Friday, June 15, 2012

Go "West" to End Up "East"

After returning to Venice, 1294, Marco Polo made a name for himself writing a book about his travels to Cathay.  A new world, and all kinds of opportunities for trade and wealth.  How to get there was the problem.  It was "East" of Europe [particularly the trade centers of northern Italy], and a very long way by land.  What if you could go "West" by water, and get there?  Who would have thought... go "West" to end up "East"!

All those merchant folks in Europe wanted to get there first.  They understood that Cathy [China] was on the 32 degree parallel [latitude] and in theory, all one would have to do is sail western along this latitude, and would hit it.  They certainly did not count on this huge land mass in between them and all those riches.  The picture above shows "China" as it was drawn on a very early map.  The compass is drawn "east - west" along the 32 degree latitude, with China to the right.  Simple, yes.

Well the English folks had to squeeze between the French to the north, and the Spanish to the south, seeking their door to this land of riches.  The mouth of the James River is along the 37 degree parallel.  All one had to do is find a water way flowing northwest to the 32 degree parallel.  The James River, or one of those other rivers along this tidewater would certainly lead to China.  Let's go and see.

It took a little while, but the first folks to find a new river which flowed to the west was 1650.  Edward Bland and his fellows describe the "...firft River in New Brittaine, which runneth Weft; being 120. Mile South-west, between 35. & 37. degrees, (a pleafant Country,)...".  This would be just 2 degree below China!  Little did they know that this little town of Danville would be built along this 37 degree parallel, a little further along this river road to China.

[I do not know the origin of the map pictured above.  It is copied from a wall hanging I have.  Any one know the source?  Bland and his account can be found: Alvord, C.W., Bidgood, L. The First Explorations of the Trans-Allegheny Regions by the Virginians 1650 - 1674. Clearfield Company, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio, 1912.  The context and story can be found: Jones, J.E., "KEN-TAH-THE" The Life and Times of Walker Daniel, Founder of the Town Lands of Danville, Kentucky, 18th Day of June 1784.]

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