Cumberland Gap National Historical Park was established on June 11, 1940, along the Kentucky-Virginia border. The park preserves and honors the “first great gateway to the West.”
On March 29, 1867, Independence, Missouri, was founded. Known as the “Queen City of the Trails,” it became the starting point for several trails that carried thousands of settlers to the West.
Soldier, geologist, and explorer John Wesley Powell was born on March 24, 1834, in Mount Morris, New York. A Civil War veteran, Powell explored and produced some of the first accurate maps of the West and later was director of the US Geological Survey.
Timothy H. O’Sullivan died from tuberculosis on January 14, 1882. He was a well-known photographer who captured the brutality of the Civil War and the untamed beauty of the Western United States.
On September 16, 1893, some 100,000 people raced to claim 6 million acres of land in former Indian Territory in Oklahoma. It was the largest land run into Oklahoma and resulted in the establishment of 40,000 homesteads.
On July 13, 1584, the first of three Roanoke voyages arrived in present-day North Carolina. These were attempts to establish the first permanent English settlement in North America. While the settlement saw the first English child born in America, all of the settlers disappeared and their fate is still unknown today.
On June 27, 1542, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo departed New Spain (present-day Mexico) in search of a water route between the Atlantic and Pacific. He’s considered to be the first European to travel the California coast and many spots in that state are named in his honor.
On June 16, 1774, James Harrod led 31 men in the founding of the first permanent settlement in Kentucky. Over time the settlement was named Fort Harrod, Harrodstown, and finally Harrodsburg, in his honor.
Polar explorer Lincoln Ellsworth was born on May 12, 1880, in Chicago, Illinois. He was the first person to fly over both polar regions, which earned him two Congressional Gold Medals. He’s one of just four people to have received two of the prestigious medals.