Native Americans

Mound Builders

Fort Ancient is the name for a Native American culture that flourished from 1000-1650 CE. These people predominantly inhabited land along the Ohio River in areas of modern-day Southern Ohio, Eastern Kentucky and Western West Virginia.  Some of these people

lived in the Fishtrap area of Levisa Fork some 3,000 years before modern man. One Fishtrap site was the only settlement of its age in Kentucky to have been protected by a log palisade. They were the first residents of the Big Sandy Valley.  Their lives and the disappearance of their culture is shrouded in mystery.  

On loan to the BIG SANDY HERITAGE MUSEUM are collections from local Native American sites. One display contains points collected in the Fishtrap area dating back to the early 1940s. Another is of a set of beads discovered during a subdivision excavation in the 1970s.

Native American Tribes

The Cherokee and Shawnee tribes predominately used Eastern Kentucky as their hunting grounds. There were no permanent Native American settlements in the Big Sandy Valley when the European settlers came to the area.

Early Explorers

Thomas Walker

Born in Virginia, Thomas Walker  organized and led the first expedition through the gap in the mountains, which he named Cumberland Gap in 1750. His expedition explored thousands of acres of land in the western wilderness of Kentucky.  

Daniel Boone

Daniel Boone was an American pioneer, explorer, woodsman, and frontiersman whose exploits made him one of the first folk heroes of the United States. His first steps into Kentucky were through the gap now known as The Breaks and  down the Russell Fork River into what is now modern-day Elkhorn City and then through Pike County into Floyd County. After reading the accounts of Thomas Walker, he came to spend the winter in Kentucky, hunting, and trapping for furs. Daniel Boone had to overcome many extreme obstacles while he was hunting and exploring the area; from dangerous animals to unfriendly Native Americans, who killed his son and captured him and his brother.


Into the Frontier

The first settlers came through Pound Gap and the Breaks to settle the Big Sandy Valley. These settlers were friends and neighbors of Daniel Boone, who came with him after hearing his stories of hunting in this area.

Trials and Tribulations

Living in the Big Sandy Valley was extremely dangerous and difficult. Threats came from bears, mountain lions, and wolves, to unfriendly Native Americans, famine, and disease. Our ancestors had to be resilient to over come the many hardships they faced in this new frontier. There were no weak settlers, both males and females had to be hardy and full of grit to survive and thrive in this harsh environment.

Subsistence Living

Because of their extreme isolation,  families were completely dependent upon  hunting and farming to survive. Few were lucky enough to farm the flat lands by the river while most settlers had to try and farm the rocky mountain sides. All of these lands had to be cleared of rocks and trees using very crude simple tools. Many of these tools can be found at our museum today.