as much as Vatican City)—crickey! And I don’t think I’ve found all of his land yet—watch out Nauru!
In my previous post, I determined that my 3rd-great-grandfather, Luke R. McMurry, moved to Indiana (from his birthplace in southern central Kentucky) with his family in 1831–1834, when he was only 6–9 years old. I discovered that Luke and his siblings moved with their parents to southeastern Montgomery County, Indiana, where Luke’s father, James Benton McMurry, my 4th-great-grandfather, purchased four parcels of land totaling 480 acres (.75 square miles). I further learned that James’ half-brother, Hisner McMurry, also migrated from Kentucky to Indiana at the same time, and that he purchased two parcels of land totaling 240 acres.
What I haven’t yet discovered is why the two McMurry families moved 225 miles north from southern central Kentucky to eastern central Indiana in the early 1830s. In this post, I’ll start looking into how and when and perhaps why the McMurrys made the move from Kentucky to Indiana.
I’ve written about my more recent immigrant ancestors’ migrations from Norway in 1850 (and I’ve got an upcoming post on the Askew migration from England in 1875), but most of my ancestors have been on this continent for 300+ years, and as of yet I know little, if anything, about most of their journeys to the New World.
During the same time period (mid-to-late-1800s) that my more recent immigrant ancestors were sailing to the U.S., many of my longer-established ancestors were forging their way across the continent in search of new homes in the West. Today’s post gives some details of my research into the story of one such journey across the continent—that of my 3rd-great-grandfather Luke R. McMurry and his family.