Although they were known as "Kaintucks," these boatmen floated merchandise down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers from states throughout the Ohio River valley. Agricultural goods, coal, and livestock were among the many products that were floated to markets in Natchez and New Orleans. Once the goods on the boats were sold, the boats were often dismantled and sold as lumber. Before the age of the steamboat, Kaintucks had little use for these flatboats once they reached their destinations.
From Natchez, the boatmen would begin the long walk home. They traveled the Natchez Trace to Nashville, Tennessee. From there, they used more established roads to take them to their homes further north and east. Research indicates that more than 10,000 Kaintucks traveled the Old Trace in the year 1810 alone. The 500 mile trip on foot typically took about 35 days. Lucky travelers that rode horses could expect to cover it in 20 to 25 days.
Did You Know?
Meriwether Lewis, of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, was governor of the Upper Louisiana Territory when he died on the Natchez Trace in 1809, at Grinder's Stand in Tennessee. A monument was erected in his honor in 1848 and can be seen along the Natchez Trace Parkway today.