The influx of immigrants to the somewhat settled colonies along the eastern shore of the Atlantic soon found that they would have to push further west and establish themselves in the unknown wilderness. Their experiences would be no less hazardous than those of the very first colonists in the New World.
For the purposes of the migrating pioneers, there were essentially no roads. Explorers through the regions did so by following animal and Indian trails. However, the pressures and realities of the limited spaces in the eastern colonies were such that many people simply headed for the new lands with absolutely no idea what to expect.
The mountainous geography of the eastern United States would hinder and delay further expansion into the west for almost seventy-five years, during which time, these early pioneers settled the mountainous region. Many families (Including my own: Akers, Keels and Littles) were inhabiting the mountains before the American Revolution. With the end of the war, a virtual flood of people rushed to the Ohio River to claim their land.
Now, let's take a look at how the migration to the mountains occurred.
You'll recall from the map of the settled areas in 1700 that these settled areas were totally on the coast and extended from above the now Salem, Massachusetts southward to Charlestown, which is now Charleston, South Carolina.
Geographically, all along this area, the land begins rising gradually all the way westward to the Blue Ridge Mountains. If a traveler reached the summit of the Blue Ridge Mountains, he would find the trip down the western side more difficult as the western slope is a much steeper descent.
Once at the bottom, he would discover the Great Valley. The Great Valley stretches from northern New York to central Georgia. Once across the Great Valley, the traveler encounters the Appalachian Mountains. These mountains form a solid boundary from Pennsylvania to North Carolina.
1) Ray Allen Billington, Westward Expansion : A History of the American Frontier (Prentice Hall, 1982)
2) Carrie Eldridge, Appalachian Trails to the Ohio River (CDM Printing, 1998)