Emphasising the role of communication in the early American westward migration, this work focuses on one family's journey across the Appalachian Mountains in the late eighteenth century. Calling the westward migration an important vehicle for the study of communication history because of its dependence on communication facilities at any given stage of development, Hazel Dicken-Garcia argues that communication facilities structure people's lives and expectations. What prompted people to move to an untamed wilderness? What information did they have about the area to which they planned to move? What did such a move require in material and emotional terms, and how were people affected? At a time when the state of communication facilities militated against return social visits to those left behind, what did migrants express about leaving friends and family they might not see again? Raising such questions, the author allows answers to unfold in excerpts from letters, diaries, and newspapers of the era, subtly revealing the impact of communication facilities.
Identifying several stages in the migration process, the book follows the John and Mary Cabell Breckinridge family through those stages of preparing for and migrating from Albemarle County, Virginia, to Lexington, Kentucky, in 1793. The wealth of papers preserved by the Breckinridges permits a focus on one family that supplies some coherence to a story that many thousands lived but did not record.
Worthy of study for its own sake, the Breckinridge family became the origin of one of Kentucky's most prominent families to the present day.