Kentucky Heritage Spotlight: Early Inns and Homes Along the Maysville to Lexington Trace
Roads and their roadsides are much more than routes to get us quickly from here to there. They are a special kind of landscape, and they hold their own complex history. All Kentucky roads display a certain amount of historical character. None, however, displays as much as the Maysville to Lexington Road.
Length is no measure of this road’s significance. Historically, it was one of the most important roads in post-colonial America. In the early 1800s, it was at the center of a national debate over the federal government’s responsibility for maintaining regional infrastructure. For Kentucky, the Maysville to Lexington Road was a lifetime for rich and poor, farmers and businessmen. And it was a constant travel companion for locals and visitors alike.
The Maysville to Lexington Road changed during its long history — from trail, to trace, to turnpike, and finally, to highway. Despite these changes, the modern road is located no farther than a mile or so from its oldest roadbed. The resulting tangle of roughly parallel roads and adjacent roadsides form a kind of archive that holds information about the road’s rich history.
This archive, stories written in the group, is the focus of archaeology. Archaeological research sheds light on the road’s changing location and its many different construction methods. Archaeology also provides a window into people’s lives. Although many of these people do not show up in the history books, their lives form the fabric of Kentucky’s past.
Historical archaeology combines archaeology with history. Through its discoveries, we gain a richer and deeper appreciation for the “ribbon of history” that is the Maysville to Lexington Road.
This publication by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet — in partnership with the Kentucky Heritage Council and University of Kentucky Department of Anthropology — explores the inns, dwellings, farmsteads and hamlet of Monterey.