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April 7, 1969

Researching a Historical Book

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Pediatrics, University of Alabama Medical Center, and Mead Johnson International (Dr. Snively) and the Illinois Institute of Technology (Miss Furbee).

JAMA. 1969;208(1):109-114. doi:10.1001/jama.1969.03160010105012

Our research for a book1 began as an exploratory walk down an abandoned wagon trail in 1961. Some weeks before, one of us had read of an Ohio River ghost town in western Kentucky across from Illinois; it had been the site of a ferry used heavily from 1823 to 1833. What piqued our interest was the tradition that the ferry crossing and its approaches had witnessed murders of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of westbound pioneers.

From the time of its first settlement, the portion of the western bulge of Kentucky that lies between the Tidewater and Cumberland rivers has been known as the "Western Country," but on very early maps it appeared as "The Barren and Naked Land" (Fig 1). The latter designation stemmed from the Indian custom of occasionally burning forest to increase forage for buffalo. Beech, hard maple, papaw, wild plum, black and white oak, red cedar,